Q&A And Reflections


Futurecasting for Product Innovation


Lesson Info

Q&A And Reflections

Started with these weak signals of the recently possible. We've talked about you know just being on the look out for what these weak signals are, and also looking at the macro trends as well. What are these driving forces from the economy to technology to climate, and identifying some driving forces. Mashing up two of them, creating a grid so we can generate different scenarios. And also identifying some of these wild cards, some of these black swans and using that as a spark, as a jumping off point for different scenarios as well. We practiced looking at the different implications. So we have a scenario, we toss that rock into the pond, and then we look at the ripple effects. And see what are the effects on this world? How does it change the timeline? How does it change the story? And then we also practiced back casting and writing the prequel and the prequel to the prequel where we said okay some future scenario happens, and then how do we work backwards to the present day of how did...

we get here, how did we get there, and how do we sort of leap frog and identify some indicators to see what makes sense and what is more plausible, what's more preferable and so on and so forth. So, any reflections or questions here now? What are some ways that you might bring some of these techniques or insights to your work as designers, as product people? Like, are there things that you can bring to your strategic planning, to your product plans. Yeah. The whole process seems like it a very goo way of designing and story boarding film projects for perspective clients and basically building pitches out of them. Definitely, yeah. So I mean, for folks who are working in like creative consulting, or even sort of in house teams, right? If you need to pitch something either to an external client or even just your bosses or some other decision maker, the more you can choose that right level of fidelity to bring this idea to life, but also show that you've thought through the bigger implications beyond your product team. You've kind of thought things through in these ways and so you can bring that artifact there. Whether it's a prototype or the video or whatever. So, there's these story telling techniques that are woven into the future casting that are an essential part of the practice. So now that the team had gone through that exercise of back casting what might the next step look like? Yeah, so some of that back casting stuff is we've explored one timeline but it's helpful to explore, do the back casting on multiple timelines. And then really start teasing out these indicators and actions. So this future casting work is sort of an antecedent to strategic planning of okay we've identified these multiple scenarios of possible futures. We've done the back casting part, we've identified some of the indicators and from there you can suggest some strategic actions based on those indicators. And then that can feed into your product plans and your general organizational planning as well. But it's really about continuing the conversation because we've had that process. I mean in terms of how did you feel going through that process? Because a lot of this stuff is sort of simple but not easy but also it helps when you have a group. So how do you feel about maybe facilitating that or leading a group through a process like that? Like once you've gone through it a couple times yourself? I think one of the things that helps in stuff like this is kind of like pushing yourself to go deeper so you make the oh legally there might be some implications for HR, well why is that? And asking yourself, like pushing yourself to go a few levels deeper, I think that's where you start getting the not obvious insights in terms like surprise ideas that come out. Yeah, definitely. And I think that points to the need for both diversity and expertise right? So you wanna cast a wide net in terms of the people feeding into your implications and with your prequel writing, but then you also may wanna tap into experts whether it's in legal implications or things like that to help you inform compelling scenarios in that way. Just as if you were I don't know, writing a crime thriller you'd probably wanna talk to a lawyer and a spy or whatever you're writing about. So it's in the same way you're tapping into that expertise and that diversity of view points to build out rich story worlds for these scenarios. Any other final thoughts, questions? How did it feel traveling to the future and back and writing these prequels? Is that intuitive or does it make sense now that you've had a little bit of practice thinking in non-linear forward looking time? Yeah. Hi, I was about to say, it was really interesting talking about planning for the last part of the trilogy and far future and then present day. I think when you're working as a designer, especially when you're working in tech you have to think about the implications for your product, how it affects your consumers when you release it, but also thinking about like you said how does the technology influence the behavior? And we're kinda seeing that now today in the news headlines about the impact of social networking or like blockchain and stuff like that. And I think often times the people who work in tech, they only think about the immediate KPIs but they're not thinking about well what are the implications, like more darker implications at the same time besides the beneficial. Like we don't cover our angles enough I think in this industry. Yeah, yeah I think that's a really good point. Whether it's people working in tech or some other industry of just adding this into the organizational culture I think just helps us just have a more inclusive conversation about things right? And like it is helpful to surface these anxieties and go into these dystopian nightmares, but practicing this with you guys it seems like there's a lot of hope to of the positive implications of what you do. And so it's good to balance those things out and have these negative scenarios, cause if you can go to the extremes of the most positive and the most negative you can also play with the middle ground as well. And so that's really a way to help foster some of this long term thinking as well. Which as you mentioned before Cindy, it's not something that everybody does when your heads down and trying to get out the next product release. So part of this future casting is just a balance to this kind of quarterly or annual time frame or even this sort of week long sprint kind of time horizon of thinking ten plus years in the future. And so, I really do suggest people using this on their personal stuff too. So that ten years in the future moments exercise, you can build that out in a way that's like more compelling that's kind of a longer story where you can explore different possibilities for yourself or for your company. Any other final reflections or comments? Thanks Lee-Shan, I thought this was a great tool and technique for not only business innovation and product innovation and applying it to personal life. I think, like I see in tech a lot of companies are building ideas around a particular product, but aligning it to using a tool like this really brings you out to the big picture like starting with the ten year and figuring out how to work backwards from there and then building the product based on that time line or those time lines. It was a really cool experience to go through this. Yeah awesome. Yeah and it also just reminds me of thinking about what you're value proposition is, whether it's becoming the everything store or making quality content available anywhere, or making learning accessible, whatever your value prop is, is that when you have this longer term time horizon I think it also helps with less clinging to specific technologies. So I graduated from my Master's program in design and technology like in 2010, so it's like almost a decade ago, and a lot of the specific tech that I learned is already obsolete, but a lot of the same principles and stuff are still relevant. And so, if you think about these time horizons and how quickly things are changing it also helps teams and companies think about okay if you're gonna deliver quality content anywhere you don't have to be tied into just VR or just screen based things or just anything. I think it allows you to anticipate these disruptions, because you're focused on that value prop and that north star rather than just the specific kind of day to day incremental changes in your product. Alright, well thank you so much for having me here today, and just kind of traveling back and forth to the future, to the past and of these future scenarios and figuring out these prequels as well. And so you can feel free to reach out and contact me. We also do these facilitation's with groups and organizations and also working with the more long term to build out these scenarios and figure out how they work, and teach people how to do this in person. And of course the free FUSA future casting canvas that just helps you go through this process in a more structured way to help you organize your scenarios and work with them and share them with your team. So thank you so much for being here today, I really appreciate it.

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.