Future Preparedness – the art of the long view

Posted May 16, 2012 by Maja Kuzmanovic

As a part of the Future Preparedness case study of the Resilients project, we began experimenting with different scenario building techniques (from strategic foresight, design forecasting and related fields) and translating them into what we call future prehearsals or future re-enactments.

So far, the method described in The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz seems to be the most appropriate and flexible for our needs. We begin with a question or a challenge, map internal and external influences, rank them based on importance and uncertainty, and from there design four probable scenarios. We then turn the scenarios into narratives and mood-boards and from there create a set of instructions for an improvised prehearsal: a cross-breed between a live action role playing game, an attitude-meditation and a real-life lab.

In April 2012 we began prehearsing, first within FoAM, then also in public. Although the technique still needs much tweaking, we're quite excited about the potential of prehearsals. By being exposed to unfamiliar situations, we became more aware of habitual behaviours, both of individuals and of groups. One of our hypotheses in the Future Preparedness case study is that by exercising for any possible future, we can increase the resilience of our present behaviour, as well as imagine a wider variety of future visions that are still grounded in the present and the past.

In future prehearsals, we aim to model possible futures as participatory performances – scenarios in which we can surprise ourselves and challenge our creative know-how and insight. At FoAM we have been dissecting and experimenting with possible scenarios emerging from the question, 'How do we work together on interesting things?'

The models we used for scenario planning and forecasting indicate that it is vital to start with a central issue or working theme that is important to the group or organisation as a whole. Different aspects of this issue can then be explored within a set framework through a number of tools and methods, facilitating the construction of scenarios for possible futures. 

As such, the main point of focus within the framework of our Future Preparedness case study for the Resilients project has remained on the organisational framework of FoAM itself. From this exercise, we produced a diagram that charted 'uncertainties'  along two axes, 'commitment/availability' and 'vision/interest.' This produced four quadrants:

  1. collective vision and partial availability
  2. a collective vision with full availability 
  3. people with individual vision, available always, and…
  4. individual vision and some people available some of the time.

On this basis we next came up with four distinct models of collaboration that could then be prototyped in experimental scenarios: FoAM as a Bohemian Salon, an Incubator for Successful Individuals, a Weekend Warriors garage band, and a Flotilla. 

The next step will be to 'prehearse' each of these collaborative models, putting them into practice as experimental situations in the daily life of the studio. We think that these approaches could prove to be relevant and useful beyond their testing at FoAM, to organisations and groups facing similar issues to those we are tackling. In this way, we aim to cultivate beaviours that allow us to be prepared for any possible future.

The main working page for the Future Preparedness case study can be found here:  http://lib.fo.am/resilients/future_preparedness

Work-in-progress for each of the scenarios are here:

  • http://lib.fo.am/resilients/the_flotilla
  • http://lib.fo.am/resilients/bohemian_salon
  • http://lib.fo.am/resilients/success_incubator
  • http://lib.fo.am/resilients/weekend_superheroes