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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:

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.

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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Desert island futures?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, November 20, 2014
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sandra Geitz shares her thoughts with us about “desert island 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.


Who and what would you bring to your desert island?

Imagine for a second, that you’re planning your own island retreat… a self-imposed, indefinite island retreat. Who would you take on your journey? Whose skills are most useful? What seems essential to bring along?

Now, is this scenario really so far-fetched? Let’s consider emerging social dynamics. Both the pace and volume of social media streams and vast hidden forces like globalisation and digitisation promote increased competitive and attention-seeking behaviours. How do we tend to respond to all this? By withdrawing to the familiar, comfortable and well-known? Are we retreating into closed worlds, hostages within reassuring personalisation algorithms, Eli Pariser’s filter bubbles, with a world outside hostile to our comforting ideas and worldviews, filled with those shouting, trolling and blocking any chance of real debate and learning?

“Both Whatsapp and Secret represent the ascendency of the phone book over the friend graph. It’s back to the future,” tweeted Yammer CEO/ Founder, David Sacks (Meeker 2014).

Ever more sophisticated filtering will reduce external noise in our social media feeds, and the potential for proliferating private desert islands of our close friends and genuine interests, according to Steven Rosenbaum, content curation author and promoter (Decugis 2014). Naturally, he advises business to curate quality content or face extinction via irrelevance. Seth Godin’s concept of permission marketing on steroids.

So what, you may ask?

Although, it appears an attractive solution in the current carcophany of noise, attention-seeking and celebrity trivia, there are significant downsides to this future of private retreat. Antony Funnell’s (2014) recent Future Tense program on ABC Radio National, examined this in perspectives on the power of provocation.

Funnell’s (2014) first guest, Graeme Turner, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland explained that the purpose of provocation used to be about challenging and debating ideas. Now, modern provocation has become a competition for attention, rather than ideas. It is about promotion and entertainment, requiring greater shock value and/or engagement over time to be noticed by provocation- immune audiences and/or participants. Turner believes the future of public debate and innovative ideas seems quite bleak (in Australia, at least). There are enormous competitive media pressures to entertain, whilst countering public dis-engagement with more complex or sophisticated issues.

Another perspective was offered by Scott Stephens, Religion and Ethics program editor for ABC Online (Funnell 2014). In his studies of the spread of philosophy, provocation and innovation were the product of dialogue and debate within historical constraints. Stephens suggests a future of greater discernment and discrimination is possible, if we are able to overcome cultural relativism or permissiveness for anything goes. Potential awaits for futures of value, integrating judgement with broad social acceptance.

Very similar conclusions to those of Alex Pentland’s (2014) Social Physics, were reviewed in a prior post. Pentland designed experiments that measued the productive output of different groups and the patterns of groups interactions. He found that innovation was optimised with iterative patterns of exploration for novelty interspersed with the socialisation of these ideas for acceptance. Pentland believes a diversity of shared experiences and history builds a stores of both trust and experiences to associate with for future application.

“Feedstock for innovation is insight – an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement,” states the recent HBR article of Mohanbir Sawhney and Sanjay Khosla (2014). Similarly, foresight can be thought of as the imaginative understanding of potential impacts of internal and/or external factors in the future. The purpose of foresight is to help make decisions, solve problems, identify and adapt to changes by thinking about what could happen and how to influence and enable what should happen.

Future implications?

Both foresight and innovation introduce novel ideas for social acceptance to organisations and/or the public. They involve challenge existing ways of thinking, provocation of current thinking to generate alternative ideas, perspectives and spark imagination.

In current social dynamics, can foresight practitioners and the field expect a desert island welcome?

How might we further socialise foresight?


Decugis G 2014, The Desert Island: the future is the curated Web for Steve Rosenbaum in Curate This!,!, viewed 7Nov 2014,

Funnell A 2014, Perspectives on the power of provocation, Future Tense, ABC Radio National program audio and transcript, viewed 3Nov 2014,

Meeker, M 2014, Internet Trends 2014: Code Conference, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, slideshare, pp. 35-37, viewed on 9Nov 2014,

Pariser E 2011, Beware online “filter bubbles”, TED Talks, viewed 9Nov 2014,

Pentland A 2014, Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread – the lessons from a new science, Scribe Publications Pty Ltd, Brunswick, Australia and London, United Kingdom.

Sawhaney M and Khosla S 2014, Managing Yourself: Where to Look for Insight, Harvard Business Review, November 2014, pp.126-129, viewed 5Nov 2014,

Tags:  foresight  future  islans 

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Future webs of choice

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, August 26, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Sandra Geitz shares her thoughts on “future webs of choice” 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.

Scanning recent headlines reveals deepening global conflicts: What China wants?,Lessons of Ferguson, Ukraine’s rebel war,Israel loses support pummelling Gaza, as well as locally in Australia: Catholic Church failed to act: Royal Commission, Treasurer claims poor people drive less, and Tax rise threats from stalled Budget.

What is happening? What do such stories reveal to us socially?

What are future implications?

These shifting debates recalled the extensive Australian social research of Hugh Mackay (2010), published as ”What makes us tick:? The ten desires that drive us”. He studies our social drives and depicts ten desires as an intertwined web which shapes our identity, beyond basic survival needs of food, water and shelter. Each of them overlap the others in competition to drive us socially, rather than purely rationally, as often we are unaware of them. The balance shifts over time and from experiences and interactions with others. Mackay explained each desire as neither inherently good nor bad. Unrestrained or excessive in particular desire(s) can lead to issues. More critically, he observed thatunfulfilled or represseddesires may drive deep emotional frustrations in either individuals, groups or nations. This shadow of unfilled desire in ourselves can lead us to want desires to be frustrated in others as well. It explains Mackay’s research that a desire to be taken seriously has greatest impact.

The desire to be taken seriouslyis the desire to be acknowledged as unique individuals, beyond a categories. It is the desire to be heard, understood and remembered. When it is frustrated, it leads to disappointment or anger. And, it can be seen as the ultimate insult to be ignored or dismissed, leading to feelings of rage, hurt or anger, from those experiencing racism, tribalism or sexism, for example.Who is silenced? How may surpressed feelings emerge or erupt in the future?Alternate responses to not being taken seriously is over-compensation with vanity, arrogance, hubris or narcissism.How may our futures be influenced taking others seriously?Deep listening can engage others, in order that they engage and accept us in turn. Listening as a critical choice…

The desire for “my place”can be where one lives, feels at home, one’s history or smaller, temporary spaces or routines. Threats and other fears can lead to territorialism or becoming obsessed with security.How can comfort and security of place influence future choice?Noticing or attending to place, can open and enable options.

The desire for something to believe inencompasses religions, atheism, tribalism, even awareness movements. Beliefs need reinforcement to endure. Fundamentalism arises and is strengthened if our beliefs are under attack,How may futures be driven by beliefs?Through listening and engaging, or deeply held debating or attacking?

The desire to connectcan be to know thyself. Or about connecting with each other, connecting online, or connecting with nature, meditation or mindfulness. Connections promote freedom and expression. And, if the desire to connect is repressed, our desires for control or to be taken seriously may expand to fill the void…How does being connected or being isolated affect our future potentials?

The desire to be usefulcan be altruistic, making contributions towards a better world, being helpful, contributing, doing meaningful work. Taken to its extreme, being useful can be perceived as knowing better than others themselves.How may our futures be realised, if we know what is best for you?

The desire to belongidentifies us with our herd of 7-8 close friends. Or to larger, noisier, more public tribes linked by sport, religion, language, consumption. Our desire to belong may drive mindless compliance and conformity.Which herd or tribe drives our future choices?

The desire for moreis often the shadow of other blocked desires. More leads us to seek stimulations, comforts, distractions, addictions, eating/ drinking, hunger for money, more spending and indulgence.How may futures of less be realised, when they emotionally, rather than rationally, driven?

The desire for controlis the desire most likely to frustrate and disappoint with theillusionof control. We can become anxious lacking control, over-controlling others, excessive in survelliance or abusing our power. Or we may narrow our control, over-controlling ourselves in perfectionism.What if we see further Future Shock?

The desire for something to happenis our need for excitement, action, realising dreams, challenges or change. We are what we do! Is online activity sufficient? We both are pulled towards and push away from change in life.How do encourage or thwart future actions?

The desire for loveinvolves many kinds of love: romantic, erotic, divine, companionship, unconditional love, faith, acceptance, and intimacy. And in frustration, lacking love we feel cold, empty,angry or even introspective.How does love influence options for our future?Building trust, being consistent, supportive opens potential.

So readily it explains events and behaviours with the benefit of hindsight, our complex web drives and surprises… can we notice and listen?

Mackay H. 2010,What makes us tick? The ten desires that drive us, Hachete Australia, Sydney.

Tags:  choice  future  web 

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