Institute for the Future Foresight Talks with Lisa K. Solomon of the Stanford University d. School

Institute for the Future Foresight Talks with Lisa K. Solomon of the Stanford University d. School

hello everyone and welcome to the
foresight Talks webinar from the Institute for the future where we talk
about the practice of foresight all things about future thinking and we are
here today with Lisa Kay Solomon I’m gonna give folks just a minute or two to
get themselves settled on the line before we formally start but happy to
have you here and we have a poll here as you can see where we’re asking people to
questions we’re trying to get a sense of who’s on the call and what’s the balance
between design and foresight with our attendees and that’s really what we’re
here to talk about today so I’m going to formally open the session and we are
broadcasting here from the Institute for the future in palo alto california
welcome my name is Lynne Jeffery and this is the second in our new series
webinar series called foresight talks where we talk with practitioners people
who are doing really interesting things often at the intersection of foresight
features design innovation strategy activism a whole bunch of intersections
that’s what we’re interested in here I lead the foresight training efforts at
the Institute for the future and before we get started I want to just let people
quickly know about those if you haven’t seen those the link will be in the chat
we have a open enrollment three day curriculum where we do an overview of
the complete foresight practice for professionals happens four times a year
here in California and also this year we are going to be in Helsinki in the next
month and we’ll be in Singapore in November some of those are already sold
out but if you’re interested please do get in touch with us and we
will be in Europe and Asia also next year in addition to being on both the
east and the west coast of the United States we also have a new design futures
course which is really exciting and that’s going to be a two-day course
we’re piloting the first one in December so hope to see you there once again for
people who are just joining we have two ways to communicate with us during this
session and Lisa and I are going to be talking for about half an hour and then
we’ll open it up to your questions so please do submit your questions if you
have a formal question you can use the Q&A function it works really well it
allows us to you can like questions other people have submitted it gives us
a good gauge of what some of the really most pressing questions are and you can
also of course put questions in the chat and the colleagues Vanessa Mason and Ben
Hamamoto will be in there monitoring those so let’s get started Lisa Kay
Solomon is designer in residence at the Stanford
the School of Design and you’ve been there about 11 months is that right Lisa
that’s correct that’s correct teaching there for longer but in this role about
11 months a little bit about your background and what you’re doing at the and what sort of what’s your mission and being there yes great well
then thank you so much for having me I’m absolutely thrilled to be here and
thrilled about the work that I FTF is doing around exploring the intersections
of design and futures so I’m thrilled and excited about your upcoming training
and all the programs that you’re doing and all the interest in this webinar and
that’s very much my passion and the work that I’m doing at the which is
exploring the intersections between design and futures and I come to this
work in this role from a deep background in both I have about 15 years of
scenario planning experience starting that practice at Global Business Network
which some of your foresight friends may remember as a firm started by
futurists do a brand a whole earth catalogue the well many other future
focused initiatives long now foundation Peter Schwartz who helped launch the
scenario planning initiative and work at Shell Royal Dutch cell and phenomenal
phenomenal community a future focused thinkers at the same time I have a deep
background in design and design as a leadership practice for navigating
complexity and ambiguity around strategic choices we may be facing and
what I found over time in my work at gbn and that subsequently when I started
teaching at the MBA and design strategy up in San Francisco and more recently at
singularity University in the is that the practice of thinking about
futures is very much a design practice that in many ways when we were doing
scenario planning in essence we were having a designed conversation about the
future that’s what led to my first book moments of impact that I co-authored
with my colleague Chris hotel who’s still doing scenario planning work at
now Deloitte and has really fueled my work and passion now which is educating
leaders of all ages including yes Stanford students but even before at k12
and executives about the practices that discipline the skills that they can
learn to think more generatively about the future and then to make design
choices to bring their preferred future to life so it’s an incredible passion of
mine I’m feeling tremendous urgency to bring this to life in a variety of ways
through books through classes through programs like the ones we’ve been doing
together because we know that the world is not getting more simple it’s getting
more complex and filled with more ambiguity so we need to agree scale and
retool and it’s exciting to me that these practices are available why did
the decide at this point to bring in yes absolutely and it’s
thrilling to see so many design practitioners on the on the call today
those of you may know the Stanford DS goal officially known as the Xhosa
Plattner Institute for design at Stanford it has been around for about 15
years and it was really founded by famed design thinker and beloved professor
David Kelly who’s also the founder of IDEO and the idea was to create an
institute within Stanford’s campus that would allow students to take classes to
enhance their creative confidence to understand that this was not a
mysterious skill but this was something that could be learned and taught and to
go to a little bit more context for those that don’t know we are not a
degree granting program we are very much a experimental laboratory for teaching
different kinds of classes in a an experiential way so our pedagogy is
different and the type of content that we’ve done is different for many years
we have been focused on teaching the design thinking process and in fact I
can actually show you a few slides to demonstrate the shift that’s happened
and give you a little bit more context from my work and what I was brought in
to do so here here we go with technology we’re gonna share my screen here Lyn and
let’s see here okay so hopefully everyone is now seeing a picture of the is that what you’re seeing Lynn yeah looks good fantastic so for those
of you that haven’t had the opportunity to come and visit the is very
much designed to be an open space to allow for different kinds of experiences
everything is vertical everything is open and often on wheels we very much
have a philosophy of learning by doing and experimentation and as I started to
say that for the first fourteen or so years of it existence it was very much
focused on codifying and offering a process a scaffold for how to bring a
mindset and a skill set of design thinking into any organization and
certainly into our classes and many people who are familiar with design will
likely be familiar with this framework this sort of hexagon framework of
teaching people that a design oriented process first started with empathy first
started with understanding the needs and the requirements of the people you are
designing for not necessarily what you want to design
but to do different methods of empathy and observation and ethnography to
understand what’s actually happening in context over the last few years we have
shifted our focus to build from this to realize that just learning the process
was not quite enough that in this world that we are living in it’s much bigger
than just a process and so I want to share this new framework that’s been
emerging at the over the last year which really sets the context for
my work there as a foresight practitioner we still tend to think
about design in the context of products or things you know this is probably the
the iconic product that people think about if you say tell me something
that’s well designed they’ll say an iPhone they may say a Tesla they may say
something else that is actually a thing physical thing over the years we’ve
learned that design actually fuels experiences that we can apply that same
method to say well if this product this iPhone is well designed it enables
certain kinds of experiences that you can utilize through its platform that
increasingly requires systems around it in order to enable those experiences to
be seamless it requires systems of data a storage of cloud of mobile connection
increasingly products are being fueled by advanced technologies it’s you’d have
to work hard to open up a newspaper and not see conversations about AI or
cryptocurrency or the technology that’s now fueling the development of these
products and of course technology is advancing faster and faster because of
the data that’s available and these two things feed off of each other all of
which have implications for our society for how we’re living and so we’re really
taking a much more expansive view about what design is in the context of this
changing world and I was brought in to explore not just from the inside out but
from the outside in using foresight using futures methodologies to say how
do we get ahead of these implications how do we productively and proactively
think about second order third order implications of emerging technologies
perhaps even in advance of you know what some of the creators of
these technologies are thinking about and of course if you look at that
through the lens of design you start to say well what are the human implications
of that and how do we make sure that we are responsibly and ethically thinking
about teaching design across all of these spectrums through the lens of
users great very exciting and are you the only person at the who’s
really charged with this kind of this mandate to bring together the design and
foresight communities are there others there who are weakens would describe
themselves as also foresight practitioners yeah well it’s a great
question and what’s wonderful about working at the is that it is
truly a community of generative and multidisciplinary thinkers so what I
would say is where my primary role is to build relationships with like with with
the AI MTF and other foresight and futures practitioners that I’ve come to
know over the course of time and would love to share some of that work we’ve
done over the last year about some of those bridges I’m very much in
collaboration with my colleagues that run for example at the k-12 labs so
we’ve got some exciting new futures initiatives already happening in the
k-12 lab which is focused on scaling new practices for teachers and leaders
within k-12 administration working very closely with my colleagues in teaching
and learning that are designing the portfolio of classes that we offer and
so for example last year I co-taught a new class called inventing the future
which is very much focused on marrying creativity practices and futures
practices against 50-year utopian and dystopian futures we’re experimenting
with new classes this year in the fall be teaching one called designing the
presidency very interesting and timely topic so that’s in collaboration with my
colleagues there I’ve been working with colleagues that focus on an effort at
the called the university innovation Fellows where they work with
leaders and universities students and faculty that don’t necessary have access
to a within their campus but want to use it as a way of launching new
initiatives so what’s exciting is to see because there’s so much close connection
between design and future it’s not a big stretch to say you know
why don’t we try this methodology because it’s very much focused on
applying design skills with the different lens and if that you know and
I may even take an opportunity to share with a group how also we’ve been
shifting not only our framework of thinking about today’s design work but
how our classes are shifting in order to support that so as I mentioned you can
see we’re very much taking a broad view about what design work is and our
classes reflect that and how we’re shaping not only what we’re doing with
the students but with the community more broadly the additional thing I’ll say
about that is that we’ve also been shifting our focus about not just
teaching the process in the hexagons which is very exciting for someone new
to design but how to think about applying the skills associated with that
process in their everyday and so over the last few years my colleague Carissa
Carter who runs teaching and learning at the has been articulating these
eight design abilities that are really touching almost all of our classes and
all of our new experiments so for example the idea of how do you learn
from others people in context you would say well that has a natural affinity the
empathize phase but you really need that throughout the entire process how to
experiment rapidly how to synthesize information how to build and craft
intentionally how to navigate ambiguity how to communicate deliberately how to
move between concrete and abstract and had a design or design work and I can
imagine it as a four side practitioner or many of the folks on this webinar
saying wait a minutes exactly what I do in my practice because it is and so
that’s what’s so exciting to me is that we have this natural overlap and we have
an opportunity just like Design Thinking B has become an understandable practice
that scaled all sectors and has really become more mainstream whereas perhaps
maybe a dozen years or so people don’t really understand I think that’s what’s
on the horizon for futures and so that’s really what I’m driving the programs the
relationships through different classes how do we make these practices more
accessible not just for designing products and services and experiences
also for imagining our new futures I love it I love it so do you have other
slides here that you want to share or that that’s good that’s that’s I think
that’s it for now I mean we can talk some examples if they’re if they’re
useful about how we’re actually bringing this to life yeah yeah great so I think
that’s sort of night nicely segues into the next set of questions that I want to
explore with you which is something that we’re really focusing on here at the
Institute as well we of course are a 50 year old organization we are solidly
futures and future’s thinking and foresight organization we have a lot of
designers and and folks with very diverse backgrounds on staff and one of
the things that we’re noticing and why we are building our teaching and
training efforts and why we’re having this series of webinars is just the kind
of really interesting ongoing evolution and blending and blurring of a lot of
really professional practices whether it’s people who do innovation or
strategy or consumer research or user research or designing experiences the
whole field of design itself and so we’re trying to of course from our point
of view we believe that foresight should be part of any process and that we want
to see it kind of embedded in a lot really any kind of strategic planning or
design process that we see and so I’m just curious about what you’re seeing in
this space my sense is that there’s a lot of momentum there’s a lot of
experiments there’s a lot of interest and it is really exciting because we
would love to see you know it may be 10 years from now there will be a school of
foresight at Stanford for example just like there’s a school so can you talk a
little bit about what you’re seeing in this space embedded at the
what are some of the interesting cross-disciplinary projects and
collaborations that are kind of exciting for you yeah great now it’s a super
exciting time for futures and design and one of the fun conversations so that I’m
having with my colleagues is they’re actually asked
like is the practice of futures actually different than design you know just
trying to carve out something that’s really part of a larger umbrella and I
think it’s a fair question I mean my approach is that any practice that
allows you to think more expansively about understanding the problem in which
you’re trying to solve for and understanding the context and then
understanding the wider range of possibilities then they may have
considered with a more traditional more linear way of thinking about it that’s
all good right and I and I think it’s not helpful when we try to say was that
you know is that a design process is that a futures process is that is that
skeptical futures is that scenario planning I mean I know even within the
futures there’s a lot of debate about like a scenario planning the best what
other so I I’m I just want to keep taking the like that maybe the plurality
of futures in design which is to say that all of these practices are
important practices and that more features and more design is good for
everybody the more we talk let’s I’m thrilled
about the the new work that you’ve been doing I’m thrilled that we are at the
futures community I feel does have some momentum at its back that it felt like a
sort of niche almost I don’t want to say exclusive but harder to access body of
work that is becoming more open and I hope that that continues to be the case
and so I very much am optimistic based on what I’ve seen the trajectory of
design thinking go I’ve been doing design thinking for over 20 years
informally Todd didn’t really have a language all the sudden the art of
innovation cam comes along and now there’s a language and so there’s
validity and credibility to it which allows it to reach more audiences that
may be less comfortable with it but design thinking as a practice has been
around for decades right it’s not new it’s just been codified and made more
accessible I think that’s exactly where we are right now in futures futures is
not new and we particularly for the futures practitioners that are that are
honest I mean it’s been around for decades really codified first in the 50s
and the Cold War the RAND Corporation in response to some of the rising
complexity of the geopolitical tensions in a way of navigating a variety of
futures sensitizing us to possibility it’s so much richer than
and so now we’re exciting it’s really exciting to see all the efforts to write
about it to scale it to bring it into strategic planning processes we’re
starting to see organizations take some of these more creative approaches to
thinking about their future more seriously bringing in science fiction
writers bringing in illustrators one of my colleagues who now works at
singularity helped bring that process in for example to Lowe’s corporation like
you know a hundred plus year old hardware retail store not necessarily
what the pinnacle of innovation that you think of and he was there to help get
them to be more future focused about future of retail and serving their
customers in a different way and he spent many years trying to get traction
on his ideas and it wasn’t until he brought in science fiction writers and
comic book illustrators where they created a comic book of the future which
articulated for example an autonomous robot greeting customers as they would
come into this really large often overwhelming store that had captured the
imagination of executives to say wait a minute
could we do that and within nine months they had a working prototype so I think
we’re starting to see even more traditional organizations be open to
these different methods in order to ignite new ideas and bring them to life
and I think that’s that’s really exciting
ya know I definitely agree and that’s that’s kind of a lot more on the
foresight side one of the experiments that we’re doing small scale is with
nyle HQ which is a design group in Ireland in the UK actually and and and
their service designers and they are experimenting with bringing foresight
practices into their design engagements and I feel like there are a lot of
bridges that need to be built to help people understand something
let’s just say even if it’s a software product and I’m very soft very fast
development cycle at which point do I bring foresight in how do i integrate
the long term 10-year view with my next quarter execution and and the really the
design workflows and design processes that already exist so I’m wondering if
you’re seeing any experiments of very practical collaborations between people
designing things and people talking about the futures into which those
things will will be used yeah it’s a great question and I think you know we
can come back to it around having navigate the challenge of the 10 year in
the now I mean that’s always a tricky one about the fact that thinking about
the future takes time but the pressure to deliver the plan that we agreed to
last year is more urgent and so how do you think about that and what are some
of the practices involved I would say at the one of the things that
we’re trying to do is we’re trying to break down and barriers to understanding
the drivers of the future specifically emerging tech and so again
I’ll give you an example of my colleague Krista Carter who’s been doing some
incredible work around making short emerging tech is accessible to all
because emerging tech will define our future and our strong point of view is
that if technology is supposed to serve all of us then all of us should be a
part of designing it and we know that as technology becomes more advanced they
gap between feeling like you have any kind of knowledge to participate in the
development of say AI and the algorithms behind it is in grading is it getting
increasingly hard and we’re already seeing consequences of bias and what
happens when the folks at the epicenter of designing these tech do not actually
reflect all of us so she has been doing this amazing work to actually break down
what is an algorithm and why is it so important that we have fluency in
algorithms in applying that towards problem solving and so she actually
created I have a little sample here I could show you or show and tell she
created these incredible cards called I love algorithm
which is already like hey I love algorithms you have algorithms and she
created three different ways for you to understand different kinds of algorithms
and I’ll just hold them up example this is a classification algorithm and so she
has a visual example a description of kind of like how it might be used and
and then the actual definition of what it is and you know with this
classification she’s one for Association she’s one for clustering and over the
course of the year she’s been experimenting and creating a design
workshop using these not first to teach people ai yai is you know it’s a neural
network that bla bla bla you know the way we’ve traditionally thought about it
but said hey let’s go tackle solving a problem and I was with her when we we
were in front of 500 middle school and high school girls so ages 11 to 18 that
may not have had any prior exposure to algorithms and start up to say hey look
let’s say you want to create the greatest amusement park experience ever
so now we can think back to that layer D that I talked about right let’s create
the greatest experience ever what would that look like so she’s reaching them
from something that’s relevant to that oh they’re being alliance they would
have my favorite food Oh parking would be easy oh I could go on my favorite
ride as much as possible and she backs them into than understanding well what
would the amusement park has to know what data would they have to know and
then what algorithm might help them use that data okay so she has them actually
apply these methods to thinking about what would make this experience better
and then says listen if this were to scale and go you know bananas all
amusement parks across the country what would that look like so notice she’s
getting them into a futures mindset through a design lens and then she says
well how could this go wrong like let’s say that that this data or you know what
are that what are the risks associate what data is not included in the set so
she’s getting them to think critically about the wider implications of how this
technology might be used through a way that they understand wildly successful
and really closing that gap that you talked about around the different
methodologies to help us imagine the kind of futures we want to see to life
the kind of futures that are possible to bring to
life and to be more aware of all of the different smaller decisions that go into
it and who may be more available to be a part of that and who might be left out
so you know notice embedded in their ethics moral questions equity questions
so it’s really exciting work thank you that’s such a great amazing
example I wanna I’m gonna give people time if you have questions we’ll
probably have another five or six minutes of conversation and then we’ll
turn to your questions I’d love to hear I guess what I’m what I’m still sort of
trying to work through for myself and I’d love to hear your take on it is what
is it that that foresight or futures thinking brings to the table that design
really needs and what is it that design brings to the table that foresight and
futures thinking really needs yeah love that question and in fact that has
really been a big part of how I think about what kinds of programs I’m
bringing there on behalf of both the D school community Stanford and the
broader community in fact that was the exact topic of program that we hosted in
the spring called the futures happening because the future is happening and this
was happening about the future and we brought in foresight practitioners and
designers to explore this very question and one of the themes that emerged was
this notion that foresight and futures practices can help design take a
longer-term view of some of those choices it could help bring in an even
different level of multiplicity of perspectives a lot of design is really
great when done well at understanding the intended user and really going deep
on that thick data of going after the user spending time with them getting the
qualitative data futures is really good at getting that peripheral vision the
multiplicity of perspectives and really going for the non-obvious in that way so
informing not just what is the initial implication of this choice but what
could be the choice it what might be the implication two or three steps down the
line right so you get more that with that longer-term lens as well as the
multiplicity of respective so I think futures really
adds that outside aim perspective I would say that’s a third part which is
the context in which you are designing again design is really good from the
inside out futures looks like what’s happening in
the world around us what’s happening around the driving forces what’s truly
uncertain and how do we need to track that what’s more of a predetermined and
how do we weight that differently as we think about where this thing may show up
that we are designing for on the flip side I kind of alluded to this design is
really good at focusing on the person right I mean a futures is macro and you
know big-picture and creates narratives of possible futures who lives in those
narratives what are their specific needs in those narratives so design is really
good at getting granular design is really good at prototyping design is
really good at giving form to specific new ideas and so when those two blend
it’s you know it’s just so exciting its expansive around thinking about
prototyping prototyping at different levels thinking about understanding
potential opportunities and equally important potential risks so I think
that that opportunity for them to speak language have become you know truly
ambidextrous right and thinking about these different ways top-down bottom-up
outside in inside-out whole let’s go deep on this person now let’s go macro
and make sure that we’re not missing something I think that’s what’s going to
create a resilience and the robustness hopefully at scale yeah and I think you
know for me since I’m not a designer and you I think are you know such a great
person in the role that you’re in because you are you come from both
worlds I’ve been thinking a lot about the you know part of what we do as
foresight practitioners is help people pre experience the future so we’re
trying to make it vivid we’re trying to make create a sense of that I have us I
have an emotional connection with the future and I have a stake in it and it
matters to me it’s not abstract which of course is a design process and so I I
think one of the the future of experience design and the experience
design of the future is seems to me to be a really fruitful
kind of place for us to continue to collaborate going forward I totally
agree with that Lena and also I would say and I’m just a newbie at this so I I
can’t wait to see where it’s gonna go imagine being able to do that more
seamlessly with AR and VR to get in that visceral you know and so so we’re
already starting to see some of that convergence right science fiction’s
being taken more seriously you start to hear readers you know say wow we need to
we need to use for example ready player one as the book the onboarding book for
all of our new employees you know kind of getting them into a future that we’re
catching up right all the pieces are being developed at different stages so
in many ways the technology is advancing but now we got to get the content right
the 3d designers of the content to be on board I was just having this
conversation yesterday with a colleague of talking about powerful leadership
experiences we did this VR escape room a little while ago so we had the VR on our
we had that thing on her back it was some dystopia for the future some planet
and we had to work together so it was it had all the benefits of an escape room
you know that the sort of tactical for those that have done that where you know
you’re given Clues you’re putting students in this new environment but it
had this futures aspect to it and so it was very powerful to understand where
the technology was going but still the story was so basic I mean it felt like a
five-year-old sci fi right you know it so I think there’s a lot of
opportunities for more conversations more convenings more projects that
people work on together to get to what you’re talking about the benefit of that
visceral experience of the future using technology that’s available to us told
through a narrative that feels personal and urgent and so I think I think we’re
just getting there in prep for this and I and I’m still thinking about it
because I don’t quite know the answer but I was saying to myself what is the
current state of futures and how could we get a more out there in some ways I
realized we actually have more futures than ever before because people are I
think worried about what all of this all these new not only the new technology
but also the events that were unfold play out around for example
natural disasters I mean we just had this incredible storm on the East Coast
Brooklyn’s flooding subways are flooding like it’s right there in front of us
right so we’re somebodies we’re getting lots of doomsday scenarios about how the
world is changing you know super technology here about all these jobs
that are going away in automation but I’m not sure we still have the sense
making yet building it around like what to do about that No
so like now I think our job is shifting a little bit to say how do we help
people break apart these potential futures so that they can productively do
something right no future stop it’s not just about painting new futures it’s
actually about arming people with a variety of choices to mitigate at the
very least than negative future that we can imagine yeah absolutely and how to
frame actions in a different way I just have one last quick thing which is what
do you you wrote a really nice piece you’ve been doing some great writing
some great articles on something that you called future centered design our
last webinar we talked to mainly chai and Harold and I’ve blanked on his last
name Becker at Microsoft’s envisioning group and mainly likes the term human
centered foresight so talk a little just a little bit about language so human
centered foresight future centered design there’s future’s thinking their
strategic foresight there there’s design futures there’s speculative futures or
speculative design what do you how do you describe what what language do you
are you using right now that that’s working for you yeah such a great
question and I know that language is important right and we think about how
Design Thinking was named something that now at least people can understand it’s
also led to some misunderstanding of what it is as well so language is really
important and I’m not sure I’m still developing my point of view about
language I would say I guess in the spirit of a true designer I want
whatever language that the other person I’m communicating to is going to get and
be excited about my instinct tells me that futures thinking or something with
futures not future is important because having that poor
of understanding that the future is not one thing it’s multiple things is
absolutely critical to how we talk about this work I personally understand a
foresight and have taught foresight and understand the history behind it and
have you know many colleagues that write books and articles on it I get what I
worry about the word foresight is that it’s um it’s certainly it it connotes
like a single like a foresight right it’s it’s a singular and B it still
feels a little removed right like it’s the thing that you need a lot of degrees
to understand so so I think that there will be a role for foresight and for the
discipline and the science behind foresight but from my perspective around
what I care about I want as many people to as possible to feel comfortable
imagining new futures and have the critical thinking skills to be able to
understand how to respond to that so that’s not it’s not definitive sort of
answer but at least that’s that’s where I’m heading yeah well I mean this is the
moment that we’re at we write new vocabulary and the new practices so I’m
gonna turn to questions and we don’t people be able to get to all of them but
we’ll do our best to so there’s a question first about will the slides be
available I think we can Lisa could you you’re welcome happy to share your
slides yeah absolutely you know I’m more importantly we’ll share some articles
behind them so that way people can also understand so for example there’s a
wonderful article about the eight abilities and so well it will definitely
make some resources available I think that we can email them to attendees on
this so we’ll we’ll do that there’s a question about favorite books and
magazines that people could get inspired from unless your what your top top three
or four or five even that your oh my gosh it’s changing all the time
sometimes when I do webinars people ask like you know that bookshelf behind you
is that for real is I want to be like you know they’re real you know so we do
look color-coordinated I tried that was a little bit of my summer
project I will admit thank you for noticing thank you I spent a little time
we’re not done you couldn’t decide total color-coordinating or by category future
by design but so Amy it’s changing right now I’m really excited about a book that
just came out actually called range by David Epstein which is a really
important book for both futures and design about you know how generalists
are sort of more effective in many ways in a specialized world and so I think
for for those particularly the foresight folks on the call I think that they’ll
they’ll really appreciate how he talks about his research around how
generalists are more fluid between disciplines and why that’s so important
particularly as it relates to learning so I the name of the book is called
range by Debbie David Epstein and that’s a that’s a really important book
let’s see another book that I love for those people and I just recommended this
the other day okay not a new book so that’s a brand new book here’s not a
here’s not a brand new book if for those people looking to bring these practices
within their organizations I love the book switch by Dan and chip
Heath it is a design book even though they
don’t call it a design book but if you think about you know how they talk about
where change happens you know they talk about it from the rational perspective
the emotional perspective and the context perspectives so I think that’s a
really important book we just make sure I’m not missing any yeah another well
it’s kind of it actually may even be out of oh this is another book that I’m
loving right now is a more timely book but this book just came out in April by
Eric Liu called become America where he talks about again he didn’t essay say
this way but when I met him and I said like you know you’re having designed
conversation about what does it mean to be an active citizen in this world so he
started this thing called citizen university which is creating civic
seminaries around the country to have productive conversations about what does
it mean to to be a citizen and so they’re they’re sort of structuring
it off of a kind of religious experience where they have text but in this case
it’s not a religious text it’s like a bit from the Constitution or from Rosa
Parks or from sorrow and then he’s creating a kind of seminar about it to
spur productive dialogue so I love examples of that where we’re using
design but not necessarily with our like design cape on you know it’s like design
with the Trojan horse to get into thinking dialogue learning dialogue
generative dialogue so that’s that’s really where my interest is right now
right and you wrote a book yes about strategic conversations we absolutely
agree with I mean in some sense what we’re doing is improving the quality of
conversation I mean that’s percent a hundred percent right and so that book
is called moments of impact how to design strategic conversations to
accelerate change really proud of it it’s over five years old I wish it came
out now so it had the relevancy so I’m thinking about bringing it forward and
one of the things I’m proud of is that we used our design practices for the
book there’s actually a starter kit in the back because we know people all the
time to read so we have all these suggestions about try this do this ask
this and I am thinking about you know putting it out a new version
particularly in the current context that we’re in just to help us have better
conversations throughout our whole life not just when we’re in the boardroom but
you know how do we have conversations with our family how do we have
conversations you know with our colleagues and I think the quality of
conversations really reflect the quality of learning and the quality of ideas
that we have and it just turned out to be a very underdeveloped skill that’s
critical for leaders everywhere okay couple more questions are the AI cards
available online now not yet not yet but we’re working on it okay very good and
then we have a question from Ryan Hornburg about kind of how do you
articulate the value of an approach especially in a large corporate
environment or really even any large institution it
could be a large nonprofit or a large government agency
what objections do you typically encounter when you’re introducing in
particular futures and forecasting and foresight and how do you typically
respond we have another hour right great questions all great questions and this
is again what was what an opportunity to apply our design mindset within the
context of futures so your design my first instinct is you need to know your
organization you have to apply those empathy skills and observation skills to
understand what currency’s does my organization care about because that’s
the leverage and the language that I am going to use in order to make the case
for futures if you go in there with your futures cape and your you know your your
your post-its and sharpies and you’re like you know what were you need futures
right without really understanding does this care this organization care about
new ideas does this organization care about growth does this organization care
about not being blindsided is this a you know a new organization or
a defending organization that will help orient how you articulate the value of
futures because you could certainly make the case that a futures practice or
adding a component of futures to an already existing practice in a very
small way would be very additive on the generative sense might help you see an
opportunity that you’re not seeing if they care about growth or on the flip
side if it’s a larger organization and they’re worried about being disrupted
you could make the case that this is about not being blindsided this is about
adding resilience and I would also argue particularly if it’s new to the
organization to start small and not to claim it as a futures thing because
that’s immediately when people go up nobody this is a truism nobody likes to
feel stupid ever and particularly the higher up you go the less they want to
feel stupid so if you introduce something to them that they’ve never
experienced that they don’t understand their immediate reaction is going to be
no so you have to earn your way their rights and now we’re talking about rapid
experimentation and prototyping so maybe you have a brown bag lunch maybe you
invite a speaker maybe you just add a component of visioning so you just
slowly get involved versus like slapping down the
body of work that says we gotta read this so all kinds of ways to introduce
it your job as the introducer is to embrace that design a mindset to
understand what’s going to get the easiest and most interested reaction
from their stakeholder group so a little different kind of a question from Tom
Culver and he’s asking about the role of users and the kind of the the nature of
especially digital innovation which has a lot of user-generated contributions
and he’s asking how that the the role of the user is changing the nature of
design and how it also might change the nature of futures thinking that is such
a good question thank you for that question
it’s one of the trickiest parts I think about futures and design as they blend a
discipline which is design is so focused on you know what I’ll go into the gemba
right go to the source watch people use people don’t just make up what you think
they want and let the features and functions get away from you without
actually watching people how you use your stuff how do you do that for the
future because by definition unless we’ve somebody’s invented time travel on
this seminar on this webinar we can’t go visit our future selves right we can
imagine what the future self might be and what the needs may be but we
actually can’t observe them in the future
we just can’t so so that’s a tricky part of the practice there’s no doubt about
it and that’s sometimes where I see some practices of like sci-fi di that science
fiction design intelligence and others can get astray from the standpoint of
when there is a disconnect between leaders that want tangible relevant
action now and sci-fi di is gone way off on some you know deep end that’s like
too far-fetched and then you use credibility so
I don’t have a great answer other than to say it is tricky right and so I think
like being steeped being clear about who your intended users are trying to
understand who they are right now as much as possible there’s absolutely no
substitute for that so really really spending time and then you know spending
time to try to articulate out like where they might be and then to prototype and
then get their feedback just trying to get as much concrete data and evidence
as possible knowing that it’s imperfect knowing that it’s imperfect other thing
that I would say that is often I think lost in design thinking when people
spend so much time immersing themselves in users which is so critical is that
they forget to develop their own point of view and I think that’s really really
critical you know like a lot of times I’ll get pushback you know Steve Jobs
never interviewed customers what they wanted he just did it that’s right right
but he also spent a lot of time observing customers to develop his own
point of view he didn’t ask them do you like this or this do you want this
feature of this feature but it doesn’t mean he wasn’t steeped in watching and
understanding human behavior right like there is no substitute for really
understanding human behavior in order to inform your own point of view that they
you then go out and test so I think the same is true with futures like
developing a point of view about you know which futures is useful not to be
correct but as we said earlier is a useful prompt for a different kind of
conversation or different type of exploration yeah I think that’s so
important I mean part of the thing that we are doing in our foresight training
is helping giving people the tools to develop a more confident perspective on
the long term future yeah as you said there’s never a guarantee it’s not about
being right or wrong but it is it’s hard when you haven’t done it a lot to have
confidence in your own assessment of how the world is changing and what it might
mean in 10 years and how that might but but I think having that context seems as
you said critical for designing anything what
there is a strategy or a service or a new product so that skill I think and
having the point of view seems actually possibly somewhat of something that’s
been missing from some of the technologies and services and platforms
that we have today resulting in the kinds of conflicts and
challenges that we have that’s right and as we know right right strong ideas
loosely held right I mean we’ve got to still be able to you know to change them
right like it’s okay to have a strong opinion but you have to be open and one
of I think that the greatest gifts that any futures process can offer someone
who’s been involved with it is that they literally start to take in information
differently they seek out different kinds of information they pay attention
to stories that wouldn’t have even like hit them you know is joke at least in
the old time when I start doing this like you’ll pay more attention to the
story on section D page six then you ever did before because you’ve
created a narrative that opened up that neural pathway right that side story or
that side tweet so I think that’s really important is to make sure that we are
expanding the realm of what’s even in our observable purview to help make us
more informed it’s about adaptability than it is about
you know that correctness right and I would just add I mean my background is
in cultural anthropology so my one of my primary methods is you know
participatory ethnography and observation and there are you know we we
always in our work our foresight and our forecasts are always grounded in
evidence from today and that is that is about the end user that is about so the
evidence come from them but also the attitudes the the changing values that
people have today those are all shaping the future context all right so these
are all great questions we could talk for maybe we can capture them way maybe
someone interesting we can capture them so it may be those that we don’t get to
now you know we’ll be able to come back to in some way I would love to see them
anyway I always say there’s data in questions yes I want to so it looks like
Neal common are our partner at nyle HQ the design agency I was talking about is
is in the chat and so neil has a question
about as a designer and Anil again has been experimenting with bringing
foresight into his you know processes with his clients it’s a design clients
and Neal and I will be doing a session on this at the upcoming SME graphic
practice an industry conference epic and Rhode Island’s this fall if anyone’s
interested in following up on that and if you guys could put the Nile HQ link
into the chat so Neal’s question is it’s hard when you’re used to zooming in as a
designer it’s hard to build a macro view of many complex interrelated topics can
you share your experience of meeting that challenge gosh so true Neal I mean
it’s only these different parts of our brain right that detailed orientation to
zoom in versus the where does it fit I mean one of the things we haven’t
explicitly said but I think it’s critical in the future of both of these
fields its systems thinking again not a new discipline not a new discipline but
something that’s becoming more and more important as an explicit practice to
help us understand the connection between the micro and the macro and all
the different players involved that is a form of critical thinking that’s been
highly underdeveloped right I mean you know I would like to see in the future
that not only do we have a school of foresight and futures are that that
that’s a part of just the way we think about design without having to caveat it
is that systems thinking is absolutely critical you know in k-12 I would love
to see that I mean they’re thinking about all these practices is that
they’re not more widely adopted because they haven’t been mandated as a literacy
worth knowing and that has to change that just has to change I mean that’s
why I spend a lot of my time in k-12 even volunteering to say how are we
developing the pipeline of our future leaders there’s a lot of work to be done
there because we’re still in the industrial model of regurgitating
known answers when in fact we are increasingly entering and participating
and shaping a world with not only more
unknown answers but even more unknown questions so we need to dramatically
change the way we think about the foundational literacies that we’re
developing in order to ultimately get to you know when when they’re out of school
and their and their you know active in the world I think that some of the work
that Alex McDowell is doing around world building is a great example McDowell
right down at USC and world building and he was involved very early on for
example in the development of Minority Report and so so you know learning from
both the way his brain works and how he’s using his cinematic skills to to
give visual form to these complex world that then you know feature you know
small micro stories within that you know lots of different kinds of disciplines
that we can learn from in order to do that better but the short answer is
you’re absolutely right it’s hard we need people with different talents and
we need to create the environment in the context by which that they can learn and
work with each other and I mean it occurs to me as you’re saying this that
there are lots of different disciplines which are taught which which also are
about systems including history absolutely literature art you know there
are a lot of different angles that we can approach that from philosophy I mean
I absolutely you know how do we get comfortable with that layer of thinking
right like how do we get comfortable holding to put you know potential
opposite but true truths right you know like so all of those things and in fact
you know going back to the book question another book that I love is not new but
it was written by my dear colleague and mentor Eamon Kelly who used to run
Global Business Network he’s now the chief futurist officer at Deloitte he
wrote a book called powerful times where he articulated these seven tensions back
in 2005 that will change the trajectory of our world
tensions like prosperity and decline technology acceleration and pushback
clarity and craziness can imagine almost 15 years ago so I got
pushing on him to really sit but a very very powerful and different way to
practice existing in those worlds right and this gets back to my earlier comment
most of our education rewards right answers we don’t have right answers so
we got to get more comfortable living within that ambiguity all right I think
we have time for one more question maybe we can get to another depending but the
question is from Myra madri’s and she says could you share some reflections on
the challenges and opportunities of both design and futures thinking for the
built environment which is slower to develop and harder to change than
technology or consumer products yeah a hundred percent a great question a great
question I mean I think one of the biggest challenges is time right I mean
and these these devices way that we’re using them not helping us think slower
you know so we need you know a lot of this work design work features work
requires concentration it requires conversation it requires sitting in the
problem for a while before we decide what to do with it
we we are not our current built environment is not rewarding that so
that’s really tricky and I think that the question alludes to an important reality which is that things don’t
change at the same pace and I will then point you to another fabulous framework
that articulates that from Stewart Brand on pace layers and what Stewart observed
with his fascination of architecture and buildings and he actually wrote a
fabulous book called how buildings learn he understood that buildings don’t
change at the same rate meaning you can change paint like that harder to change
walls heart even harder to change foundation or plumbing so he tried to
articulate that change happens at different what he calls pace layers so
he then when he wrote another wonderful book called the clock of the long now
fabulous book he he articulated what he has seen around the change and how to
think about disruption incremental change through the lens of
these layers so he talks about for example fashion moves quickly and we’re
used to that right like what’s what’s the current fashionable trend below that
is commerce rate how do we think about commerce supporting fashion below that
is infrastructure below that is governance below that and this is the
interesting one is culture they which we tend to think moves faster than does and
below that is nature and what he observed is that the layers are meant to
absorb change from the top down but when you have changed from the bottom up for
example these once-in-a-generation floods happening every week that will
cause this disruption and revolution and i think that’s what’s happening not only
the technology you know disrupting that in-between of these layers but also how
that’s now now changing the environment and the built environment within which
we work not again a definitive answer other than to say that there are
frameworks that help us understand how to actually use our agency in that
system of for example a built environment that may have different
layers that move at different paces okay I want to ask Lisa if you can share that
our final slide which tells yes that in touch with us with both you and with me
and Ally Zalman asks if we can provide some guidance on how a well experienced
and remarkable generalist could find themselves working with teams and
organizations like the and IAI FTF big design challenges or a cheap
breaks your innovation asking for a friend and I think that I don’t think we
can go into it in detail now but I think you should you welcome reaching out to
both of us you can join us for an IEEE FTF training somewhere in the world if
it works for you there are other you know features and design experiences and
trainings around we will send out we’ll find some way to send out the the
reading list that we have here and we’ll be having another one of these foresight
Talks webinars with Dmitry gets off who is running an amazing
global consumer foresight team at Nestle food and doing projects like the top 10
most popular dishes in every country and what those might look like in 10 years
so join us for that we also have a newsletter here at the Institute for our
foresight training which we’re happy to add you to and that’s full of kind of
information Lisa do you have other ways people can connect with you or what
you’re doing at the well absolutely you know our twitter is
up there and email but also go to the and you know we’re always
adding resources we’re actually revamping some of our materials we had
put up many years ago a bootcamp to design thinking we’re in the process of
updating that so I think it’s important that’s a great way to continue to
develop you and your own skills and practice as you connect with others I
absolutely want to put in a huge plug for I FTF and the wonderful materials
that they put out this spring at an incredible opportunity to teach with
ifts Jane McGonigal on their incredible work designing an ethical operating
system that is a fabulous fabulous resource and tool so just start using
these things I mean that I think the the thing that’s true with both design
futures and certainly the blend of discipline is that we get better through
practice so expose yourself to the tools and start practicing them and share them
with others and build a community of practice and that’s the best way to stay
involved you will attract a community and you will find yourself among fellow
travelers and it makes the work so interesting so exciting and so important
so I think it’s important that we continue to not only share what we’re
doing but also learn from you I forgot to say something very important which is
that I FTF will have a future specialization free course and training
on Coursera on the Coursera platform which is being developed by our
colleague Jane McGonigal using the best of our tools and integrating a lot of
our research so that will be on the Coursera platform it will be a
five-course future specialization and those are available accessible to
online that will be launching before the end of the year so please also do check
that out thank you so much Lisa thank you this has been really fun and very
exciting now I’m going to go check out a bunch more things I love those questions
and it suggests that we have a really vibrant community to learn to learn from
and work with yes and hope to see everyone in different venues and thank
you so much for joining us thank you

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