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About futures thinking

About futures thinking

About futures thinking 

  • Futures thinking provides a range of techniques to help you think about the drivers of change that are shaping the future and the assumptions we make about the future, and explore the implications of these for making decisions today – not only about what to do, but how and when to do it. 
  • Futures thinking does not attempt to predict the future, nor does it purport that there is only one correct future or that the future is pre-determined. There are a range of possible futures and the future can be actively shaped by the decisions we take today. 
  • Futures thinking is a creative and exploratory process seeking many possible answers and acknowledging uncertainty. It's a different mind-set to analytical thinking which seeks to find  the right answer and reduce uncertainty. 
  • Futures thinking is used in strategy development and in design and planning, as well as to inform policy development. 

Why you should use it 

Futures thinking helps you to develop better strategy through understanding the long-term issues or challenges shaping the future. By using futures thinking as part of your strategy process it helps you to: 

  • identify and test the assumptions (individual, team, agency, and system) that are influencing how the strategic issues are being considered and allows you to update those assumptions as the world changes. 
  • explore beyond the assumed future to consider a much wider range of possible contexts in which your strategy may be operating.  
  • generate new insights into possible future developments so you can take account of them in the way you frame your strategy. 
  • think through future intended and unintended consequences of your strategy in different contexts. 
  • reduce risk by developing strategy that is more resilient to changing conditions and takes advantage of new opportunities. 

What it involves 

Futures thinking involves: 

  • looking for signs of change that may shape the range of possible futures. This includes change that is considered highly likely, as well as events considered highly unlikely but that would have great impact and events that are unexpected. 
  • using diverse data sources such as quantitative trends (e.g. populations), qualitative trends (e.g social values), online literature reviews (e.g. news articles and blogs) and stakeholder insights. 
  • engaging with diverse stakeholders. A diverse group of people can contribute their varied experiences to create more robust views about the future and its implications for your strategy. 
  • applying a systems lens to consider not only the factors immediately relevant to your strategy, but also linking to the greater macro factors that may shape the international, domestic and organisational context in the coming years. 

What you'll get out of it 

  • Innovative proposals that challenge existing assumptions and are informed by a range of information sources and ideas not typically explored. 
  • Strategy that is aligned with a range of possible futures to take advantage of opportunities, mitigate risks and reduce unintended consequences. 
  • Strategy that helps shape the future to promote your desired outcomes and prevent undesirable events. 
  • If you use futures approaches that involve high levels of stakeholder engagement, these can build collective support for a desired strategic outcome and align stakeholder actions to achieving that outcome – increasing the chances of success of your strategy. 

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