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This community-wide blog showcases blogs by APF members on topics they select. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this section belong solely to the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of APF.

 

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A Day in the Life of a Futurist, Part 1

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

At least two of our members have written and reflected on a day in their life. Adam Jorlen wrote his reflection for his blog in 2013 when he was just beginning his futurist career. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF or its members. Please stay tuned for more from A Day in the Life of a Futurist.

Many people ask me what a futurist does and I answer differently every time. Partly because I don’t know what sort of futurist I am yet, and partly because what I do varies so much from day to day.

Yesterday looked something like this:

08.30
Reflecting on a communications strategy for an open foresight workshop I’m running for Hub Melbourne.

10.30 
Uploading a slideshare presentation for the information session held the day before.

12.50
Tweeting and reading

14.00
Driving out to Footscray with my friends and fellow foresight practitioners Gregor and Kieran to check out Centre for Transformative Creativity – an upcoming hackerspace and makerlab in the the Western surburbs.

15.00
Watching a dog.

16.30
Dropping off the book A Theory of Fun at Hub Melbourne.

18.00
Riding my bike out to Swinburne university to explore the essence of foresight with the Melbourne Strategic Foresight Meetup.

21.00
Drinking a beer at The Fox hotel in Collingwood.

So, that is what this futurist does.

UPDATE:

After posting the above I thought it might be interesting to complement what a futurist does, with what a futurist thinks and feels during a day. Here goes…

_______________

Yesterday looked something like this:

08.30
Doing: Reflecting on a communications strategy for an open foresight workshop I’m running for Hub Melbourne.

Thinking: How can I communicate the output of this foresight process to different layers of an organisation with free/cheap on and offline tools and platforms?

Feeling: Excitement. Frameworks and models are cool…

10.30 
Doing: Uploading a slideshare presentation for the information session held the day before.

Thinking: Will anyone ever look at this? It doesn’t matter. If they do they do. If they don’t they don’t.

Feeling: Boredom after a while. Powerpoint is not fun

12.50
Doing: Tweeting and reading

Thinking: About all the possibilities and pathways we can take for the future

Feeling: Happy and hopeful

14.00
Doing: Driving out to Footscray with my friends and fellow foresight practitioners Gregor and Kieran to check out Centre for Transformative Creativity – an upcoming hackerspace and makerlab in the the Western surburbs.

Thinking: Networked creation spaces might be the way to start a true peer-to-peer revolution, which are combined drone labs, social enterprise incubators, learning cafés and places to build social capital for immigrants.

Feeling: Overwhelmed and excited

15.00
Doing: Watching a dog.

Thinking: Nothing

Feeling: Relaxed

16.30
Doing: Dropping off the book A Theory of Fun at Hub Melbourne.

Thinking: More people (including me) should probably read this book.

Feeling: Good

18.00
Doing: Riding my bike out to Swinburne university to explore the essence of foresight with the Melbourne Strategic Foresight Meetup.

Thinking: About the future and what I will do as a futurist

Feeling: Content, challenged

21.00
Doing:Drinking a beer at The Fox hotel in Collingwood.

Thinking: How will all this make sense in hindsight?

Feeling: Hungry, tired, inspired.

So, that is what this futurist does, thinks and feels.

Tags:  foresight  futurist  professionalization 

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Foresight fuels product and brand innovation

Posted By Administration, Friday, April 7, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

The following is a member post written by John Mahaffie and originally posted on his blog, Foresight Culture. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF. 

You can’t innovate in a vacuum. Foresight opens new space for exploring change and discovering opportunities for innovation.

In product innovation, it’s essential to look beyond the boundaries of the current market for your products. You need to explore at least five or ten years into the future for fresh insights. And you need to test your assumptions about the marketplace and how it’s changing.

In brand innovation, a futures view tests assumptions about emerging change in values, attitudes, lifestyles, and consumption. It helps you fine tune your understanding of how consumers will understand and value a brand.

Without those enhanced views, you risk misunderstanding the patterns of change and missing opportunities. And you raise the risk of product failure or a mis-fire in marketing or brand development.

What you can do

For the most robust innovation efforts, build foresight into your work. Innovation teams should discuss leading-edge change and where it may steer the marketplace. Making future outcomes explicit sharpens the view of emerging needs and opportunities.

A baseline environmental scan of the most critical forces and trends shaping society will fuel a team’s creative thinking and fortify its understanding of the marketplace.

Scenarios help you test product/service ideas against a clearer view of the future.

Those are just two foresight tools among many that will enhance and enrich your innovation processes.

Tags:  industry  innovation  scenarios 

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Is Warfare Endemic to the Human Condition?

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

Craig Perry wrote this member post originally for the Integral Futures blog hosted by Terry Collins. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF or its members.

As a military veteran with over two decades of experience in the Intelligence Community, the single question that most concerns me about the future is whether warfare is endemic to the human condition. Throughout my course of study in the UH Foresight program, I’ve often wondered how we will fight future wars, or what might precipitate such conflicts – but I never for a moment doubted that states would continue to utilize the military instrument of their national power for the foreseeable future. Warfare has been a recurring theme of human interaction since the dawn of history, and it has only grown more violent and destructive in the modern era. The persistence of armed conflict is consistent with the “realist” theory of international relations, which holds that states will maximize power in an anarchic international system without regard to their domestic political or social dynamics.

Yet when we were asked to conduct a “mental time travel” visualization exercise a few weeks ago, I found myself imagining a distant future without warfare, where “international” disputes are routinely handled without resort to violence. At the time, I struggled to explain how such a future could come about absent some global cataclysm or extraterrestrial threat, but I didn’t have to wait long. In A Theory of Everything, Ken Wilber presents an integral vision of existence, applying an “all-quadrant, all-level” approach to individuals and collectives in both their internal and external dimensions. Building upon the Spiral Dynamics model of social change, Wilber has created a highly complex and comprehensive theory that he uses to describe and understand virtually anything, including the behavior of nation-states. As I read his book, I began to realize this might be the explanation I was looking for.

Spiral Dynamics

According to Wilber, each individual passes through discrete developmental stages, from egocentric to ethnocentric to “worldcentric” and potentially beyond, as he or she matures. These same stages or levels – identified by color-coded “memes” – can be extrapolated to the collective to explain how societies operate, and they presumably describe human development anywhere in the world at any point in history. Each society manifests its own particular distribution of developmental levels – its “memetic mix” – among its population, and whenever enough people begin to exhibit an emerging level of consciousness, society’s developmental “center of gravity” moves further up the spiral.

For example, during the Enlightenment, leading-edge philosophers embraced the “orange” meme, which over time spawned scientific breakthroughs, capitalism, the Industrial Revolution, and various political revolutions, producing a gradual shift in the collective memetic center of gravity from traditional “blue” to more modern “orange.” Something similar happened after World War II, as much of the “boomer” generation adopted the more egalitarian “green” meme, according to Wilber.

As a society’s center of gravity drifts, its members begin to see the world in different ways, and its leaders are more likely to pursue policies consistent with the predominant meme. This would presumably apply to international relations as well: states where the ethnocentric “blue” meme prevails are likely to view others as threats, while “orange” states may treat them as competitors. In the “World 1” societies of Europe, North America, and the Asia-Pacific region, where the “green” meme is becoming more pronounced, liberal democracies often take less confrontational approaches to international relations. For example, members of the European Union have abolished borders, adopted a common currency, and surrendered other aspects of their sovereignty to supranational institutions, while committing themselves to collective security – an outcome realist theory simply can’t adequately explain. Clearly, power is not the only consideration motivating these states.

The Integral Connection

If states at a particular level of development tend to behave similarly, and those at different levels behave differently, then this would suggest that the behavior of a state can change over time as its developmental center of gravity moves up or down the spiral. This does not necessarily imply an end to warfare anytime soon, however. So long as revisionist powers like Russia and China remain at the “blue” or “orange” levels of development, threatening their neighbors and flouting international norms, the United States and its allies will have no choice but to remain ready to defend themselves and their interests, with military force if necessary.

Over time, perhaps, Russian and Chinese societies may develop further, prompting these great-power rivals to change their ways – but other “blue” regional powers and “red” rogue states will likely continue to seek influence through force. Therefore, while the likelihood and severity of conflict may gradually decline in the future, warfare will not soon vanish from the international scene.

Moreover, continued development further up the spiral is not a sure thing. First of all, while more people appear to be operating nowadays at the “green” level of consciousness or higher than ever before, approximately 70 percent of the population in America and Europe remains at the “blue” level or below. This suggests that, as the leading edge of society embraces ever-higher levels, the rest of the population largely lags behind, becoming increasingly heterogeneous and complex.

Second, while leaders are more likely to operate at a higher level of consciousness than the rest of society, they cannot generally implement their visions without the buy-in of those they lead – meaning they will have to package their proposals in terms the population understands, and perhaps forego some of their more visionary ideas. Third, as such leading-edge perspectives become mainstream, then pass into the realm of tradition over time, people operating at lower levels of consciousness may begin to defend past progress against future innovation, making further development even more difficult.

From Here

Such social development is also not irreversible. On the contrary, now that modernity and postmodern egalitarianism have opened up a “Pandora’s box” of global interdependence and transnational threats, some societies seem to be regressing to previous levels of development, devolving into nationalism and protectionism and rejecting values once embraced as universal. Such lower-level memes appear to be reemerging in the US, Europe, and elsewhere, as the “establishment” – social elites, government institutions, mainstream news outlets, even civil norms of behavior – comes increasingly under attack. Such seemingly disparate phenomena as President Donald Trump, the British vote to leave the EU, even the success of Islamist political movements in the wake of the Arab Spring, all display signs of unhealthy spiral development “holons,” where the various levels remain unreconciled to each other or the world around them.

Applying Wilber’s integral vision to international relations doesn’t mean that we’re concerned only with politics, however. On the contrary, the “all-quadrant, all-level” model suggests that we should examine individual beliefs and behavior, as well as cultural and systemic phenomena. Such an approach reveals complex interactions within societies, where changes in each quadrant can influence the development of the others. For example, technological innovations such as social media have obvious implications for our culture, behavior, even the way we think about ourselves. Similarly, “progressive” political ideals, such as those enshrined in the US Constitution or the EU’s “ever closer union,” may encourage citizens to embrace the better angels of our nature, driving societies to ever-higher levels of consciousness. Conversely, countervailing influences, such as the legacy of American slavery or Russian malign influence in its “near abroad,” may retard social development.

Final Thoughts & Questions

I believe Wilber’s integral model can offer fresh insights to the field of international relations, and my preliminary analysis suggests that humanity may one day “grow out” of its tendency towards violent international conflict. If I am to more fully develop an integral theory of international relations, however, there are several questions I need to tackle:

  • Is Spiral Dynamics a universal mechanism of social change, or did other (World 2/3) societies develop differently? Have societies always developed this way?
  • What factors contribute to the movement of a society’s center of gravity up or down the development spiral? What can cause this movement to accelerate or reverse?
  • How are emerging memes propagated through society? What role do leaders play?
  • How would a second-tier (“yellow” or higher) development level manifest itself in international relations? What distinguishes this level from the “green” meme at the societal level?

Craig is also the author of a recent book, Never Leave an Airman Behind.

Tags:  security  war  warfare 

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Guide Longer Range Innovation Investments Using Strategic Foresight

Posted By Administration, Sunday, March 19, 2017
Updated: Friday, March 8, 2019

This post is part of a series on using strategic foresight to influence longer-range innovation investments written by APF members Christian Crews, Laura Schlehuber, and Ted Farrington. This post originally appeared on Viewpoints on March 9th, 2017. The full Innovation Leader’s Guide to Strategic Foresight is available for download from Kalypso. The views expressed here are those of the authors and not necessarily of the APF or its other members.

Portfolio management is at the core of any innovation leader’s job, including what to put in the portfolio, how to manage resources over time, and how to transfer to the business unit and commercialize. And any company that invests in longer-range innovation faces two major challenges related to this portfolio management.

The first is best expressed by this quote from the late Steve Jobs:


“You can’t just ask people what they want and build it, by the time you’re finished they want something new.”

While the relevant timeframes vary by industry, most companies use consumer or customer intimacy to inform their near-term R&D project portfolio. Focus groups and ethnographic research give many industries, especially CPG firms, about a two-year view of what their consumers want to see in new products and services. So the real heart of this challenge is: How does a company select projects when the time to deliver major innovations often exceeds the time horizon of their consumer or customer understanding?

The second dilemma is best described by a saying attributed to Henry Ford:


“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘faster horses’!”

Longer-range project portfolio questions cannot be answered by talking with, or observing, current consumers and customers. They have no idea what might be possible five, ten or twenty years from now, depending on the industry.



The Power of Strategic Foresight

Strategic foresight is a discipline that provides a structured way to investigate, not predict, the future. Fundamental to using strategic foresight to guide anything (corporate strategy, military plans, stock investments, government policy or longer-range R&D portfolios) is the development and use of scenarios. Scenarios are provocative, yet plausible, alternative views of the future in which we may find ourselves.

In the research and development context, strategic foresight is advanced portfolio management, where projects are selected based on robustness across multiple future scenarios, not a single financial metric or scorecard. A new product idea that appears in multiple futures is a pretty good bet! Leading practitioners of this approach require that any major R&D initiative perform well in all future scenarios.



Learn More

Strategic foresight enables organizations to build a unique perspective of the future, driving market entry at the right time with differentiated products and services. But not all foresight approaches are created equal.

Download the Innovation Leader’s Guide to Strategic Foresight to learn more

Learn more about Kalypso’s Strategic Foresight offerings

Tags:  foresight  guide  strategic foresight 

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The Principles of Applied Imagination

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

To determine what will work and what will not work before shoveling funds at a prototype, you might want to think about applied imagination. Rita J. King wrote this member post that was originally posted on her LinkedIn blog. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF.

Applied imagination is my specialty. I work with teams, typically with leadership teams spearheading massive software or transformation projects, using a navigation system that I created called the Imagination Age. We created the system to help individuals, teams and organizations abandon old habits associated with a way of thinking and working that is outdated, while adopting a new path for moving forward toward a shared goal.

While every project is different, there are a few principles at the core of the way I think about imagination. However, this list is always a work in progress, and there are lots more where these came from, but it’s a starting point.

These are the 26 Glyphs of the Imagination Age. They each correspond to a different focus area. I wrote about a few of them here, and I will write about more of them soon.



The Principles of Applied Imagination


1.All people, everywhere, are born with the ability to imagine.
2.Imagination is the way the brain forms a path between where you are and where you want to go.
3.Some people are fantasizers who have wild imaginations. Others are followers who want a path cut for them that they can comfortably follow. Some want to apply their imaginations in pragmatic ways.
4.Imagination helps us to see what it not there yet, and to understand, more fully, what is there.
5.Imagination is a mix of nebulous and tangible elements.
6.The nebulous aspects of this path can be made tangible, and the tangible aspects can be deprioritized to constantly update the imagined path forward.
7.The advanced practitioner learns to prioritize the elements of this path, to root out the unnecessary parts and develop the important parts of them in real time as it changes.
8.Children are not just playing with their imaginations. They are learning how to solve problems. As children grow, they learn that society has rules to keep their thinking in line. The thinking has already been done for them. The ability to imagine is wrongly viewed as frivolous.
9.Applied imagination requires clear communication. People aren’t mind readers.
10.Clearly communicated ideas influence the imagination of others, for better or worse. If someone else’s vision is an upgrade from your own, consider updating yours rather than resisting new ideas.
11.Imagining takes practice, like learning a language or playing an instrument. You can get rusty and lose your progress.
12.Humans invent the future through applied imagination, collaboratively developed and clearly communicated to people who are committed to making the vision real.

Rita J. King is a futurist and the EVP for Business Development at Science House, a strategic consultancy in NYC that helps professional teams envision and achieve the future they imagine
.

Tags:  immagination  mind  psychology 

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The Future of Work, Freshmen Edition

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 15, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

The following is a member post written by Christopher Kent and originally posted by the blog of Foresight Alliance. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF. 

I had the opportunity—and pleasure—to speak to incoming freshmen at Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. The topic was the future of work, with a look at how changes happening today will be reshaping work for not only these students, but all workers. I was joined by representatives from Deloitte, KPMG, and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Right off the bat I was impressed, as I don’t believe I would have sought out a seminar called “Tomorrowland” during freshman orientation week. But I was further impressed with both their attention to detail, as well as the well-thought-out ideas they already had vis-à-vis their careers. One person I talked to was interested in finding ways to deliver electricity to under-served communities at affordable prices. Another came to the session with an interest in being a futurist and I succeeded in not dissuading him from this ambition.

It was an interesting day, filled with lively discussion and engaged minds. A+, would do it again.

If you are interested, my presentation is linked below. Click on notes view when it opens to see my comments.

Foresight Alliance–Tomorrowland

Also, you can read the full report, The Futures of Work, or a report overview.

Tags:  future  job  work 

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Diagnosing and Future Proofing Governance and Risk Management Issues

Posted By Administration, Thursday, February 9, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

The following is a member post about risk management written by Paul Moxey, SAMI Fellow. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting or the APF. It was originally published on the SAMI Consulting Blog. Other links can be found at the bottom of this post.

The CRSA Forum exists to share and improve understanding on the people aspects of governance and risk management. It met in December 2016 to consider why corporate governance and risk management have failed to prevent frauds and financial crises.

Peter Bebb of Perendie began by reminding us of recent corporate collapses and corporate wrongdoing including mis-selling, fraud, rogue trading, poor controls over corporate assets resulting in security breaches and loss of physical assets and oil spills, and failure of care in the NHS and the reputation damage resulting from these incidents.

Corporate governance and risk management don’t take human factors, such as incentives and how we make decisions, into account. Governance and risk management reports were seen as backward looking and obscured by detail. They don’t support decision-making, tell you whether rules are being followed or are likely to be followed or how the organisation will perform in future.

Causes of failure of governance In small groups we reflected on the causes and Tweeted our opinions of the causes of failure. We then voted on which were the most important.

 

  1. Recognising & agreeing on risk plus complexity of risk
  2. Personal interest and lack of personal responsibility on individual board members
  3. Lack of transparency or ethics
  4. Lack of appropriate personal responsibility (Most important)
  5. Short term targets, over long-term culture (3rd choice)
  6. Poor ethics and accountability at the top
  7. Board clarity & accountability
  8. Governance is very challenging in an ever changing world
  9. lack of protection of whistleblower, rule breakers don’t often lose out (2nd choice)
  10. Not just the rules, culture too

One group talked about the need for individual and shared responsibility within an organisation and how their lack has contributed to governance failures. Organisation should be set up so that individuals are treated as responsible adults where relationships are built on trust rather than control.

Areas for action We Tweeted our suggestions for action and then voted on which were most important. These were:

 

  1. Culture and values (Most important)
  2. Clarity of purpose, enabling appropriate behaviour (3rd choice)
  3. Individuals understanding what is expected
  4. Recognising & agreeing on risk plus complexity of risk
  5. Create an international body who is able to hold the board to account
  6. Accountability & audit design
  7. Culture change – incentivise not penalise (2nd choice)

Gill Ringland, CEO of SAMI Consulting, led the meeting in exploring the future role and challenges for governance and risk management using four scenarios for 2040.

The ‘Second Hand’ scenario is the most similar to today and has developed as a result of the changes above without any significant disruption or systemic change. In ‘Globalisation‘ the main change would be the increased importance of virtual (web-based) connections with less significance given to geographical place. In ‘City Societies‘ cities become wealth clusters or brands, nation states fail and democracy, capitalism and western values compete with other organising concepts within different cities. In ‘Affinity Groups’ society has re-formed around affinity groups; multiple value systems are accommodated in a single geography. In this scenario, London could become 20 or 30 ethnically diverse clusters, all globally linked more strongly than their local interactions.

We considered the scenarios in groups. The Globalisation group considered that virtual working would mean more isolation. Traditional management and governance controls may not work if people did not know what others were doing creating problems with lack of accountability and responsibility. Alternatively, virtual working could make it easier for corporations to control staff, with unseen but all-seeing eyes knowing where staff are and what they are doing.

In the Affinity Groups, scenario groupings could form around common languages, corporations and conceivably intelligence as in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Current concepts of control and responsibility may no longer be needed if people share a common purpose and culture, e.g. the current issue of formal incentives incentivising the wrong behaviours could be less if people have a common framework. However, there could be rivalries e.g, between all powerful big corporations (as one Affinity Group) and other groups.

A newspaper headline in City Societies might read ‘London’s per head wealth 10 times that of Birmingham’ – there are winner and loser cities. International affinity groups, including corporations, would be more powerful. Staff in corporations would have different cultures in different cities or they may try to impose a common culture across all the cities where they have staff. There would need to be trade agreements between cities and some commonality in the legal systems. Cities would have good internal controls but there could be chaos externally. The more successful global cities might negotiate common frameworks benefitting all cities or they may benefit only themselves with other cities ultimately disintegrating or being taken over by other cities. Some cities may create armies to expand by conquest. Others would expand by succeeding in the marketplace.

People felt that a combination of City Societies and Affinity Groups could be quite likely.

So what should we do today? The future is unknowable but consideration of these scenarios could help us understand the world as it changes and spot what is happening earlier. The view of the room was to have capitalism with social responsibility and a shared sense of values and ethics. We should all try to view companies and the systems within which they operate from other perspectives looking down as if from a helicopter or observing it from distant vantage points, or from the eyes of different stakeholders. We should focus on purpose but beware people whose purpose is not socially benign.

Some conclusions· Globalisation, in some form, seems likely to continue in all four scenarios.

 

· Governance will need to embrace technology.

· In City Societies there must be accountability for leaders and transparency for cities and organisations.

· The importance of culture in governance is emphasised by Affinity Groups, governance structures need to reflect the values of diverse cultures.

Notes

  1. Gill Ringland’s PowerPoint slides can be downloaded here
  2. Peter Bebb’s PowerPoint slides can be downloaded here
  3. Slides showing participants Tweets and priorities here
  4. More information about the CRSA Forum can be found at http://www.crsaforum.com/
  5. Join the CRSA Forum Linked In Group here
  6. For further information or if you would like to attend future meetings contact paulmoxey@crsaforum.com
  7. The next meeting will be on Board Oversight of Risk

 

If you enjoyed this blog, sign up for our monthly newsletter at eSAMIsignup@samiconsulting.co.uk and/or browse our website at http://www.samiconsulting.co.uk

Tags:  governance  risk management  security 

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The Future of Sustainable Fashion: An Industry Meeting of Minds

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

The following is a member post by Alisha Bhagat that was originally posted to the Forum for the Future blog. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of the APF or its members.


It’s worth three trillion dollars annually; engages complex and interconnected global supply chains; provides a vast range of consumer choice, and appeals to every conceivable rational and emotional human aspiration and motivation. There is little doubt that the fashion industry is a vast, complicated system which in some way touches practically every person on the planet.

Today, the long-term sustainability of the fashion industry (which is the world’s second-biggest polluter after oil), is under significant threat from a wide range of social, human rights, environmental and commercial governance factors.

In early November, we hosted a “Futures Salon” event to address the many challenges facing the industry and identify potential solutions to ensure fashion’s viability. Held at the Levi Strauss and Co. offices in Manhattan, the event was formatted to draw upon the expertise of over 50 invitees including fashion brand representatives, designers, and entrepreneurs.

The Viability of the Fashion Industry


A panel discussion established at the outset the industry’s unique challenges, including a system which incentivizes rapid production of a high volume of items generally disposed of after consumer use (in the US, each person discards an average of 85lbs of textiles per year – with 70lbs going straight to landfill).

The global cotton industry is also impacted by human rights issues and multiple long-term risks including climate change and drought, population growth and food scarcity.

All of these factors affecting the future of mass-produced fashion are converging to demand an urgent response. Innovations in production, consumption, and disposal are beginning to challenge the business status quo and provide opportunities for a more sustainable future:
Levi’s recently partnered with Evrnu, a textile recycling start-up, and produced its first pair of fully recycled cotton jeans; each pair made from 5 used cotton t-shirts and requiring 98% less water than a pair of virgin jeans.
•Campaigns such as “Who Made My Clothes” connect consumers with the people who stitched their clothes in an attempt to raise awareness of labor abuses.
•To curb waste, new businesses such as Rent the Runway and Le Tote allow for consumers to rent clothes rather than buy them.
•Companies such as Zady are encouraging consumers to forego fast fashion for timeless style and well-crafted pieces that will last longer.

Despite these innovations, however, much needs to be done to support a fashion industry that minimizes waste, pays workers well, and produces quality garments. A common theme which always emerges is the absolute necessity for consumer demand to increase for sustainably produced garments. All participants agreed that with many of the social and environmental issues impacting elsewhere – i.e. away from the end-market – it was difficult to get most consumers to care.

Industry attendees also agreed that the relevance of sustainable business practices needed to be emphasized at each stage of the fashion supply chain – from the production of raw materials such as cotton, to the disposal of garments by consumers at end of life.

Responding to the challenges… all along the supply chain

Recognizing the requirement of a multi-faceted approach, and as a reflection of the systems-wide methodologies promoted by Forum for the Future, industry break-out groups generated ideas and areas for further development, encompassing all stages of the value chain.

To address the many challenges of production, the need for improved financial incentives was identified, along with support for government regulation to reward companies adopting sustainability best practices. Levis, for example, challenged and incentivized their internal sourcing team to develop products that met the criteria of waterless jeans (which use on average 28 percent less water, and up to 96 percent for certain products) and now, 45% of all Levi’s products are made using waterless processes. These stories of success needed to be told, and sustainable best practices needed to be promoted by harnessing the profile of CEOs through a range of communication tactics including television and social media.

The design challenge was to create affordable and sustainable product while remaining financially viable – design being the bridge between the consumer and the finished product. In this area, biotechnology holds considerable promise, with science and new technologies combining to create fabrics that are more sustainable. Designers need to understand the capabilities of these new fabrics and learn how to work with them.

Designers do not work in a vacuum, however. It was pointed out that industry business models needed to evolve away from the short-term quarterly cycle in the fashion industry, while simultaneously accelerating innovation.

A number of strategies were identified to drive consumer demand and to make fashion purchase decisions based on their values: From a brand perspective, sustainability can be a differentiator if all other factors – especially style and price – remain competitive.

All manner of tactics can be considered: supportive government policies to encourage consumer choice, to deployment of key influencers such as celebrities and pop culture films can push consumer awareness towards sustainable choices

Rating systems and QR codes on tags will facilitate the standardization of sustainability and provide enhanced transparency through relevant and accessible information – provided that the consumer is not deluged with information overload.

Finally, industry collaboration will be vital to promoting a systems-level view to influencing the future of fashion. One successful example, the Better Cotton Initiative, achieved a 10% sustainable cotton level despite its diverse stakeholder population and time-consuming processes. Collaborations present their own challenges, however: they do not lend themselves to speed; varying levels of ambition are at play and different organizational structures (even between public and privately held companies) can impact rates of progress.

Strong corporate cultures, together with industry leadership will be required to transcend operational realities along the supply chains. In the meantime, all participants in this Futures Salon event agreed that ultimately the end consumer will be the final arbiter of the success of sustainability – not as a fashion trend, but as an industry necessity.

Forum for the Future believes that the fashion industry can be changed for the better, but that it will take collective action.

Among our programs underway, Forum’s Cotton 2040 project is focused on building demand for sustainable cotton, improving traceability, training farmers and scaling cotton recycling. Separately, through our Fashion Futures project, we created a free toolkit that can be used by businesses and educators in designing products or strategy. These tools were deployed when we hosted the design sprint with Parsons, which you can read about here. We are now looking for companies to co-host a very similar challenge with designers in the industry to inspire innovation. If you are interested in collaborating with us, please contact:

Alisha Bhagat, Senior Sustainability Advisor

Tags:  fashion  future  industry 

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The Experiential Turn

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, February 1, 2017
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

The following is a member post by Stuart Candy and Jake Dunagan that was originally posted to the Sceptical Futuryst blog. It also appears in the inaugural issue of Human Futures (December 02016), a publication of the World Futures Studies Federation. And it is available through Research Gate. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily of the APF or its members.


How and why has foresight practice been turning towards design, media, arts and games –– and what does it mean for the future of futures?


For futures studies to impact mainstream culture and contribute to civilisation-scale “social foresight” (Slaughter, 01996) it must be capable of bridging the “experiential gulf” between abstract possible futures, and life as it is directly apprehended in the embodied present.

The persistence of an experiential gulf in foresight work, an idiom given to abstraction because it is about things that do not exist, is one of the main reasons for what we would say has been the field’s insufficient impact on mainstream thinking about the future over the past half-century. By contrast, the grounding of forethought in both material and emotional reality very much increases its potential impact on thought and behaviour. (Candy, 02010, pp. 61ff.)

Enter experiential futures, the key motivation and rationale of which is to enable more effective foresight work, exploring and shaping change, by using the whole continuum of human experience as the palette of engagement.



Hawaii 2050: public event kicking off a statewide sustainability planning process. Project by Stuart Candy and Jake Dunagan with Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies and collaborators, Honolulu 02006. Photo by Cyrus Camp.

Experiential futures, “the design of situations and stuff from the future to catalyse insight and change” (Candy, 02015), has a deliberately wide compass, including not only futures-inflected editions of conventional design outputs (print material, concept images, prototypes, physical artifacts, etc), but also installation, mail art, advertisements, immersive theatre, guerrilla intervention, digital simulation (VR/MR/AR), and games. Tangible, immersive, interactive, live, and playable modes are all in scope. [1]

The origins and early cases of experiential futures are described in detail elsewhere (Candy, 02010), but to provide a sense of how far and how fast this area has developed over the past decade, and with growing numbers of other practitioners experimenting in these modes, the authors have worked on projects ranging from immersive experiential scenarios for a group of 550 people at a public policy-oriented sustainability event, to guerrilla street art campaigns, to national-level museums of future possibilities. Partnering organisations have included local, state, and federal governments, community groups, educational and cultural institutions, private enterprises, and nonprofits. We have also developed the practice through teaching in the world’s first two futures programs offered at design schools, at OCAD and CCA.



The Experiential Futures Ladder: Most traditional futures practice, and certainly scholarship, operates on a high level of abstraction, above the experiential threshold, while experiential work explores more concrete manifestations of futures –– possible, probable and preferable.

What then are some of the challenges for futurists making, or contemplating, an “experiential turn”?

They include becoming transmedia producers as well as the transdisciplinary thinkers that we already try to be. This in turn entails not only participating in, but likely often facilitating, collaboration across even more diverse skillsets, and broaching new boundaries – such as those between the expressive/narrative arts and analytical scholarship – in addition to the disciplinary siloes which the field already habitually challenges. [2]

Enabling group thought and creative processes has been an important part of the futures field for years (Jungk and Mullert, 01987; Dator, 01993), and the stakes may be obvious to many already, but the affordances of group creativity and cognition using an experientially augmented toolset, and the details of what works best in what circumstances, are only now beginning to be worked out.
Here, then, we offer some suggestions for core skills and sensibilities that need to be developed further; among them certain competencies already widely accepted and understood, alongside others that may be less familiar.



Futurematic Vending Machine: design jam at OCAD University to fill a vending machine with future artifacts created by participants. Project by Situation Lab and Extrapolation Factory, Toronto 02014. Photo by Stuart Candy.

In order to become a good experiential futurist, you should: [3]

● Become a student of the history, culture, and present situation of the places and people with whom you are co-creating – in order to empathise with and build upon their knowledge and experience.
● Become a perceptive mindreader – in order to understand the mental models of participants or audiences, and then decide how to expand or challenge those models.
● Become a flexible thinker with the habit of long-zooming and scale-toggling – in order to venture, with your transdisciplinary readiness to roam, wherever the inquiry may need to go.
● Become a master of situations – in order to facilitate the co-creative processes of groups, which includes recognising what to nail down, what to leave open, and when and how to improvise changes in response to the needs of the moment.
● Become an engineer of experiences, bridging the gap between the ground of present sensation and islands of abstract possibility – in order to be prepared to use whatever it takes to catalyse heightened creativity, thoughtfulness, engagement, and action, in yourself and others.
● Become a fastidious documentarian – in order to capture the materials, feedback, and insights created during what is a singular, often ephemeral, experience.
● Become a willing collaborator with others you meet along the way – in order to be poised to join forces with those who have skills that you don’t, since no social foresight can be accomplished alone.



Time Machine CDMX: a student-created immersive scenario set in Mexico 02028. Class led by Stuart Candy and Jake Dunagan at CEDIM, Mexico City 02015. Photo by Stuart Candy.

Overall, perhaps the central emerging challenge for foresight practitioners has less to do with generating and broadcasting ideas about the future than with designing circumstances or situations in which the collective intelligence and imagination of a community can come forth. To design and stage experiences of the future(s) is one class of activity. To attend to the design of processes whereby such experiences are designed, making scalable structures of participation, is another. Both frontiers must figure in the unending quest toward “a truly ‘integral’ approach to inquiry” (Voros, 02008).

Finally, we emphasise that the outcome of all this is not simply to create interesting experiences; it is to make experiences that lead to the creation of better futures. To catalyse better futures is “the work” we futurists are called to do, and being willing to recognise the shortcomings of our existing conventions, as these become apparent, and to evolve towards new horizons in how we operate and cooperate––just as we urge and aspire to help our clients, audiences, students, and other constituencies to do––is a critical part of that duty.

Notes:
[1] The original article from which this shorter piece comes (Candy and Dunagan, 02016) deals in detail with the blossoming romance between futures and design, including parallel areas of practice such as design fiction and speculative design.
[2] See Ramos, 02006, for an earlier articulation of this line of argument. A decade of experiential futures work can be regarded as a decisive turn in the field towards meeting this challenge.
[3] The tremendous influence of Jim Dator on this part, and in general, is gratefully acknowledged. See the section titled “To Be A Good Futurist” in Dator, 01996. Our list supplements rather than replaces that one; although note the shift in emphasis between there and here, from mastery of content, toward mastery of process, in service of group intelligence and creativity.

References:
• Candy, S. 02010. The Futures of Everyday Life [doctoral dissertation]. University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Political Science.
• Candy, S. 02015. The Thing from the Future. In: Andrew Curry (Ed.). The APF Methods Anthology. London: Association of Professional Futurists.
• Candy, S. and Dunagan, J. 02016. Designing an Experiential Scenario: The People Who Vanished. Futures (In press).
• Dator, J. 01993. From Future Workshops to Envisioning Alternative Futures. Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies.
• Dator, J. 01996. Futures Studies as Applied Knowledge. In: Richard A. Slaughter (Ed.). New Thinking for a New Millennium. London: Routledge, p. 105-114.
• Jungk, R. and Mullert, N. 01987. Future Workshops: How to Create Desirable Futures. London: Institute for Social Inventions.
• Ramos, J. 02006. Consciousness, culture and the communication of foresight. Futures, 38(9): 1119-1124.
• Slaughter, R. A. 01996. Futures Studies: From Individual to Social Capacity. Futures, 28(8): 751-762.
• Voros, J. 02008. Integral Futures: An approach to futures inquiry. Futures, 40(2): 190-201.

***


The full text of this piece can be found in pdf here.

It appears in the inaugural issue of Human Futures (December 02016), a publication of the World Futures Studies Federation.

The piece represents an edited excerpt (about 10%) of a full-length article and case study of an experiential futures project we did at Arizona State University’s inaugural Emerge festival. That article – excerpted previously at The Sceptical Futuryst here – appears in a special issue of the journal Futures on the theme of Experiencing Futures, guest edited by Cornelia Daheim and Kerstin Cuhls.

Tags:  art  design  media 

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The New Digital Divide

Posted By Administration, Thursday, December 8, 2016
Updated: Saturday, March 9, 2019

This is a blog post about the digital divide from a member of the APF, Emilio Mordini. It was originally posted to his LinkedIn account. He also regularly updates his Blogger account which is more focused on medical topics. The views in the article belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the APF or its other members.

The expression “digital divide” dates back to mid-1990s and refers “to the gap between individuals, households, businesses and geographic areas at different socio-economic levels with regard both to their opportunities to access information and communication technologies (ICTs) and to their use of the Internet for a wide variety of activities” (OECD, 2001, Understanding the Digital Divide, OECD Publications, Paris, p.5).

For more than two decades, scholars and policy makers have discussed the digital divide in terms of inequalities between people who could benefit from digital resources, and people who do not have these opportunities and skills. The concept of a digital divide has been used to describe the technology gap between rich and poor populations and individuals; to depict disparities in technology access between young and senior people; to capture inequalities in ICT usage between people living in cities and in rural areas; between the educated and the uneducated; and between low and high income countries.  However, that type of digital divide is now finished, and a new digital divide is rapidly progressing.

According to the last OECD survey, young people all over the world have roughly equal access to the Internet, no matter whether they are rich or poor, educated or not. Yet, what changes it is how they are using the Internet. While richer teenagers, and teenagers living in richer countries, tend to use the Internet to search for information and to read news, poorer teenagers, and teenagers living in poorer countries, prefer to chat, play video games, or surf Facebook. Moreover, disadvantaged students spend more time on line than advantaged students, which contradicts the conventional wisdom about the old “digital divide”: the socio-economic disadvantaged are those who are more often online.

It is somehow obvious that patterns of Internet usage change according to a user’s socio-economic status, what is less obvious is the way in which inequalities impact on these patterns. Current digital divide does not concern access to technology but its usage. While advantaged people conceive the Internet as a tool for exploring the world, disadvantaged people think of the Internet chiefly as a game and an instrument to establish and develop social relations.  What is the reason of this disparity?

The OECD Report provides a simple answer to this question, “the use of online media – they argue –  depends on the student’s own level of skills, motivation, and support from family, friends and teachers, which vary across socio-economic groups…socio-economic differences in the use of the Internet and in the ability to use ICT tools for learning are strongly related to the differences observed in more traditional academic abilities”. In other words, according to the OECD, poor and uneducated people use the Internet in the way in which they conceptualize it, which is determined by their baseline knowledge. Yet, this is not an explanation, it is a truism. Of course, people use the Internet in the way in which they conceptualize it, but the question is exactly why disadvantaged people think of the Internet chiefly in terms of Facebook, social media, and video games. Is there any reason for this phenomenon?

Society has not yet realized the epochal change which occurred due to the digital revolution. Most of us are still thinking in terms of the industrial society. Who was the “poor” in the industrial society? The proletariat, those –  in Marxist theory – whose only possession was their labor.   The proletariat is the social class that sells the new merchandise “invented” by the industrial revolution, that is to say, “human labor”. The proletariat does not exist any longer, yet poor people still exist. Who is the “poor” in the digital society? Those people whose only possession is the new merchandise “invented” by the digital revolution, that is to say, “data”.

Discussing the digital divide, we are often victims of an illusion because we have difficulty in understanding that those who use the Internet only as a game and an instrument to establish social relations are not active users. Rather, they are passive data providers. They are the mines, not the miners.

Therefore the discrepancy between disadvantaged and advantaged people on the Internet is now defined as: advantaged people are mostly”purchasing” data, while disadvantaged people are mostly “selling” their own data. This is the new digital divide. Marx would probably have commented, "hic Rhodus, hic salta".

Tags:  digital divide  digitisation  technology 

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