Futures studies is about the method


In his latest book  "How to measure your life" -much more personal than everything else he has written -the nr 1 innovation study guru Clayton Christensen recalls his encounter with Intel CEO Andy Grove back in 90´s.  Grove asked him to come over and tell what Intel should learn of his studies. It was hard for him to listen to Christensen´s theories how new emerges in the market until the moment he understood  that the pattern was the key: the pattern through which new innovation  penetrated the market. As he realized this, he could apply this idea of pattern to his field of business, which he could do 100x better than Christensen, who did not know that business (how could he?). We academic futurists doing consultancy are often approached with that "what" question. And we are highly tempted to answer.  In most cases, however, that might exactly what we should NOT do. Why? because there are most likely much more wisdom around that topic on the other side of the table.

Instead we should be very much focusing on "how". And if we do that, we actually bring the best of futures studies on the table. We help our clients see the pattern of the future.

I give you an example. Just yesterday I visited a workshop run by technology industry client. They are looking for sources for new and sustainable growth. And they had gone halfway through their program, identifying different technologies that might hold the promise of expanding markets.

I presented to them my case of Kondratieff cycles, how we are moving now from 5th to 6th wave with new demands  and innovation platforms around resource productivity. I also gave them overview what might happen in the 7th wave, emerging around mid-century, when different bioformats will take over.

So I gave them the understanding of the dynamics of the system (waves), as well as the general direction of the development (why and where new demands will rise).

"We should have had this in the beginning because now all that we have done until now has to be revisited because of what you told us", somebody said afterwards.

True or not, what counts is that  futures studies is eventually all about the method.