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Will governments lead or follow finance’s future?

Posted By Alex Floate, Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Alex Floate, a member of our Emerging Fellows program examines the governments’ potency in leading finance futures through his fourth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

           

Solving big problems has never evaded the human spirit. Ferocious tigers and bears led to spears and group tactics. Episodes of famine led to granaries for storing against future hunger. Following that came the domestication of the cat to protect against rodents feasting on the stockpiled bounty. In just the last century we have overcome distance with advances in communications, heavier than air flight, and even leaving earth’s atmosphere. As problems have become bigger in scale and cost, we look to our governments to take the lead on solving them. That we can solve big problems and overcome the constraints of our environment is not in doubt; that we have the will to do so is.

 

Continued financialization may create a dystopian-tinged future of financial feudalistic lords, while nationalistic oriented systems may reverse global gains and destroy the value of national currencies. Fortunately, neither future is set in stone and the opportunity to create a different one is possible, but dependent on current governments choosing a different direction and using the tools at their disposal. The mechanisms available include monetary policy for expanding and contracting money supply, fiscal policy to set taxing and spending priorities, and regulations on financial investment and exchange.

           

How should they deploy these mechanisms, and for what end? Should the government pursue a policy of continued economic growth, or one that favors renewing the social contract to favor all citizens? Should we create rewards for sustainability and disincentivize consumption? What system best emphasizes personal initiative and innovation, while caring for the least of us? Although this is a political exercise more than a financial one, the answer will determine which mechanisms are put forward as solutions.

           

If we decide that economic growth and consumption is not as important as sustainability of resources, then systems that favor labor and saving over those that promote investment churn and profit will be needed. However, just as this will call for increased taxes on investment and capital, higher taxes on consumption, which disproportionally affect the poorest, will also be required.  Should we decide that social programs, especially in a possible future of large-scale human obsolescence, to ensure an economic floor for all citizens is vitally important, then investment and tax mechanisms will need to be balanced to provide revenue while maintaining risk incentives for growth of capital.     

           

Before we can fully and rationally answer those questions as a society, the greater challenge is confronting the myths of both capitalism and socialism. Believing that free markets and privatization are always the best method for delivery of goods and services ignores that many needs are basic for life, and costs are not always inherent in the price. Conversely, believing that governments are always honest managers that efficiently gauge the needs and wants of their citizens and deliver accordingly is also not supported by history. The answer lies somewhere in between with a need for a new folklore and heroes to provide a basis for a future that tempers the worst of these extremes while balancing the best of them. The question to be answered is whether governments will work to balance these needs and forge a new story for the future, or abjectly acquiesce to the myths of the money changers.

 

© E Alex Floate 2019

Tags:  finance  future  government 

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Fake It Till You Make It

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 22, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Adam Cowart, a member of our Emerging Fellows program explains the term hyperstition in his twelfth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Previous posts have explored various ways in which the real economy may or may not be real in the future, utilizing the concept of hyperstition, the combination of “hyper” and “superstition”, which refers to the process of ideas becoming reality in our culture. More specifically, how new realities manifest in the economy.

While perhaps the academic study of hyperstition and its effects and influence on late-capitalism is relatively new, the conceptual underpinnings are not. One of the most well-known lines in the Bible is “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us” (English Standard for those wondering). In our current age, the capacity for words to dwell among us, in the various forms of social media in general, twitter in particular, and our latent inventiveness in turning ideas into reality, has led to a powerful and reinforcing loop between the word and flesh.

The myriad ways in which this has influenced our economic systems have been explored, though far from exhaustively. We’ve looked at the nefarious means by which late-capitalism will continue to mine the nooks and crannies of everyday life for growth opportunities, including trauma-related world building in the form of imaginary paracosm economies, and the incredible ecological strain of consumers shifting from “having” to “being” consumption patterns. In the virtual realm we’ve considered whether AI entrepreneurs pumping out transient products and services will cause our much admired entrepreneur to go extinct along with those who face the future challenges of virtual foraging. Finally, we’ve delved into the implications of the grand performance of scarcity in a post-scarcity world, the hamster-wheel of sub optimization brought on by situated innovation and, of course, back to where we started our journey with pigeon Ponzi schemes going up in smoke.

Of course, our fiction to reality process is far from linear. And it is far from monolithic. With the most recent rise of nationalism, with left and right in a constant oppositional state of becoming far-left and far-right, we’ve also seen the proliferation of folk economics. This rejection of globalism for localism, whether practical or not, has likewise bred a plethora of local, culturally and economically ingrained hyperstitional realities. Reality and economics is now situational. The economy is both great and terrible.

We have been referred to grandly as “The Weather Makers”. Perhaps of greater concern is our inconsistent ability to be “The Reality Makers”. Still far from clear is how this will manifest in the future, where reality is customizable and up for debate.

As for the Pigeon King story I began this series with, I recently attended a play in rural Ontario, a matinee production, called “The Pigeon King”, based on the true story in which a man built a Ponzi scheme empire selling pigeons. Or, perhaps, he was just a bad businessman. Regardless, economic abstractions had given way to tangible pigeons, which had now given way to a theatrical performance. Fact had come full circle back to fiction. After the play finished, the performers took their bow. But we weren’t done yet. The performers encouraged us to open our programs. In the program was a folded paper pigeon. They told us to pull out the pigeons and then, on the count of three, we launched our pigeons into the rafters of the theatre. A theatre full of old people, laughing, suddenly children again. A sad flock of paper pigeons trying to take flight, sputtering out, before being snatched back up and tossed a few feet further. Up on stage the actors and the musicians watched. The audience and performers had switched roles. I noticed the fiddler. He didn’t play now. Didn’t fiddle. Just watched us. Content.


© Adam Cowart 2018

Tags:  economics  future  Ponzi scheme 

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Trust Beyond the Present

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 15, 2018
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019

Monica Porteanu is one of our Emerging Fellows. She and our other Emerging Fellows will be posting throughout the year. Her first article discusses the intersection of society and trust.

Trust is a social construct essential to economic and societal development. However, trust has issues that the passing of time has not only not yet solved but also blurred any futures orientation. Furthermore, while technology presents possible solutions, it also introduces new challenges. One would expect that science has resolved such issues, but science itself has undergone a trust crisis. A solution to re-establishing trust is designing the future with the society itself.

In 2017, trust in official institutions registered a collapse in the US and a significant drop in the UK, after a steady decline over time. Decades earlier, behind the Iron Curtain, the communist regime thrived through the propagation of mistrust.

Centuries ago, the victory or defeat in war was a question of how the communication amongst generals, stationed at various locations, was transmitted through trusted, non-forgeable links. The system, at that time, did not have any control or feedback loop to ensure traitors did not intercept and interfere with the message. Dubbed the Byzantine Generals’ problem in mathematics, in many ways similar to the Prisoners’ Dilemma in economics, the challenge might now be solved by blockchain technology, with its promise for a single record of fact between two parties involved in a transaction.

Even if blockchain succeeds, another technology facet raises trust questions: data. With staggering amounts of data available but a remarkably low percentage analyzed, and even smaller amounts validated, how do we know whether we can count on the truth of this content?

The belief that scientific research is a trusted leader is also challenged. Investigations show that less than 50% of psychology studies could be replicated, together with increasing instances of corruption, including priming effects, fake peer reviews, or proliferation of citation cartels.

Extending the question of trust to forward-looking settings enhances decision makers’ ability to anticipate possible futures and navigate risks and uncertainties, especially when trust molds into “the willingness to be vulnerable to another party’s actions.” Trust in futures thinking enhances the capacity to embrace opportunities presented by “actionable images of the future” while deflecting weaknesses and threats.

A solution to re-establishing trust is expanding its definition from being an ingredient that catalyses economic prosperity and social life for people, to envisioning futures of a society with people. This participatory approach is diametrically opposed to the communist doctrine as well as the hierarchical, patriarchal, belief, and value systems that underlie existing power structures. Participation not only increases the likelihood of trusting what could be developed but also the engagement to ignite futures and shape the preferred one.

The reciprocal relationship between participation and trust is self-explanatory: participation spawns trust through dialogue, transparency, and agency, while trusting beliefs and actions (e.g., ability, benevolence, integrity) strengthen participation through the willingness to engage, take action, and break various barriers such as personal, situational, functional, or psychological.

Such relationship alleviates the anxiety of unknown futures through mental training and careful orchestration of expert and participant involvement. For example, while futurists’ skill is critical in trend analysis to unearth blind spots and set the stage for grounded results, diversity and wide participation is more beneficial than competence during the next phase focused on opportunity prioritization. Further refining of selected opportunities is easily enabled by experimental prototyping of actionable future narratives, as a method to understand and handle the uncertainties and risks of unproven ideas about the future. The experts’ facilitation skills and toolkits, such as empathy maps, role-playing, or installations, contribute to establishing the need, desire, and feasibility of building the envisioned futures.
As a final note, participation to build trust is the opportunity to develop further the networked society in which the collaboration amongst creativity, ethnographic, foresight, and analytical approaches convert the unknown into a viable and promising future for society.

© Monica Porteanu 2018

Tags:  future  technology  trust 

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Immunity To Change

Posted By Administration, Sunday, September 20, 2015
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019

Simon Dehne reflects his thoughts about the immunity to change in his blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Why I enjoy practicing in the foresight space is two fold. The first is one of self-discovery and the other being able to help people question how they think and to give them tools help them think critically.

As a new practitioner, I have soon discovered that just challenging people on their unquestioned assumptions and raising there awareness on emerging trends that may disrupt or at least challenge there business as usual thinking is not enough for me. I have found I prefer a type of workshop that allows people to learn, experience, challenge and self discover more about how they made sense of reality.

As a result I have found that I have been gravitating towards more a hybrid workshop and presentation format. This allows people the freedom to participate instead of just listening to a keynote speaker and at the end think that was nice or otherwise.

Recently I have been running workshops using Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s work on “Immunity to Change”(Lahey 2001). This process has been useful as I have found it is something that organisations understand as I pitch to them to convince them to pay for my services. Plus it resonates with them regarding self development for their organization and I have found a topic around helping people to learn how to change seems to resonate with many people what ever their purpose might be.

As you would expect each workshop is different, but not for the usual reasons that you might think. The main reason is because of me. As I deliver, participate and experience facilitating the Immunity to Change workshop I find that I develop a deeper understanding of why it seems to be so effective. That is because it is an effective tool or map that allows people a process that helps them think deeper in terms of just an event or pattern that might be happening that they are trying to solve or improve on.

What is the Immunity To Change Process?

Kegan and Lahey have found based on 15 years of working with hundreds of managers in a variety of companies have led them to a surprising yet deceptively simple conclusion. Resistance to change does not reflect opposition, nor is it merely a result of inertia, even as people hold a sincere commitment to change, many people are unwittingly applying productive energy toward a hidden competing commitment.

Thus they have developed a process they have called an x-ray, which is a three-stage process to help people and organisations figure out what’s getting in the way of what they are trying to change or achieve.

The Process

So I thought I would provide a summary of my mini workshop and the key points that I have found to be effective and which seems to resonate with participants. Note, an effective workshop is determined by be as a result of the amount of engagement and follow up questions that I receive during and after the workshop.

 

Steps

Task

Focus

Outcomes

1

Introduction

Today’s challenges require new thinking – but how do we develop new thinking?

Explain a number of tools that they can learn and use that will help them think about how they think.

2

Mental Models

Exercise – Arm Wrestle

Purpose is to get them to arm wrestle a colleague to see how many times they can win. Many people default to a mental model of strength and competition. Only a few work to together and cooperate so both can win. We all have implicit mental models and I have found this is a good way to bring this to the fore and increase the participation and energy in the room.

3

Perceptions

Exercise – picture of an old lady and a young lady

Group discussions on what people see. Purpose is to highlight that people with similar backgrounds can have different perspectives on what they see. Our perceptions create our reality and so helping them learn some ontological humility.

4

Ladder of Inference

Helping people understand how they create reality and the introduction of reflection

The ladder of Inference developed by Chris Aygris helps people begin to understand how their assumptions and beliefs form how they make sense of their world and the actions they take.

5

Introduction to the Immunity To Change Process

Showing a YouTube video of Robert Kegan I have found to be an effective way of building credibility and reinforcing the outcomes.

After running many of these workshops now, I have found it effective to pause the video or rewind back to ensure as many people grasp the process that is used. Plus it gives me a chance to reflect on the energy in the room. My goal is for people to have fun and learn a process to help them reflect on their thinking and actions (Kegan 2012).

6

X-Ray

Walking though the process using the X-Ray map

I walk through examples of my own personal X-Rays of how I have used the X-Ray to discover many of my hidden commitments and big assumptions. I prefer to use myself as an example to make it personal and real. A key goal is to be open and honest and I find that if I can show my own vulnerabilities and challenges many people are more willing to embrace the process and learning and be more authentic.

7

Action Learning -

Immunity To Change

Running the process - Individual

I ask each person to work through the process on themselves. Share their understanding of the process with others and seek me out for clarification.

8

Debrief

I ask for volunteers to share what they have done and discovered. Talk about the challenges/discoveries in the process.

9

OST (Open Space Technology)

Learning to slow down and reflect on our assumptions, beliefs and values. To start to reflect on how we think about what we are thinking.

As a prelude to working in teams to work on an improvement goal that is important to them. I discuss a process to help people learn to slow down.

I have found the OST can be an effective way for people to stop and reflect on how they are thinking. To listen to what is being said instead of thinking about what they are going to say next (Owen 1993).

10

Challenging our assumptions

Revisiting Ladder of Inference

I rewind and ask people to think about how they are thinking, what are their assumptions and beliefs that maybe going unchallenged and to reflect on this thinking before they respond.

11

Thinking about thinking

So gently/slowly I am trying to introduce them to how we conceptualise. We all apply our own assumptions and beliefs usually implicitly and so the opportunity to be mindful and reflect on how you are making meaning of a situation as you debate an issue/problem such as we are about to do.

12

Action Learning -

Immunity To Change

Running the process - Group

Hopefully with some new models to use as maps, such as Ladder of Inference, OST, and fostering reflection, people in the groups can use the X-Ray process to develop more generative conversations.

13

Debrief

Seek volunteers to share what they have discovered.  

 

Summary

As Kegan and Lahey point out, our perceptions shape our reality. We assume how we make meaning is an accurate understanding of reality. Our big assumptions create a disarming and deluding sense of certainty, which throws up the challenge of why should we, even look for alternative views or perspectives that may challenge our assumptions, which create our reality (Lahey 2001).

So bringing this all together how does a group of people co-create a desired future that they are trying to achieve. In part it is about helping them identify their hidden commitments both individually and collectively. However, as a group, often we can get stuck with little or no progress. So a large part of these types of workshops are about fostering reflection and helping develop more generative conversations. Reflection means thinking about our thinking, holding a mirror to see the taken for granted assumptions we carry in our language and appreciating how our mental models may be limiting us.

Deep, shared reflection is a critical step in enabling groups of organisations and individuals to actually “hear” a point of view that is different from their own and to appreciate emotionally as well cognitively each others ways of how they are creating meaning(Jones 2015).

In order to learn from the future, we first might need to understand more about ourselves. And what might be holding us back. To uncover our biases and blind spots and from that self-knowledge and insight we gain, increase our level of self-awareness. Self-awareness is a necessary step if you want to build a useful Strategic Foresight process that will help us learn from the past, from the present and from the future (Lustig 2015).

References

Jones, C 2015, Getting Unstuck, Outskirts Press, United States of America.

Kegan, R 2012, Understanding Immunity to Change, viewed

Lustig, P 2015, Strategic Foresight - Learning from the Future, Triarchy Press, Axninster, Engalnd.

Owen, H 1993, Open Space Tecnology - A Users Guide,

Tags:  change  foresight  future 

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Free futures and pasts thinking

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 7, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sandra Geitz shares her thoughts with us about “free futures and pasts thinking” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

This post ponders our habits of thinking and doing, and whether we can open ourselves to see and act on potential futures.



What enables and what inhibits us to think of possible futures?

What ifs seems to be freely imagined by the young. So what happens to our early innate abilities as we mature? Is it that we develop habits and rules of thumb to contain the complexity of our lives? Habits help us deal with overwhelming choices and pathways. Is that we notice that particular strategies work more often? More successes, and less embarrassments or failures are the result of sticking within certain rules and habits? Does training and schooling further embed our proven methods and shortcuts? We keep within these deep grooves of thinking and doing, often unable to imagine other or better ways of thinking and doing.



How to think and do with time and experience?

The diagram attempts to distil my own experiences and learnings, using abduction for problem-solving, designs and intuitive insights, using science of induction or probabilistic inferences, as well as deduction and intuitive judgement via experience. It also is based on Ackoff’s (1989) knowledge hierarchy from specific data, information, knowledge, to the wisdom of the universal. And, it includes and visualises concepts of design thinking versus science by Roger Martin (2007) and Doerfler and Ackermann’s (2012) intuition studies. Abductive, Inductive and Deductive thinking, adapted from Ackoff (1989), Martin (2007) and Doerfler and Ackermann (2012).

When I’m open and curious, fearless and playful, I recognise I’m more likely to use abductive thinking. This involves deeply noticing and observing phenomena, pondering what if and what might be, to generate potential or preferred futures. It is seeing new patterns and connections through those vast reams of data. This mode of thinking and doing aligns with problem solving within uncertainty and design thinking. It envisions a potential known outcome, and explores various pathways of what and how we may arrive at this future state.

Very rarely, in situations where I know many inputs what and their outcomes, I may use induction to infer how they relate together. At first this thinking appears similar to abduction, but it needs large samples and probabilistic conditions to infer the how. From my experience, it is easy to develop the wrong theory, as data is rarely valid for probability,.

Most often, in known environments, I’ll choose deduction to reach the desired outcome using known inputs what and methods how. This thinking generates predictable outcomes from known approaches. It just works (most of the time). I use this thinking so often, it becomes automatic habit or intuitive. In areas of considerable experience, I’m so confident I just know the outcome looks right or not. Intuitive judgement of experience.



So what, if we judge with time and experience?

The visual provides the clue. Deduction works when environmental conditions are stable and known, if connections between inputs and their outcomes are known and predictable. Deduction is established and validated in practise over the years from theories of induction if there is a stable environment/

And if the environment becomes turbulent or uncertain? Then, what if thinking becomes the best approach. Trouble is, it is directly opposite to intuitive judgement by experience. It requires us to put aside our wisdom and experience that worked in our pasts. We need to delve into data and emerging details, to become curious and child-like, exploring unknowns and novelty. Deeply uncomfortable, yet essential practise.



References:

Ackoff, Russell. (1989). From data to wisdom, Journal of Applied Systems Analysis,16(1), 3-9.

Doerfler, Viktor & Ackermann, Fran. (2012). Understanding intuition: The case for two forms of intuition, Management Learning, 43(5) 545-564. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from http://mlq.sagepub.com/content/43/5/545

Martin, Roger. (2007). The nature of the schism between the design view of business & the business view of design, SMMRSD. Retrieved March 21, 2015 from http://summarised.co.za/

Tags:  future  past  thinking 

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Distancing our futures

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 16, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sandra Geitz  shares her thoughts with us about “Distancing our Futures” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Along a similar theme to the last post, I’m exploring enhancing and enabling futures thinking. This post is concerned with Bridging Psychological Distance, from Rebecca Hamilton’s HBR article this week, and how this may impact facilitating foresight.



What is psychological distance?

People directly experience only the here and now. It is egocentric. In order to think about the future, another person’s perspective, remote locations and/or understand hypothetical options, people need to transcend their self, or their individual present experiences. This is termed by psychologists, Nira Liberman and Yaacoc Trope as overcoming psychological distance. People are able to do this, to varying degrees of ability, by creating distant abstractions, or mental constructs.

Psychological distance can occur as one or in several dimensions. Social distance is the gap between yourself and other people. Temporal distance is the gap between the present experience and the future. Spatial distance occurs between your present location and some far away distance. Experiential distance is the gap between one’s direct experience and an hypothetical or imaginary situation.



Why may psychological distance be important to foresight?

Liberman and Trope’s research shows that the farther removed an object is from direct experience, the more abstract one represents the distant object. Also, their research shows that each of the four psychological distances are cognitively related to each other, that they similarly influence and are influenced by the level of abstraction, and that they similarly affect they way we preference, predict, perceive and take action.

If the psychological distance is large, we tend to think in more abstract ways; we focus on the big picture, the why or purpose of our choices, and the desirability of our options. Large distances and abstract language are associated with power and visionary thinking.



When the psychological distance is small, we think in more concrete terms,; we are focused on the details, the how and what of our choices, and the feasibility of each option. Small distances are synonymous with familiar, concrete tasks. From this research, Hamilton advises that the optimal strategy is adjusting the psychological distance to suit the needs of the particular task at hand.

Social distance can be reduced by taking into account the perspectives of others, employing the ability to step into another’s shoes. Similarly, social distance can also be reduced by reducing temporal distance, through immediate task deadlines, or by meeting others onsite, reducing spatial gaps.

Temporal distance can be reduced by adopting milestones or internal deadlines, to reduce overwhelm of the distant project completion, or visualising the future state.Temporal distance can be reduced through less social and/or spatial distance, such as meeting with stakeholders of the large project task.

Spatial gaps are reduced by face-to face meetings and travelling onsite. And experiential distances can be minimised via role plays, prototyping experiences to enable more concrete thinking or action to occur. Similarly, experiential distance can be reduced via social distance, by peer group word of mouth recommendations to encourage us to take similar actions.

However, if big-picture thinking, creativity or authority is the desired goal, increasing social distance by using abstract language helps. Deploying greater spatial distance by moving meetings offsite or to open, lofty and spacious surroundings can assist expansive thinking. Increasing temporal distance for long-term planning horizons can encourage more ambitious goal-setting. And, increasing experiential distance with hypothetical questions and imagery may encourage a broader range of scenarios to be considered.


How can we use greater psychological distance to expand our futures options?

How might we minimize distances to enable concrete actions towards our preferred futures?

Tags:  foresight  future  psychology 

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To facilitate better futures?

Posted By Administration, Monday, February 2, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sandra Geitz  shares her thoughts with us about the possibility of “facilitating better futures” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

  – Albert Einstein

 

How to facilitate teams for generating and enacting?

 

There seems to be a growing acceptance that diverse experiences and perspectives correlate with better outcomes: greater financial performance results, improved risk management, greater innovation and employee satisfaction and engagement, see the recent McKinsey article, Why diversity matters.

 

And yet, neither diversity of experience, gender, ethnicity, gender, nor age guarantees that the best ideas will be shared, genuinely heard nor be accepted and implemented on their merits. In many recent experiences, I have seen culturally diverse teams conforming to expectations of the loudest, most senior team-member just like the best homogenous teams. Is this your experience, too?

 

What is really happening to the diverse potential of rich ideas?

 

For a long time, I’ve been interested in processes and methods that generate ideas and solve complex problems. I’m particularly interested in understanding ways to facilitate and encourage teams to examine issues or problems with an open mind, and help them reach beyond their own cognitive biases.

 

So, a recent Stowe Boyd blog grabbed my attention, Phil Gilbert on sidestepping cognitive biases in group design activities: When you give voice to more people, the best ideas win, not the loudest ones. Interesting. Boyd explained two key ways that information processing is disrupted by a team’s culture and psychology. Firstly, effective ideation can be impaired by sharedness bias:

 

Groups communicate predominantly about information, which all or most group members share before entering the discussion, and neglect unshared information, which only one or few members have initially. …  group members individually judge shared information as more important, relevant, accurate, and influential than unshared information. This bias seems to have two reasons: First, shared information can be confirmed by more than one group member. Second, individuals evaluate their own information as more valid than information from other members. Thus, unshared information, even if mentioned in the discussion, is not seriously considered by other group members and therefore has less impact on the final decision than shared information.

 

Hence, with established sources of team knowledge and shared experience, groups tend to discuss, share and privileged information that is held in common. Novelty is rarely introduced within team meetings themselves. New ideas tend to be socialised with team members prior to any decision-making in meetings.

The second is preference bias:

Even when all information necessary to identify the correct solution is exchanged during discussion, individual group members often stick to their initially preferred wrong solution. People bias their information processing to favor an initially preferred alternative. Other studies show the same phenomenon at the group level: Group decisions can often be predicted by the initial preferences of its members. If a majority favors a certain alternative before the discussion, the group seldom decides to chose another alternative. Thus, frequently, group discussions are superfluous, and groups would be better off using a decision shortcut like an immediate vote or averaging procedure.

We preference our own preconceived views and information over others. In spite of new valid information, we tend to conform to initial opinions we have of an issue. We tend to be closed to other possibilities, rarely are we convinced of others’ arguments, and we privilege our own ‘objectivity’. This sounds familiar…

Boyd interviewed Phil Gilbert, IBM general manager of design, on how he applies design thinking, diversity and inclusion to team product ideation. Gilbert believes that the major issue to generating future possibilities, is exposing everybody’s ideas to the whole team: both encouraging all to contribute and hearing each idea.

At IBM, team workshops are designed to include a wide diversity of experience and backgrounds. Gilbert’s method is sticky notes and silence, as depicted in the diagram above. Everyone present is encouraged to write down all their ideas on separate sticky notes and post them on a wall, without judgement, comment or self-censure. Team leader(s) sort, group and arrange like ideas on the wall, while everyone observes and reflects in silence. Then, individuals may leave the room to discuss ideas, in person, by phone or by a team social media tool. The group returns after an agreed time brainstorming and socialising their ideas (minutes, hours, or days). Gilbert explains that the process usually generates a few dozen new ideas.

Phil Gilbert’s approach also aligns with Alex Pentland’s research, Social Physics, that I discussed in earlier post. Peak idea flow occurs in teams that iteratively work as individual’s generating novelty and team collaborators discussing, building and socialising these new ideas into practice, summarised in this diagram:

 

“Any useful idea about the futures should appear to be ridiculous.”  – Jim Dator

 

Profound words. Futures requires a healthy amount of personal resilience in ourselves. What of the teams that are thinking about their future? Have we designed our methods so that participants, as individuals and teams, are able to bypass cultural and psychological biases to see and accept issues and information anew.

 

How can we promote genuine exploration, engagement and reflection with new ideas?

How can we design experiences that suspend judgement, cynicism and criticism?

How can we facilitate better futures?

Tags:  diversity  future  idea 

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R and Python for the evaluation of trigger events

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 5, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Julian Valkieser shares his thoughts with us about the “R and Python” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

In my last article, I referred to the importance of Big Data as it has become more and more important for decisions in medium-term periods. Big Data is an often used buzzword – especially by large corporations and middle management levels.

I have mentioned R programming, claiming that everyone in the area of Foresight should learn it in the near future. Now we have to add the programming language Python. For people with a lot of self-discipline I would like to recommend a Google search and a good book. For myself, I have gone the way of Coursera, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), which I can highly recommend.

It is not so much about being a programmer. After all, it is not our field of interest. Rather, it’s about using these programming languages to play with a large amount of data so that you can develop an understanding of the benefits. Of course, there are also tools that require no programming skills. Maybe you have heard of NeuroBayes or RapidMiner? But someone who wants to sell a car should also know how a car works.

Especially the tool RapidMiner shows very clearly what makes this kind of tools and what Big Data is all about: The visual presentation or summary of large amounts of data. Only a good representation and summary can be a benefit from Big Data.

Beautiful examples of where data analysis for short-term forecasts are used are as follows:

http://edition.cnn.com/2012/07/09/tech/innovation/police-tech/

http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-10/santa-cruz-experiment

http://www.skyhookwireless.com

http://firstmonday.org/article/view/3663/3040

http://www.slate.com/blogs/how_not_to_be_wrong/2014/06/09/big_data_what_s_even_creepier_than_target_guessing_that_you_re_pregnant.html

Of course, these examples are not transferable or all reality based. But – to get back to the metaphor of the car – in terms of data analysis, we find ourselves status quo in the early days of the Ford Model T.

There are certainly countless more of such examples. All more or less well understood and scientifically correct. Another example: Nate Silver Predicting an election.

One thing you can say now: Forecasts based in the past are less reliable, or partially obsolete, for example, if you are emanating from seasonal recurring events, such as the flu or the purchase of heaters in winter time. If you can analyze data in terms of motives and interests (See also Computing and Intuiting futures from Sandra Geitz), then it gains a different picture. Motives and interests provide information representing “we are going to…,”, situations such as “I’ll buy a car if I get a raise.”

This could be transmitted at the macro level, e.g. if the Democrats are elected in 2020, they will finally put through a specific law, because we all know that they are still working on this. It is very likely that they will do it if external circumstances allow it. This is when Big Data comes into play. The Democrats re-election depends in turn on the people’s interests which can be reflected, e.g. on Google queries.

All of this relates only to medium-term time horizons and Foresight is less about making a prediction, rather likedepicting a scenario. However, a scenario could be represented more closely or exactly, as already hinted by Jason with his, “A Shrinking Cone of Plausibility” blog. Big Data could serve to draw the “so called trigger events” in this case to create scenarios based on these trigger events. For example: The next US president election, Jason used a Cone of Plausibility in a familiar example. I like this approach. But for me, Big Data is used for the representation of starting points or trigger events with which you can create scenarios in the distant future.

Existing Scenarios are mostly based on the current day or status quo. At this point, let’s go back to the Big Data analysis where Democrats will be re-elected. Based on this forecast with a certain probability we can build a scenario that is not mirrored from today’s point of view, but from the status of the so-called trigger event that a particular party is elected. Of course, this should not be the only factor for our scenario. Other trigger events could be used such as other interests and motives. What are the media interests? In what way have the most protests been expressed? Which governments were overthrown and which companies enjoy continuously high investments in the market? How have prices developed for this and that? This information be more precisely reflected in the near future with Big Data analytics. Of course, not 100% accurately – but more accurately than if not used, or only subjectively evaluated.

THE RECOMMENDATION
Try to engage in R and Python. Look at tools above with which you can analyze data and represent it visually, even without programming skills. The former and the latter tend to be the same.

A pretty manageable article on R and Python in terms of big data is from the DC data community.

But finally – why R and Python? R is primarily used for visual analysis of structured data sets, such as you already know from an Excel spreadsheet. Corresponding programming packages could complement R. Python is a little more powerful, albeit with the appropriate packages the functionality of both languages overlap. The scene will still argue which tool is more appropriate. Using Python for the analysis of texts are getting really exciting. Essentially, it is mostly a matter of counting words. How often is a corresponding keyword mentioned in a particular text or even more interesting, how often is it mentioned in a specific timetable in the whole web? Since most of the texts can be classified according to one author, and date etc., it is exciting here to see who mentioned what, when, where and why. And that’s what makes the data analysis so exciting: text analysis. As mentioned above, interests and motives are the valuable insights as they represent a target of individuals and groups. I might tend to buy more bio in the future or try to travel without a car? Of course, most of us won’t write it down digitally. But who else is active in clubs, google-searching, mailing and shopping online? It’s all about your interests!

Have a nice easy entry case in R and Python offered by Beautiful Data Blog.

Tags:  foresight  future  Python 

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Looking at next year’s list

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 29, 2014
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bridgette Engeler Newbury  shares her thoughts with us about the “future possibilities” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

It’s that time of year. Celebrations and traditions. Endings and beginnings. Promises and provocations. Reflections and resolutions. And now that the tinsel, incandescent holly and Santa-shaped shortbread are on sale, the flurry of ‘top ten’ lists will appear as quickly as the hot cross buns do (across supermarkets in the UK and Australia at least).

As Jim Carroll says here it’s relatively easy to extrapolate current trends into a ‘Top Ten for 2015’; it’s quite a different matter to look further ahead, as he does to 2025.

Some of those lists will posit that we’re in an era of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology to transform cities, economies and lives. Spurred on by wearables, rapid urbanisation, smart cities and rising popular demand for access to high-quality (and sometimes sustainable) infrastructure, it all leads to seemingly ‘good’ growth that is assumed to follow globally.

So I want to highlight Mashable’s list of notable innovations in 2014.

Few of the innovations that improved the world in 2014 will make onto the top tens for greatness in 2015 or beyond, and only a couple might be considered trend-setters. Why, I wonder? Compare it to a list of tech predictions like this one – just who are the incredible innovations on this list intended for? What worldview or model of subjectivity is inscribed in the scenarios and technologies offered by the developers of such marvellous wearables and other remarkable tech wizardry? And who stands to benefit? When you compare this with the Mashable list, it’s pretty obvious that most espouse a pronounced way of thinking about the world and civil society, with rather limited implications for people, planet and participation.

It is one thing to reinforce the beliefs, value systems and infrastructures that underpin particular ways of life; quite another to expound the importance of technologies that privilege a few when reliable access to electricity, clean drinking water, somewhere safe to sleep or sanitary facilities are not part of everyday life for too many. I’m not denying the need for or value of innovation, invention or experimentation (that Mashable list embraces all of those) but I am questioning the way value and need are prioritised, and by whom, based on what, and the kinds of futures that are being shaped by the infrastructure, innovation and technology these choices deliver.

As Andy Hines notes in his latest blog, maybe we could take some time to explore the ‘why’ of values, not just the ‘what’. Because there’s more to life in 2015 than networked information technology. Lasting change has to come from within, whether it’s individual, community or organisation. It won’t come from an app alone or something we plug in.

Tags:  future  technology  value 

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Computing / Intuiting futures?

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 22, 2014
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sandra Geitz shares her thoughts with us about “intuiting futures” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Do you synthesise opinions and judgements to develop potential futures?
Alternatively, do you conduct wide-ranging data analysis for potential futures?


Recently I’ve been reflecting upon the various ways it is possible to source potential views about our futures. How there are multitudes of opinions and judgements that contest what are valid and plausible futures. How various sets of data are either universally relevant, hotly debated or ignored, depending on one’s interest of the specific issue studied. Is it ever possible to completely separate facts and opinion from one another?

This led to the diagram below, which is a synthesis of Sohail Inayatullah’s Causal Layered Analysis: litany, facts, values and myth, discussed in an earlier post, and Otto Scharmer’s Theory U process: downloading (judgement), open mind (analysis), open heart (connection), open will (insight).

Judging issues increasingly involves contested opinions, ranging from expert judgements to social media flaming. Analysis may include or exclude publicly and privately available data, especially as huge volumes of big-data are generated. How we view the world, our values and deep stories, shape which data we view as valid and relevant to an issue. Similarly, others with different perspectives will connect with alternate data and opinions for this issue. Hence, the preference for a depth method like Causal layered Analysis (CLA) in contested views of our futures. And, what issues are not contested nowadays…

Rarely, are judgements or analysis sufficient alone. Underlying assumptions, biases, or beliefs which can influence or determine either of these inputs remain hidden and unknown. Even, combining judgement and analysis, gives a similar shallow and limited future view.

Connecting with the people, understanding their outlook and values, generates a critical view of the input data and opinions. This illuminates what parts may have been included or excluded from final result. In this way, greater depth and breadth to potential future options may be perceived, enabling one to imagine interactions and potential responses by appreciating the values of each participant.

Developing an insight into the deep stories or myths of each participant, can provide the richest potential futures options. The effort to distil and synthesise participant’s values into succinct story headlines, appears to make them memorable. And then, quite often, after some time germinating, ruminating… combinations of these insights, and interactions form new stories, resolutions and potential futures… In this way, Causal Layered Analysis can be used as a prospective method, beyond analysis.

What are your experiences using judgement, data, values and stories for futures?

Does this compute or intuit with your experience?

Tags:  analysis  future  judgement 

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