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It can be difficult to stay positive when thinking about the future. Especially now when there are many factors that can negatively influence our outlooks, from a second wave of infections to recessions to political tension in the world.

The future can feel abstract and far away from our daily life. However, it is our daily life that brings our future into reality. It is our daily thoughts and actions that create what happens next. This is why it is more important than ever to stay positive about the future. The world is waiting to see what will happen next and hoping for positive outcomes. We must use a positive approach to translate our hoping into strategic action to design what comes next. Negative thoughts can transform into creating negative actions and outcomes. Whereas positive thoughts can transform into positive actions and our desired future.

Imagining new positive futures can feel difficult right now, however, it isn’t impossible. In fact, it is something that future scenario planners do consistently. Businesses and governments regularly engage in these activities as a core part of their planning processes. It is critical to design desirable futures to help move through difficult present-day situations when things seem uncertain.

When we speak with clients about designing desirable futures, we create multiple possible future scenarios to work towards. The following are components of the process we use to design multiple desired futures.

Do Not Repeat the Past

When designing a new future or futures it is important to understand the past. Not to build them into the new futures, rather to be aware of them so we do not repeat the same mistakes. When thinking about new futures we instinctively look to what has happened in the past to learn from it. While there are valid lessons to be found we must also detach from it to be able to create something new. 

If we use the same reference points from the past, we will inevitably recreate the same problems in the future. Our old maps are what led us to the problems we are experiencing today. We need new maps to create different paths forward. Learn from the past, but then let it go to empower creating new desirable futures.

Imagine Multiple Future Scenarios

Imagining the future is difficult. One aspect that makes it particularly challenging is most of our references for future narratives are based on dystopian themes. We are conditioned to think of the future as a technological “humans vs robots” war. However, future scenario planning focuses on creating futures, with different options or paths forward that can lead to different desired outcomes. 

Future scenarios planning is one aspect of a field research called strategic foresight. Future scenarios strive to understand what current trends are likely to continue as well as what could change. It is a systematic, pattern-based way of understanding our past and present day to project the likelihood of future events and trends.

Future design adheres to the principle that it is important to come up with different versions of a preferred future. While dystopian versions of the future are commonly portrayed in pop culture, it is safe to say they are not our desired future. To create desirable future scenarios, it is crucial to have a repertoire of diverse possible narratives. The first step to imagining different possibilities is understanding what future outcomes could be desirable for a particular business. It is critical to boost creativity by exploring new perspectives.

Relax into Uncertainty

A common blocker of creativity is uncertainty. When life feels unpredictable it can limit our thinking. An unstable present day can leave us feeling distressed and it limits our ability to imagine a time when it returns to stability. 

In order to get beyond dealing with uncertainty, it is necessary to feel comfortable with facing the unknown. When approaching uncertainty, do not handle it like a linear process. Become aware of the opportunities of the different paths forward and be open to experimentation. To design futures, it is essential to create an experimental field of discussion, inviting a diverse range of participants to join in.

Take the First Step

Creating future possibilities has the power to create societal impact, beyond an individual or at an organisational level. It is important to act collaboratively and embrace diverse thinking. Designing desirable futures is a human-centred approach to considering the evolution of ethics and technology to create a future or futures that are better than the current path we are on. 

It is important to envision many different scenarios because the future is just a possibility. It is also important to play with different time frames; we need to go beyond the next five years. It is just as critical to imagine 50 or 100 years from now. The more distant a future is, the blurrier it will be. However, a desirable future possibility acts like a lighthouse. It is a spotlight that guides our actions towards an ultimate goal. It is not a step by step process that takes us on a strict linear path. It is a north star that guides us through a series of adventures and future decisions.

The best way to find your path forward in unknown territories is with an experienced guide. We love imagining desirable future outcomes at Echos, please get in touch to discuss our approach or learn more.

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Mario Rosa

Mario is Partner and Head of Business Development at Echos Portugal. And also Abedesign Director (Brazilian Design Companies Association). He believes we are facing a new world vision paradigm, and Design has abilities that are necessary to come up with new scenarios and build desirable futures. He worked for five years at Tatil as a strategist; he also developed branding projects to some clients, such as the Olympic and the Paralympic Committee (rewarded brand case in Rio 2016), Natura, Lopes, Philips, Nokia, Coca Cola, Renault. Mario has worked as a brand consultant to IPPLAN and OCB (Cooperative’s Organization of Brazil) too.

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