Moments: 2007 And 2027


Futurecasting for Product Innovation


Lesson Info

Moments: 2007 And 2027

I asked the students here, in Seattle, to do a quick exercise about moments. And so this is about moments about 10 years ago so a real moment that happened in their lives or at their work. I asked them to share a moment that is a turning point or something that is a transition or something that has some sort of emotional impact. And then I also asked them to prepare a moment, a short anecdote, 10 years plus in the future. So ten years from now so obviously this hasn't happened yet. But the point is to practice thinking through these scenarios and then we'll debrief to make sense of this. So, just to share my 10 years ago moment first, and then we'll get some sharing from the students in the room. So about 10 years ago, I was working in a different industry doing some things around events and event planning and I was in this seemingly never ending conference call. And we took care of a lot of the things we needed to take care of early on; the logistics, the staffing, the timing, all of ...

these decisions. And I was like, OK, this could have been done in half an hour. But then we had to get into the details, get into the weeds of things, and it was almost like 30 minutes talking about the color of the tablecloth, and the political implications of that, and all of these sort of things that I didn't know I had signed up for but got dragged into. And so for me that was kind of an ah ha moment of like maybe I should find another job or find another industry. So that was a 10 years ago moment, and we'll make sense of why moments are important for future casting a little bit later. But I just wanted to share that that's a sort of ah ha moment. There's some sort of turning point, or some realization, and there's some emotional response. So I ask the students in the room to come up with some moments and then we do some sharing. So we'll share some 10 years ago stories and then we'll come up talk about our 10 years in the future stories, as well. So, we have the mic here. Does anybody want to share their 10 years ago story? This is probably a little bit more than 10 years ago, but a video game came out called Counter-Strike. It was a first person shooter, didn't think much of it, just played it, became really good at it to the point where I was a professional Counter-Strike player. And it was teams of five and we got so good that it became embarrassing at a moment where we were one of the only teams that didn't have a website. So I pulled the short straw thinking it was going to be awful, but decided, hey, I'll make this website. Fast forward today, that was actually the first website I made, and today I'm a website designer. Awesome man, cool. So you told this origin story of one defining thing that made you who you are, and you can see the causality. You may not have known 10 years ago that your interest in this game would get you to where you are now, but it makes sense in retrospect which is an interesting thing that we'll be teasing out. So we can also think about these moments as triggering events in storytelling, in creating future scenarios. You can also look to fiction for stuff like that, right. So if Gandalf had never visited Frodo, then the whole Lord of the Rings thing could not have happened. If those droids hadn't landed near Luke Skywalker, like none of that would have happened. If the owls didn't drop the letters into Harry Potter's mailbox, right? All of these things and so we also make sense of our own stories this way. We don't write our lives like a novel or a screenplay, but we can make sense of things in retrospect. So let's share a few other moments from back in the day, 10 years ago, more or less. So around 10 years ago probably I landed in Seattle-Tacoma airport, first time I was visiting Seattle. I was actually starting an internship back than. There was a snowstorm so I did not have an easy way out. My car reservation was totally missing. I spent two hours doing that and then eventually found a taxi that I had to share with two other absolute strangers to make it to where I was going to be living for a little bit. So compared to today, I have a 4-wheel drive car. I guess being a little bit careful. Cool, so but you have this experience of being new to a place and how that's changed how your current reality is changed compared to that. So you can see that the difference between that previous state and the end state which is another part of a story. Where you want a story to start somewhere and then hopefully, end in a different place. Even if it's like the secret and like the treasure was there all along but like there was still a journey and like maybe the protagonist was changed. So that's another important part of scenarios and storytelling that help prepare us to do what we're going to do later. Why don't we get one more share back from a 10 years ago story. Yeah, in the back. Yes, about 10 years ago I was working as a consultant for trial attorneys, helping them with their presentations for jury trials, and I kind of stumbled into a class at the Stanford D-school in design thinking. And it was not something I had read up a lot on, kind of went in sort of blind and really like aligned with a lot of stuff I had learned on the job through kind of being the voice of jurors for trial attorneys like helping them understand their "user". Well, I wasn't speaking that language at the time but kind of really opened my eyes and changed the way I did my old job and then ended up me going to grad school and doing kind of a different career path now. Awesome, cool, so another sort of origin story of how you got to where you are now, right? And so, this kind of retrospective storytelling is relatively easy, and I appreciate your willingness to share some of these personal, professional stories with us here to illustrate the point. Where it's relatively easy, even if we didn't know the significance of some chance meeting, getting into a car, or playing this video game and how that would make us who we are now. Because we can look backwards, we can connect the dots and make sense of things. All right, so that's just something that you already know how to do in terms of making sense of your life, your story, and understanding time, and how it works and how we experience time. I also asked you guys to write 10 years from now stories and I also encourage folks watching this on the internet to do this on your own time, to write an anecdote from 10 years ago and then also write this fictional moment of you 10 years in the future. So for mine, 10 years in the future, basically we were ready for this moment. We had prepared for it. We saw that the technology was right. We had seen that it worked for other companies. We had trained the algorithm ourselves, gave it a name, really made it our own. And so I think we're ready to announce that FUSA, my consulting company, will be having our very first fully artificially intelligent Chief Operating Officer. Right, and I think that's going to free up more time for the partners to not have to deal with some of these logistical issues and we can focus on just designing things for our clients, servicing our clients, letting humans do what humans do best and let machines handle some of the organizational stuff and then also just cut out some of the interpersonal conflicts because the algorithm will make the decision and just take care of it for us and we have robots to do that. All right, so that's my moment. You can see that I don't know if that's going to be possible 10 years from now. I'm just making a leap of faith, doing a magic wand kind of, you know, warp to the future and I've told the story in a way that was designed to build a little bit of suspense, too. So that's another storytelling principle that helps us craft compelling stories and scenarios of the future is you want to grab somebody's attention and not reveal everything at once. Right, you want a progressive reveal like any good story. What makes you binge watch a show is that you don't know what's going to happen next and you care about what's going to happen next and so and then there's maybe a twist at the end. So, that's another structure for your story, for your scenario. And then we can take that story and figure out connotations, right? What could go right about having an AI in the C-suite? What could go wrong? What are the sort of legal implications, liabilities, social implication? And I got to that moment based on a few things that we'll talk about in detail coming up around driving forces as well as weak signals. Right, so there's a macro driving force, a trend, a movement towards more and more automation, to more advanced artificial intelligence, and this is just becoming more and more part of people's lives so that's a pretty major force, driving force. There are also weak signals which are just specific data points of what's recently possible. It might be a prototype; it might be really early stage not ready for the market yet, or it's out in the market but not mainstream yet. So for example, at my company, at FUSA, we use this AI service to help us with scheduling. So it just syncs with our calendars and then you just cc the scheduling email and there's AI and some people in the background but it's treated just like a member of our team and it just helps me and my partners schedule things in a way and it makes life easier for us. Right, and we also see weak signals where there are services that are voice activated AI that's like a personal assistant and things like that so that's recently possible today and you could draw a line of possibility, right, where that can develop into something else to a full fledged assistant to something that has, you know, physical robotics and presence that can actually do stuff of you. You know, so you can draw this narrative link in a way that makes sense. All right, so that was my moment from the future, let's hear a little bit of your future moments and see if we can learn anything from them, pull out some insights. Autonomous driving is ubiquitous. No one owns a car anymore. Everyone has a cell phone. Everyone also lives in VR and mixed reality and AI's ubiquitous, so yeah. That's great, can you, so that's really great in terms of you've taken the driving forces, you kind of understand where these things are going or may be going. Can you make it maybe more personal in a way like what is a day in, what does your commute look like because of that for example? Because of that I'm more than ever glued to my phone, and I have a personal VR device that I strap on every morning, and what makes me happy is that I've trained for it, and I know how to use all these things since I've started reading it up 10 years ago. Awesome, awesome, so that gives us a snap shot, an anecdote into the day of the life so when we're thinking about these stories and these moments, we want to talk about there's macro things, all right, that are fairly big and abstract, the self driving cars, and when you think about the infrastructure or the cultural implications of that but by humanizing it it's like this is your life, this is your start of the day. It makes it more visceral for us and we can see like, oh, how would we feel, maybe I don't have to drive anymore for my commute, I can just strap in the VR and then I just get to work, for example. Right, it's like is that a good thing, is that a bad thing, what could go wrong? Right, so that helps us take these abstract trends and driving forces and makes them personal for us in a way where we can explore the feelings and implications of that. Any other future stories, yeah? Back to the story 10 years later, I have a meeting in a city I've never been to so before I even hop on a plane I actually know where I'm going to stay, what's going to be the cost, how can I get there. There's a lot of interconnected systems that work so that I have a smooth experience as I step off the plane and hop into the car that will take me where I want to go or maybe not even the car, any type of transportation device that will take me there. Awesome, you know so one way to build on a story like that, right, where you're very specific about you're going to a new city is to just make it specific, like name the city, right, and just show us what those touchpoints will look like in terms of you know the seamlessness of it and how that will work. So there's this whole genre of these design fictions that's been around for a long time. From the World's fair from back in the day to 100 years ago in the Victorian age when there were all of these projections about what the 20th century will look like, what the 21st century will look like. Companies do this all the time. Sometimes, it's just a speculative thing that's used for branding and marketing, but basically companies will do this even if the R and D isn't there yet, the technology's not there yet, They'll just fake it and they tell you that it's fake, right, so there could be like the future of mobility as we've talked about or the future of way finding in a new city and that company has delivered that service to you in different ways, right. And it's often in the context of this user journey or it could be an ensemble cast where there's different people doing different things but it brings something to life, right, whether it's the future of watching sports or the future of virtual reality and so with a little bit of this movie magic we're able to show something even if the actual technology isn't ready yet or it's not ready for market yet. And so that's a way to inspire consumers, to position your company as like, oh, their doing innovative things, even if it's total vaporware. But it's also a way of inspiring the team towards that direction, right, if you think about these bit hairy goals, these moon shots, whether it's literally getting to the moon or getting to mars or, you know, self driving cars, it's like, it's not just the goal and the destination, but concretizing that goal and the destination and saying like what happens the day after? Right, what is life like, how does that change where we are, how we feel, and all of that? Are there any final future stories that anybody needs to share, yeah, Cindy? Listening to everyone's story has kind of inspired my own right here. So, 10 years from now, my one and a half year old son will be 10 years old and in a world where, you know, augmented reality, VR, self driving cars could be prevalent, I just imagine a world where culture has no boundaries. Like, what does it mean when for us when we were at the age of 10 like we aspired to want to drive cars because that meant freedom. For him, freedom might be something different like the ability to have languages be transcribed in live time means that he has no fear of meeting strangers, especially with big data being around, imagine augmented reality, like you can know anything about anyone if you just look at them and you know what their potential Facebooklike profile could be. How do we deal with anxiety, fear because we have never tried another experience or we don't know how to do something but all that knowledge is available now. We can kind of see that with like YouTube and shows where people try new things and what not so that's what I was just thinking about. Thanks for sharing that, Cindy. And so your story reminds me a lot about Marshall McLuhan talking about how every technology, every media is an extension of the human. But it's also an amputation, right, so for every new technology we gain something but we also lose something. So if we go back to what humans went from oral societies, totally verbal societies, to societies with written language, you lose a little bit of memory so in a lot of preliterate societies, people can recite their genealogies or they can recite their legends like the Homerian epics or totally oral traditions and with writing you can pass things down from generation to generation and make it accessible to more people but then most people are not practicing their memories to remember like hundreds of pages of text that used to be speech, right? And so we see these same things with some of these technologies that you're talking about, Cindy. OK, if every language is available to us through some sort of translation earpiece do we make the effort to learn a language that we don't know or what happens when the machine breaks, right, or what's lost in translation. So, thinking about every new technology, new development as both an extension and an amputation of something human, something social. And thinking about those trade offs, I think is another important thing to think about in this future casting work.

Class Description

We live in a rapidly changing world, and that includes the world of business. To be successful, companies have to develop products and services that not only address the needs of today, but anticipate the needs of tomorrow. That’s why futurecasting is so important.

While no one can see the future, we can model and rehearse potential futures, which is what futurecasting is all about. This essential tool for design innovation and business strategy helps us imagine what the future might be so we can create a long-term vision and make it a reality.

Using techniques adapted from the military, global corporations and top design schools, this course will help you map out the best- and worst-case scenarios of the future and prepare for them.

In this class, you’ll learn how to:

  • Craft and model different future scenarios to “rehearse” for the future.
  • Engage your team in the futurecasting process.
  • Stop thinking only in the short term (e.g., annual planning, quarterly earnings) and find the space and time to think about the longer term.
  • Develop your vision and imagination about best- and worst-case future scenarios.
  • Inspire your organization to better understand and utilize futurecasting.


Cindy Wong

I thought Lee-Sean was a great, eloquent speaker. He took what could be a high-minded, abstract concept "future forecasting", and made it relatable, down-to-earth, and easy to understand to his audience. If you're interested in learning how to plan, manage, and build future scenarios (5-10+ yrs out) to have influence in your organization, this class was invaluable. He walks you through practical brainstorming techniques to come up with scenarios and shows case-studies for how you can create a narrative to show how future scenarios can become realities from present day. I enjoyed all of it.