Future. A single word with crucial meaning. Futures is even more compelling, because its name reveals a secret… a tiny true… there are several futures; not just one, nothing is determined yet. You may plan the future, and if you do it wisely, you can positively change the future, and this is what we all want.
Let’s start with a short introduction, futures thinking is a systematic way to deal with wicked questions, face challenges, and also provide with a set of possible solutions, or suggested routes to take. The method is fascinating and out of ordinary, because it requires to adapt and adjust different practices of dealing with problems. Futures thinking is focusing on four types of futures: possible, probable, preferable, and “wildcards”. I tend to like two types and pursuing my analyses based on them – probable (70% probability that your foresight is correct – you may plan 15 years in advance, i.e. foresee 2030 today), and preferable (the one you create with your team). Whereas the first one does not require you to work in teams, the last will not work without involving a large scale of experts. As a consequence the foresight you do alone is the possible, but still shed light on the unknown; and give you a taste of what preferable futures thinking may result.
The process holds four elements: question, gathering of data, analysis, and interpretation (which leads to another question and so on). At a first glance it seems like any other problem solving process. However, the difference lies in the methodology, and the results are surprising.
In addition, you may want to choose a method to gather and interpret your data. I found the General System Theory as a very useful framework, especially for social issues (so take a look at the link, and learn the materials before you jump to the analysis).
In order to make your life easier I have collected several global trends, that you may use as the basic assumptions for every analysis:
- According to Strauss and Howe’s generations theory, we are getting into the forth turning, when millennials are the societal focus;
- The millennials are more connected to friends, less connected to institutions;
- The millennials are worried of their uncertain future, unlike the boomers;
- The millennials are highly educated, and hold various credentials, however their chances to get decent employment opportunities are lower;
- Demography: the world population is getting older. Shrinking young population and more elderly. As a result, less young people are going to bear the burden for many elderly.
- More migration, more urbanization.
- Technology will continue to be developed, and influence life. Changes will occur often and rapidly.
When you done setting your basic global trends, you may start the second layer of assumptions – the local and industry specific ones. In order to retrieve these data, you can find the following sources useful: governmental sources, UN, local foundations, local universities, and any other information bodies, that may publish relevant data. Gather the data, and articulate the assumptions.
The third step is to look at the data, try to find connections to your questions, and interpret it WITH CAUTION.
I hope you find this content useful – feel free to contact me for commenting or any other request. If you would like to start a future thinking process in your business or organization – I will be happy to consult you with that.
Warning! this content is a very short introduction for futures thinking, and I suggest to use it as a tool for strategic thinking and planning. I do not suggest you to use it as a formal foresight, because you need an expert to help you in this process.