Hi, we have been supporting the Near Future Teaching core team recently on parts of this project. We haven’t yet posted, so here is a short introduction:

We are part of Andthen, a small design strategy consultancy company based in Glasgow, that marries design research with futures thinking to help organisations of all shapes and sizes with early stage innovation. We are working on this project over the next few months to offer some expertise of using a futures-driven approach in strategic planning, and will be posting here about our process and thinking.

— Zoë Prosser and Santini Basra

An intro to futures thinking

While futures thinking is by no means a young practice, it is not particularly defined or established as a discipline; there are few recognised futures thinking degrees, and there is varied understanding of what constitutes a ‘futurist.’ The terms ‘foresight,’ ‘futurism,’ ‘futurology,’ ‘anticipation studies,’ ‘futures thinking,’ and sometimes ‘futures’ for short, are often used interchangeably. While some are slightly varied within their definitions, they all essentially describe the practice of thinking in a structured way about the future, and the methods and approaches that are used to do so. For simplicity, we will just use the term ‘futures thinking’ to describe the practice in this post.

While, as mentioned, futures thinking is a somewhat nebulous discipline, there are characteristics of the practice that are commonly agreed upon:

You can’t know the future

The first and most central tenet of futures thinking is that it is not concerned with prediction; practitioners agree that ‘you can’t know the future.’ Instead, it is about anticipation and exploration. Futures thinking seeks to unpack the question ‘what could happen?’ over attempting to answer ‘what will happen?’

Fig.1. Based on a well known taxonomy of futures, the Futures Cone is a visual tool that helps to categorise different future scenarios according to likelihood and preferability.