Insights · March 27th, 2023
World-renowned Futurist Speaker Nikolas Badminton and Washington Speakers Bureau (WSB) invites you to start your journey in futures exploration together using some simple ways to get going – Scan for signals and trends, develop WHAT IF… scenarios, and anticipate horizons – read on.
“Exploring futures and building anticipation is zero risk.”
That’s a bold claim and it’s true. Every organization undertakes review and analysis and creates strategic plans for the next 12 to 36 months. Organizations that scan for signals of how their industry and the world is changing and then wonder what if… really do have the advantage. It’s even been proven through studies.
‘Companies that recognize that the future might change the very foundation of their business, that prepare for it and change their course of action accordingly, are 33% more profitable than companies on average. In addition, these vigilant companies have achieved a 200% higher growth rate than the average company.’Rohrbeck and Kum, 2018
The bottom line is that more revenues and growth come from the vigilance that futures thinking gives your organization. Those that don’t are reactive and have far lower performance on revenues and growth.
Executives can start simply by undertaking 3 simple steps – and we’re going to share some simple ways to get going – Scan for signals and trends, develop WHAT IF… scenarios, and anticipate horizons
1. Scan for signals and trends
Signal scanning can be simple and a fun way to level up your thinking on a daily basis. We scan academic journals, attend conferences, host podcast interviews, social media posts and discussions, read a lot of media articles and so much more. It’s our lifeblood.
Some simple steps can really level up what you are tracking and there are a number of ways to do so.
a. Set up Google Alerts for key areas of interest for your business – you just need a Google Gmail account to do this and you can enter whatever. Just go to https://www.google.com/alerts and type in the area of exploration as you would do a Google Search:
Set your options – we recommend for you to get emails ‘At most once a day’ and ‘Only the best results’. Over time you can refine using boolean logic in your phrases.
You can find out more at Google Help – link.
b. Keep 30 minutes each morning for coffee and scanning – just search on Google for areas of interest and read articles under the ‘News’ tab. This is ;ess refined than Google Alerts but allows for free-form discovery. We love jumping down into the rabbit hole.
c. Reddit – The ‘Front Page of the Internet’ has an incredible futures community and they share and discuss amazing developments in the world. It’s a free social media platform and you can find incredible references there and bookmark them for reading and sharing later. The core community for Future(s) Studies is https://www.reddit.com/r/Futurology/. You can enter search phrases in at the top of the page to focus in on specific areas and then click through to the articles and deeper discussions.
d. Podcasts – it’s so great to work and listen to incredible thinkers discuss our futures. Here are some of our favorites (we are sharing Apple Podcast links and they can be found on most platforms):
- Exponential Minds Podcast with Chief Futurist Nikolas Badminton – link
- Team Human with Douglas Rushkoff – link
- FUTURES Podcast with Luke Robert Mason – link
- The Future of You with Tracey Follows – link
- Flash Forward with Rose Eveleth – link
- Singularity.FM with Nikola Danaylov – link
- Looking Outside with Joanna Lepore – link
- WSJ’s The Future of Everything by The Wall Street Journal – link
- The World Ahead from The Economist – link
- Switched On with Bloomberg Finance Talk – link
Of course there are many more out there and please feel free to share podcasts you love with us here. And, if you have a suggestion for Nikolas Badminton’s Exponential Minds Podcast then please contact us here.
2. Develop WHAT IF… Scenarios
We can also take things to the next level by building scenarios of what may happen in our futures using the signals and trends and then really taking a deeper dive into the positive and negative implications of speculative future products.
We can start simply by asking what if is an invitation to be curious and consider all possibilities:
- What if automation supercharges (or burdens) our business, our competitors, consumers, and supply chain – cost, time, access, efficiencies?
- What if we invest in new technology startups taking bigger risks to advance our industry and we let them run pilot projects with us?
- What if we explore 10 or 20+ year future horizons to create bolder visions of our impact in the world, see unknown risks and create more robust organizational strategies?
- What if our futures work informs our innovation programs / R&D, organizational messaging, and excites our customers, investors and shareholders?
Just living with simple statements and exploring your futures more really starts to open up your thinking.
These what if…statements are just some example and we can use a simple scenarios framework to create short scenarios:
What if in the [future horizon] solutions [a, b, and c are implemented], which creates these [opportunities and risks], and impacts [dimensions of change].
The ‘dimensions of change’ are where we start to explore deeper dynamics and effects of change – financial, organizational, regulatory, cultural, experimental, political, technological, and social.
This is a little more nuanced. You can read about the method in detail in Nikolas’ new book – ‘Facing Our Futures: How Foresight, Futures Design and Strategy Creates Prosperity and Growth’ – order now.
3. Anticipate horizons
You can also take things to the next level by collating multiple areas of exploration, signals and trends, WHAT IF.. scenarios and considering the larger contact reflected again the current state of your business. This is deep futures work, a creative task, and needs funding and focus.
Organizations that invest do get a lot from this. One such example we have done was with Vancouver International Airport at the YVR 2037 project we did. The Futurist Think Tank worked with executive leadership to create public engagement for the 2037 Master Plan that looks to an incredible future, and ensures the best use of YVR’s land, drive growth in passenger, aircraft and cargo volumes. We wrote five short science fiction stories (read them here) and produced a video that used alongside media engagement to engage stakeholders and the communities YVR serves.
We created incredible local engagement through over a dozen stakeholder and community design sessions. This was incredible as only four were initially planned but demand was overwhelming due to the campaign. There was wide media engagement with 13m+ impressions. Ideas about the future inspire community thinking.
You may not feel that anticipating horizons may be a simple or quick task as we may need to produce more artifacts to help us understand those futures. The truth is, it can be as involved, or as simple, as you want. We always start by posing 5 simple questions that help us speculate:
- Who are we (the organization and society) at that future horizon – what do we think and believe, where do we live, how do we live, what do our families look like?
- What does that future feel like? How does it look and smell? How easy does it feel?
- What cultural artifacts from today exist in that future – art, media, social media, transportation methods, architecture, historical artifacts and reminders of our past?
- What signals from today – that you’ve been tracking, or seen in a futurist keynote – have accelerated and how have they disrupted your work and industry? Have they been good or bad for business?
- What new organizations, services and products will be needed in that future?
Overall, we hope that you have found this article to be useful as a primer to kickstart your futures thinking. You’re already a futurist by the virtue that you turned up to the discussion and participate in life. You are already an active participant in our futures – either through positive exploration and action towards it, or through inaction – both are contributory.
That’s a good start and feel free to reach out to schedule a time to connect with the team over at WSB and inquire on hiring Nikolas Badminton.
Thanks so much for taking the time to look further into your futures and we look forward to connecting with you – reach out to Washington Speakers Bureau (WSB) to discuss booking Nikolas for your event.
Nikolas Badminton is the Chief Futurist at futurist.com. He’s a world-renowned futurist speaker, consultant, author, media producer, and executive advisor that has spoken to, and worked with, over 300 of the world’s most impactful organizations and governments. He helps shape the visions that shape impactful organizations, trillion-dollar companies, progressive governments, and 200+ billion dollar investment funds.