How to Future

New year, new book, new futures!

Hello. It’s been a while. But, we have a good reason. Read on.

Those of you who know our history also know that myself and our group have regularly produced and taught capacity-building programs for applied futuring, for learners of all levels. We’ve been teaching now for ten years, initially only in summer, then, starting in 2017, with the advent of our work with Dubai Future Academy, much more frequently. We’ve also run applied-futuring workshops and masterclasses in myriad formats, for both private and public organisations.

We’ve been challenged to adapt, often felt a little too warm, and are frequently jetlagged, but we pretty much always have fun. In all these years though, we’ve never settled on a fixed curriculum or left things unmodified for too long. We’ve actively designed for specific audiences—and learned what works best across the board. We’ve tried hard to reflect on our work, and to listen to the participants who’ve spent time and money to learn from us. Most importantly, we’ve taken every opportunity to refine, refine, refine. One challenge though, perturbed us more than any other—we’ve always worked without a fixed text, a single go-to volume that captures what we teach.

About a year ago we made a decision to change that situation and began pulling together the content that outlines our method of applied futuring, as a practice for audiences who don’t want to become futuring gurus, or master all variations of foresight practice, but want tools and practices they can take on as a set of practical skills quickly that could be put to use quickly, that would be useful for big groups, small teams, a few colleagues, or alone. We weren’t aiming to rewrite existing academic strategic foresight texts, or play futures studies’ greatest hits; we wanted to explain how we work—in our own words—and reflect on our own experiences in that work. Our goal was to produce a useful, legible, and relatable guide for anyone who wants to use their personal and professional agency to collect, recognize, assemble, and understand pieces of the future that are happening around them right now, then be able to do that as a continuing process going forward. And, we wanted to illustrate simple ways for connecting with and communicating futures to others, using material prototypes, experiences, or very, very early sketches of business plans or service models. Hopefully, over time some of these practices become behaviours that are internalised or acts that are embodied.

In June, we struck a timely partnership with London-based publisher Kogan Page, and in July we started cranking out chapters. Madeline Ashby joined me to describe examples of our own practices and experiences, and Susan Cox-Smith helped make our voices make sense. We handed over the manuscript in December—a six-month jog that was, in effect a three-month sprint. And now, we can finally tell you about it.

Coming July 2020 from Kogan Page Inspire, and available globally:

HOW TO FUTURE: LEADING AND SENSE-MAKING IN AN AGE OF HYPERCHANGE

HOW TO FUTURE will be published in paperback and e-book form this summer. This book is intended for a wide range of audiences, from innovation teams inside large companies on big projects, to a small group of activists strategizing together over coffee. It’s written to consume as a whole, or consult as a tool-by-tool guide. It avoids becoming the all-methods tome, and focuses on an arc of activity from scoping an appropriately sized exploration of a future, through practical sensing and sense-making, to creating and engaging with narratives, then to assessing effectiveness and refining for next time. We want this to be a book anyone can keep on their bookshelf as a resource (after reading of course!), give to a team, assign to a class, or carry from workshop to workshop. With it, we hope you can imagine a fitting future product or service, activate a movement, or build a preferable world.

It’s not an accident that HOW TO FUTURE drops now. It’s only the start of February, and 2020 already has the feel of a year when a sturdy, relatable handbook for finding and making new futures might be needed. We hope you do, too.

We still have six months to go until we have copies in hand, but we wanted to let you know now in case you:

1) Want to be a great human and pre-order your copy for yourself and/or others :)

2) Have been thinking you need something like HOW TO FUTURE for your organisation and need to make friends with the budget holder

3) Are planning an educational course for Fall 2020 and want to refresh your reading list

4) Are considering building up your collective futuring skills as a group, and want to run a programme with a solid, relatable guidebook

5) Are buying new titles for a collection, bookstore or training library

6) Generally want to tell friends and colleagues

7) Might like to host a mini-launch somewhere in the world, or

8) Are planning something else and think we could add value.

If your needs fit any of the above, get in touch. If we can’t help directly, the lovely folks at Kogan Page are well equipped to assist.

You’ll hear more about HOW TO FUTURE in coming months, and we’ll ramp up activity closer to summer. In the meantime, check out the website for the book, find a bookseller near you, and clear a spot on your side table. July will be here sooner than you think!


In other news

It’s been a talkative start to 2020 for us. In short order, four different media came knocking on our door to talk about futures, which I’d wager is a sign of the uncertainty not only the beginning of a year (or decade—choose your measure) brings, but also the rising levels of volatility around us all. And that was before January kicked off with conflict, contagion and constitutional throwdowns.

Here they are, in sequence:

France 24

I had an opportunity to join Tech24 on France24 remotely to talk about the use and abuse of prediction, specifically in reference to the year’s early tech announcements, but also as a cultural and business phenomenon. I drop in to talk with Julia Sieger about the 5:55 mark.

SpeculativeEdu

I recently spoke with Julian Hanna of SpeculativeEdu about using objects and experiences to confront critical future challenges. Julian’s work as half of Crap Futures, along with James Augur, is always worth keeping an eye on.

You can find our interview here, along with a range of others.

Power of Ten Podcast

I had a lot of fun talking with Andy Polaine for his Power of Ten podcast, a well known series featuring a lot of the greats of human-centred design and allied fields. After years of following his work online, I had the fortune of randomly standing next to Andy in the drinks line at NEXT19 in Hamburg, which led to a great chat over short ribs surrounded by pop art. It’s a hard gig some days :) Catch the podcast episode here, and subscribe to the whole series.

Kommersant

I spoke with Kommersant’s Ogoniok Magazine, again about prediction. This particular frame was the annual techfest at CES. We discussed some of the big themes emerging this year, including mobility services, paranoid levels of home self-surveillance, and the prominence of sextech. This one’s in Russian, but a little Google Translate can help.


Upcoming Events

Future Storytelling

After a furious end of 2019, we’ve had a manageable start to the travel year. The summer is already getting busy, but we have some upcoming events on the schedule for Spring. If you’re going to be near Dubai in early April, join Madeline and me for a three-day FUTURE STORYTELLING course at the Dubai Future Academy. We’ll be looking at future imaginaries in general, Gulf imaginaries specifically, and look at how stories about things to come can be told effectively in local vernacular. If this is interesting but you’re in another region, talk to us about bringing this event to you (localized, naturally).

Etc.

We’ll be talking about themes in the book as we ramp up to summer, but naturally have much else to share views on. If you’re interested in having us join you to talk about uncertainty, futures, elections and politics, experience, narratives of tomorrow and more, get in contact with us.

Note: We’re also on the hunt for new speaking representation in North America and Europe given the coming busyness, so if you have quality recommendations based on good experiences, we’re open to suggestions.


Follow Along

We’re excited about the book, but have set up separate channels to focus on HOW TO FUTURE-related news and updates, as well as the usual channels to find us. Choose one or all!

Twitter: @changeist @howtofuture

Instagram: @changeist @howtofuturebook

Web: changeist.com howtofuture.com

Thanks for reading, tell a friend, and stay close for more news as 2020 unfolds.

— Scott