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We are living in a world that is heavily influenced by technology giants. Techno empires such as Facebook and Google have a lot of control over our virtual and digital worlds, spaces that are not regulated appropriately. This means that entrepreneurs are now making plans for the future of humanity.

We should be asking, is this desirable for us as a society? And more importantly, are we active participants in the construction of these futures? And if we are not, who is the creator of this vision of the future and what is in it for them? 

How we imagine the future is very powerful, because it influences the way the future develops.

If we find ourselves living in undesirable circumstances, it is because there was not enough speculation of what the future could be. If we don’t speculate on the possibilities, then we end up making decisions that bring us to a place where we may not want to be. And not because it was what we wanted, but because it was the only vision that was created. 

In the context of COVID19, many things have changed and the cracks in our current business and societal systems are showing. Due to this disruption things are changing, and we need to be asking critical questions. For example, what is the future of work? How are we going to create and collaborate between our coworkers and our cities? Or what is the future of education? Or with constant rolling lockdowns, what is the future of democracy?  

This quote from Herbert Simon, an American economist, political scientist and cognitive psychologist, sums up what we believe at Echos with this statement, ““To design is to devise courses of action aimed at changing existing situations into preferred ones”.  We believe we must actively design desirable futures, otherwise one will be imposed on us. When we are engaged in designing a future, we must not design a future that is only positive for one type of stakeholder, rather one that is good for all of society. 

To guide us in this work we have created a set of principles for designing desirable futures.  These principles provide a framework for understanding not only how we can design new futures but create the tools and inspiration for others so they can join in that act of designing. Afterall, we believe all humans are designers, and our collective thoughts and actions are needed to create new futures together.

Everything Was Designed By Humans

Everything that was not designed by nature, was designed by humans. And since the world has been designed by us, it can also be redesigned by us. So, if something in our society is not working, it is a major opportunity to design something better. It is easier to see what is not working right now and we know that we need to create change. 

Design Is A Political Act

Designing futures is a political act. And to clarify not political in terms of elections or politicians giving speeches. Rather Politics, from the ancient Greek meaning which is a way to make decisions that include everyone. Ethics and diversity matter. The building of the future cannot take into account only people of privilege. It must include those who are often unheard or excluded.

The Future Is Speculative

It is important to remember that designing futures involves speculation. We are not designing just one version of the future, there must be alternatives. This is because there is not just one future possibility, there are many based on a range of choices or actions we take to reach them. The information needed to create different versions of the future is to look at emerging trends within society and speculate how they may unfold in various ways. 

Create Futures With Intention

In the Echos way of thinking about the future, we know that every act of speculation needs to be matched with an intention for what we want for our future. Margert Thatcher famously said, “I don’t think there will be a woman prime minister in my lifetime,” when she was the Education Secretary for the UK in 1973. Thatcher was speculating that neither she or any other woman would be the Prime Minister in the near future. But she went against the dominant trends in UK politics with her intention to become the Prime Minister. Her intention won out over trends when she became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 4 May 1979. 

Possible, Plausible and Preferred Futures

When we approach designing futures we move through a process of thinking about what is possible based on what is happening now in society, what is plausible if we start to make changes and then deciding which of the possible emerging futures is preferred. The preferred future becomes the desired future, the one that we hold up as the vision to work towards. This is where intention comes into play again. We look at the emergent needs of the people in our society and set an intention to discover which future would be preferred. We need to make life better for all of us, not just some of us.

The Future Is Not A Roadmap

It is important that the future needs a roadmap. Once we have a vision of the future that we would prefer we need a way to get there.  We have to look at the gap between where we are today and where we want to be in the future. We propose different roadmaps and experiment to see how people will respond to the future. We take that feedback and recalibrate until we have a desirable process for moving forward. 

Design Futures With Us

The value of designing futures for organisations, has never been more critical. We must act together to design the next normal. What do you want for yourself and society as our world continues to evolve? If you would like to explore how you can design the future of your industry, society or organisation learn more about our new course, Design Futures. It’s the first step into the future and it starts November 3rd.

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