We were recently introduced to Fresco’s Venus project (link below) and caught a glimpse of a future outlook through powerful visual animations, encompassing innovative infrastructure, technology and transport experiences. The outlook was positive, inspiring and full of hope. It struck an accord because future outlooks in the west today are shrouded by uncertainty, driven by the impact of climate changes, economic volatility and the compound effect of technology developments.
Trying to put myself in the shoes of my 11 year old son, certainties of western middle class culture such as home ownership, job security and even growing life expectancy are ephemeral as the forests, clean air and wildlife.
Perhaps if he was an 11 year old Chinese boy, he may see things differently. Witnessing a fast growing urban and industrial skyline materialize, the future maybe just that more palatable. The luxury of revering in this milieu of hope for our Chinese boy is a product of a long term, future thinking culture and a decades-long approach to planning.
But future thinking and futurist skills are not restricted to Chinese strategists or professional futurists or spiritual gurus. Truth is; not one of them can predict the future.
Equipped with the right toolbox and a common sense approach, they and every one of us can develop some futurist skills. Yes, certain methodologies and techniques such as scenario planning and backcasting require professional knowledge and expertise, but as John Moravec points out in his article titled: “Do it Yourself Futurist”, some techniques can be adopted by all of us.
So to, futurist Dr. Patrick Dixon claims; if we read more across-the-board newspapers and websites (he calls the books of tomorrow) and think beyond our immediate surrounds, we will condition ourselves to future thought: ” Most people,” he says, “see the future as more of the same; faster computers, better cars, more TV channels. They can’t see the big picture – how life itself will change.” Incidentally, he claims market research can’t predict the future, it can only tell us about today. “Survivors will be future-thinkers”, he continues, “companies that see six months to two years further than competitors…It means taking a bigger, wider view, an integrated approach.”
The Chinese would say, and I tend to agree, six months to two years beyond your competitors is not enough.
What both Marovec and Dixon are saying is; future thinking also involves environmental scanning. In simple words – gathering, analyzing, and dispensing information. Looking at your market environment, eco-system and macro-environment where changes in the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political (STEEP) sectors affect your organization.
Another set of helpful tools come from the school of brainstorming and graphic visualization such as the Futures wheel (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futures_wheel) – a provocative way of assessing future trends. For example, let’s say we make the following statement: “By 2015, we talked to out mobile devices, they read our moods and talked back to us”. In effect, it’s a vivid way of expressing related trends such as replacing keyboards and touch screens with voice and mood reading technologies. The next stage is extrapolating the first effects emerging from this shift in mobile device infrastructure and everything depending on it. Information about these techniques and more can be found at websites of futurist organizations.
We at Yoyah Group look forward to developing with you the skills, the tools and awareness for preparing ahead and, in so doing, help to inspire a more positive outlook.