We often plan for a “default future” — the one we think is most likely to happen. Lives are wrecked and businesses fail when what actually occurs turns out to be entirely different from what we expected.
Strategic Foresight is about being prepared when we don’t know what’s coming next.
Trend research is the popular, public face of foresight these days. And being aware of trends is necessary. Often, we can get ahead of change by tracking the signals that indicate rising or falling trend lines — economic, social, technological or political. Narrative Futures keeps a close watch on key trends.
We maintain a constantly-updated database of trend data, and do regular analyses of the trendlines and underlying drivers. It’s proven possible to rapidly turn around scenario sets for different industries from this ready-made data store.
Black Swans & Disruptors
Trend-watching is popular, but trends are just part of the story. As often as not, history is made by unexpected events rather than the slow unfolding of the expected. A deeper dive into the drivers underlying trends will often reveal the approach of rapid, disruptive change. Drivers analysis and the development of wild card scenarios are key parts of our research process.
We can provide in-house training and workshops to help build your internal foresight capacity. Running an in-house trend-watch is surprisingly cheap and easy, once you know how to do it. We can show you the techniques, help you set up the combination of (free) software and regular alerts and meetings that will turn your organization from ad-hoc to futures-aware.
Example: The Carbon Bubble
The overwhelming consensus of the scientific community is that climate change is driven by human CO2 emissions. If this is the case, then 80% of existing fossil fuel reserves can never be used without pushing global temperatures to dangerous levels. Yet fossil fuel companies (and even entire regions) base their valuation on these reserves. “Drill, baby, drill,” has to stop some time, and when it does, up to four-fifths of the valuation of these companies will simply evaporate. This threat is known as the carbon bubble and it is a key motivator for the recent fossil fuel divestment movement.
Things stay the same until suddenly they don’t. Ongoing foresight monitoring can smooth the shocks.
Recent Foresight Projects
- Ongoing: Scenario fiction work under DARPA sponsorship.
- Last year I designed an Augmented Reality game for Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination.
- Also in 2014, I did game/story design for the World Bank’s Evoke project. Evoke is a game designed to educate and empower the world’s youth to improve their own lives and those of their communities.
- I’ve authored science fiction prototypes for Intel Corporation’s Tomorrow Project.
- My biggest scenario fiction projects of the last decade were for Defense Research & Development Canada. I’ve written three short novels for them, two of which have been published.
- Over the past decade I have facilitated workshops and contributed to numerous foresight projects in Canada and the United States, for diverse clients include government, military, private sector and non-profit organizations.