The Shortest Way to the Future is to Invent it

Institute for the Future founded in 1968 in the US was set up by people, who imagined a world in which it is possible to improve human lives and build better institutions by thinking systematically about the future. As they say the future is everything we can imagine – the fearsome, the inspiring, the inexplicable, the essential, and there are plenty of tools enabling to design and embrace it,called foresight tools. How you could apply them for your business?

Foresight-insight-action session is a process of building scenarios by gathering broad intelligence from your community and provoking its participants to think about alternative futures to uncover relevant insights to design creative, but concrete visions of the future and their implications for your business. When you link those visions to designs of actions to take you’ll have a participatory strategy building process. See example of a foresight with scenarios and their implications for future of food.

Learning Journeys are the visits to organizations which are already  analyzing and actively shaping the future. By  immersion in mixed environment of entrepreneurs, techies and artists you can get inspired and co-create what’s next.

Signals are small or local innovations, which have potential to grow exponentially. Signal can be a new product, a practice,a  market strategy, a policy or a technology. It catches attention at local level and might be applied at larger scale (have larger implications). Unlike trends signals turn attention before they become obvious. Unlike indicators they focus attention at margins of society. Signals depicted by Institute for the Future can be followed at their Twitter and Facebook accounts. You can treat some of signals like the future artifacts, making your scenario analysis more concrete and vivid. See example of future artifacts for technology remaking future of food.

Perspectives are a key factor complementing to forecasts, which are often generic. Perspectives area about looking at issue through different lenses, e.g. for future of Internet through lens of language, for future of health through lens of time. See the results of looking through different lenses at future of robotics.

Maps are key “scenario-thinking-openers” and can take a form of matrices, roadmaps or mandalas. They focus on couple of key trends and  meaning of these trends for people, places, markets, practices and tools we use. You can create a customized forecast map for your business with your team to identify opportunities and threats, niches for innovation and strategic responses. You can use maps regularly prepared by Institute for the Future, as the one for future of technology or food industry.

Foresight training is a complex programme for those, who would like to master foresight-insight-action frameworks and foster conversation about the future and its scenarios. I think it’s a must for everyone who plans to run their Institute for the Future, deliver foresight-based strategic consulting for life, and have fun by organizing foresight engine games, like the one on the future of hospital using crowdsourcing of micro forecasts, scenarios development, and their analysis in report you can find here.

You’ll find more tips and tools supporting principles nurtured by the Institute in their online shop.

Remember, the shortest way to the future is to invent it.


Dzida !