Waffle Wednesday: What is futures thinking?
On our last Waffle Wednesday, Minna Koskelo came to talk about futures thinking, its benefits and challenges. She talked about important trends that we all should be aware of and that in the end, we all are future designers.
Minna Koskelo is a pioneering futures designer and futures activist. She is a business owner, lecturer and founder of a Futures Specialists Helsinki Network where the aim is to increase the awareness and benefits of futures thinking. Minna’s mission is to bring people primacy and futures thinking into decision making and empower agency in creating desired futures. Minna is also a co-founder of the award winning Tulevaisuuspäivä 2019 (Futures Day), aimed at increasing futures awareness and futures literacy.
Minna has a several degrees, for instance she is a Master of Business Administration, has a degree in Service Innovation and Design and she is a Results Trained Coach. She has over 15 years of experience from business development in areas such as: customer experience, employee experience, service design, marketing, branding and forecasting.
What is futures thinking?
Futures Thinking offers us a way how to address and even shape the future. It helps us clarify the strategies, research methods and actions that can help us reach our desired futures. It helps people to get a better understanding of the future and what we as humans can do to make a difference.
People are very future-oriented, no one really knows what tomorrow is going to be like, but with futures thinking you’ll make future more approachable because you have an understanding about it. When we understand and analyze things that are related to the future, we have a better understanding about it.
Ways people talk about the future
There are mainly three ways how people talk about the future. These are the core reasons why It is challenging to talk about the future.
- Tacit futures:
People don’t actually discuss about future, but assume that it will just appear all by itself
- Token futures:
We discuss about the future in terms of stereotypes and clichés, but these have very little real detailed content.
- Taken for granted futures:
We discuss the future or a few alternative futures as if they were matters of course. As if there were no other options.
When we are discussing about the future, it is important to understand a couple of terms, in other words “future literacy”
Megatrends: Global changes that affect everybody everywhere. They are extremely slow trends with a decade’s long history. So, if you want to start with something, its best to start with megatrends.
Common advice is that if you are doing business, don’t use megatrends because you won’t gain competitive advantage, but then again, how many companies are actually tackling issues like the aging population?
Trends: Drivers of change.Trends are actually changes in people’s values. So, when you are doing research on trends, you need to do research on people instead. Trends can be older or younger, hyperlocal, local or global. Trends need constant monitoring in order that we can understand their development. Great examples of recent trends are mindfulness, sharing and family friendliness
Signals: Signals don’t have a history like megatrends and trends. Signals are best described as “Weird stuff that is just happening”. Signals can become trends, and for that reason they need constant monitoring. If you catch a signal that becomes a trend, you may gain competitive advantage on the market.
Understanding the future
It is critical that you are able to understand the past and the present because then you are able to understand the future. Tomorrow’s decisions are mostly based on past data, so its important that you make decisions that aim towards your desired future.
You CAN make a difference.
Nowadays in the news every now and then you see headlines like “50% of jobs are in danger because of AI”. This is completely opposite way that we should be thinking. We need to be exited about the future, but if all we see are these terrible headlines, we are indeed not exited and will quickly become passive and think that we don’t have any effect on the future.
But we indeed do, we can find signals of change, then explore those to see if we can find possible trends and then we can explore what megatrends will have an effect.
This all is called “Futures Research”
And after all that we can make alternative scenarios and go into detail on those. So, we can actually even today have a pretty good assumption of the future job titles. We can have really detailed info about the future when we do research about it.
Challenge your thinking
We need to start thinking about our thinking. According to studies, we humans might have 188 cognitive biases, so we need to challenge our assumptions. This all requires an open mind, and as people we don’t like change, our brains love routine and love to know what is going to happen next. Our mind is not open, but we can train it to be. As humans we usually base the future on our own past.
We as humans usually think our personal futures and not very far into the future. We should think at least 10 years forward. We usually have around 7 close relationships and we want the best for them, but we should think more about the planet and not just the people close to us because everything is related nowadays.
In the end, the future is constantly changing, but we as people have an impact on it. So, it’s always good to stay positive about the future and try to take on all the challenges that may come with an open mind.