The Futures Group is very young, we look at possible futures in the timeline 2020-25 for opportunities and threats for our principal client. We straddle both Asian and Western perspectives which leaves us a bit schizophrenic and exhausted at times, but it’s worth it. I tried explaining it this way. Trends/shifts are like seeds today. Some seeds sprout to become towering trees, some seeds will grow for a short while but have no staying power and will die off. Some seeds never make it. What we try to do is make an educated guess how these seeds will contribute to the forest of tomorrow. Then we backcast and ask “How do we prepare ourselves to survive and thrive in this forest?” We’ve covered a variety of topics from Arctic Melt, Food, Global Cities to Little economy, Augmented human beings, Batteries and Electric Cars. Here’s a picture of us at a GenPlus retreat, and some pictures of Ms Dinah Saw, our lead strategist, peering into the future.
There is the grunt work and the elegant work. The grunt work is the research, the interviews to find an economic reason to pursue any particular future trend that would create good jobs. This is not easy, and we often find ourselves dropping or burying topics that look good at the surface, but just simply are not ripe now.
The elegant work is to be both Oprah Winfrey and prophet in reaching out to our principal and secondary clients, to create an ‘Aha!’ in them, to surprise them with what they thought they knew but didn’t really know. This is much harder and we are guided by excellent examples of videos, futurescapes plus artifacts from the future from the Institute of the Future and mindblowing presentations from TED and Poptech.
Every month or so we adjourn to our nest, what we call GenPlus. If we are really really productive, we do good research and brainstorm with outside stimulation and come up with six or seven interesting lines of inquiry. Most die, horribly. Some may blossom. Some will emerge through the course of work (I didn’t know that … and so another one is born).
The busy months of conferences are in Spring and Summer, and we’re impressed with what the USA and Northern Europe have to offer. We are also on the lookout for what is emerging in Asia, especially N East Asia.
(Update in May 2009: PS put together a brief intro to what we do for a Helsinki conference. Below is the abridged version.)