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Or has it?

At the end of 2019, there was a building sense of optimism in the world. 2020 felt like magical numbers and an important time to be alive, it felt like the future had arrived. 

And then 2020 arrived with devastating bushfires in Australia and now Covid19. But what if we got our wish? What if bringing about a new beautiful future requires urgent work, hard lessons and deep contemplation. 

We are experiencing growing pains, the pain of accelerated transition. And now we must roll up our sleeves and do the very hard work of designing new possible futures together.

How do we do this? First by acknowledging that we know nothing. We must go back to a beginner’s mindset. We must stop looking for answers and instead focus on discovering deeper questions that will help us reinvent our lives and societies.

A New Future Needs New Thinking

Humans are creative and are always looking for new ways to do things. But now we have no choice. We realise that the old ways don’t apply anymore. The time to adapt is now. Here are three ways to begin thinking about the future.

1 – The Future is a Possibility
The future is a possibility, not a prediction. As innovators, we should never underestimate the ‘human factor’ of cultural trends and how it is influencing our way forward. What are people saying, thinking and doing right now? What conditions are their actions creating? And how can we take these trends and create possible future scenarios? This is not about creating a path into the future. It is about looking at human activity and playing with the many possibilities that may arise from those actions in the future. 

2 – We Need Action
While there is a feeling of accelerated change in the world, there is also an internal feeling of inertia. There is a sense of fear as we watch events unfold around us that can leave us feeling hopeless and helpless.

This sense of inertia is also a mirror showing us how unproductive we are as human beings. Previously we were busily going about our lives, without giving our actions much thought. All of the unnecessary business is gone, which has opened up the perfect time for action.

As designers, we should be asking what steps we can make right now towards creating action. As well as embracing action, we must understand a new mindset, moving from failure to learning.

3 – Moving From Failure To Learning
Now is the perfect time to let go of right or wrong. From now on there is only questioning and learning. We must shift our mindsets from trying to confirm what we think we know to embracing what we don’t. We need to become explorers of a new world. Moving forward we must learn, discover, document and understand. Now is the time to let go of our preconceived notions. 

It is our duty to embark on a quest to discover as much as we can about areas that feel mysterious to us. Developing a learner’s mindset will put us in a better position to understand this new future we are creating together. We like to describe a learner’s mindset as a way of seeing the world without imposing our previous knowledge or biases on it. We need to let go of what we knew before and clear the way for new questions, experiences and discoveries.

How Can Organisations Work Towards Better Futures?

This is an unprecedented opportunity for leaders to look for ways to accelerate change within their organisations. The steps outlined above can create conditions within an organisation to meet the demands of accelerated change. Leadership needs to open their minds to the possibilities of different futures. They can work towards those futures by taking actions, no matter how small to start exploring them. And when exploring, it is time to let go of the idea of failure. 

Embrace the learning mindset. In times of stress, we want to solve problems quickly. But it is too soon. We have a long road ahead of us, and we need to keep an open mind. The future is arriving, we may still get what we dreamed of. We must rise to the challenge and do the hard work of bringing this new future into being. 

Innovation is an adaptation that creates a new path forward. We need to look everywhere for inspiration for what we desire in our futures. And the time to start is now.

Download our eBook, The Role of Innovation During A Pandemic to gain insights into how to design during times of uncertainty.

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Ricardo Ruffo

Ricardo Ruffo is a born entrepreneur, educator, speaker and explorer. As a writer by passion Ricardo daydreams on how the world is changing fast and how it could be.

Ruffo is the founder and global CEO of Echos, an independent innovation lab driven by design and its business units: School of Design Thinking, helping to shape the next generation of innovators in 3 countries, Echos – Innovation Projects and Echos – Ventures. As an entrepreneur, he has impacted more than 35.000 students worldwide and led innovation projects for Google, Abbott, Faber-Castell and many more.

Specialist in innovation and design thinking, with extensions in renowned schools like MIT and Berkeley in the United States. Also expert in Social Innovation at the School of Visual Arts and Design Thinking at HPI – dSchool, in Germany.

Naturally curious, love gets ideas flying off the paper. He always tries to see things from different angles to enact better futures. In his free time, spend exploring uninhabited places around the world surfing.

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