Post Pandemic Scenarios — Part 3: How might organizations and businesses adapt and thrive?

This post is part of a series documenting my work on a pandemic-focused project with Big Foresight, a futurist meetup group created by Mike Courtney and Quyen Nguyen from Aperio Insights. While futurists typically look out 10+ years into the future, the current COVID-19 coronavirus situation requires planning for BIG changes in just the next few months. My role involves helping create foresight exercises for online workshops such as future wheels, archetypes of change and more to imagine what implications might be waiting for us when we emerge from this wave of disruption. Please start by reading Part 1.

In the third and fourth meetings of Post-pandemic Scenarios, we focused our efforts on helping the non-profit organization My Possibilities. My Possibilities serves adults with cognitive disabilities in Collin County and helps them through providing support, education and career opportunities. We used foresight tools to begin figuring out how this organization and ones like it might adapt to function in remote, online and social distancing contexts.

Key vocabulary for this section:

  • Timeless Needs: things we did in the past, we do today, and we will do in the future
  • Critical Uncertainties: things that may or may not happen but are very important
  • Assumption Reversals: taking things we assume to be true and flipping/reversing them. Essentially brainstorming all the ways that assumption would not be true anymore
  • Trends and Driving Forces: reasons behind things that are changing or moving in a certain direction. Thing can be due to societal/cultural changes, economic realities, and more

What I Did

Mural 1.0

Before the third Post-pandemic meetup, the Big Foresight team and I created a Mural “template” for participants to work through Timeless Needs, Critical Uncertainties, Assumption Reversals and Trends/Driving Forces.

Working on sorting Trends and Timeless Needs in the first session
Version 1.0, filled in during the first session

During the third Post-Pandemic meetup, we worked through the exercises with about 40 attendees. For this meetup, the rules were kept loose and everyone to contributed their ideas freely. At this point, the goal was to gather a large amount of ideas rather than focusing on the details.

Mural 2.0

Version 2.0, refined and re-organized

After we had the My Possibilities session and gathered many ideas in each section of the Mural , we had another meeting to sort, re-organize and focus the sections of the workspace. We color coded timeless needs to their corresponding trends/driving forces and added or removed notes from the critical uncertainties matrix based on the organization’s realistic needs

Things I Learned

I learned to use the phrase “This is a need BECAUSE…”

  • This extra step makes a timeless need more realistic and understandable
  • Asking why it is a timeless need and using that question to identify which driving forces are behind that timeless need helped us refine our focus and figure out which trends/driving forces were the most important for the organization.

I learned that futurists exercises help to zero in on “The Moderately Plausible Future”

  • These are things that or may not happen but are very important to the business or situation
  • The “moderately plausible future” can be discovered through the Critical Uncertainties exercise
The rectangle in the middle highlights items in the “Moderate Middle”

I learned that futurists work on “Making the Equation More Predictable”

  • When it comes to critical uncertainties, we should ask “How can we move that away from that unpredictable border?”
  • For example, if an extremely uncertain yet very important factor is cash flow, futurists might suggest that a business explore what types of contracts they can put in place with vendors to make cash flow more predictable

Last but not least, I learned about Dator’s 3 Laws of Foresight:

  1. Since the future doesn’t exist (yet), no one can predict the future
  2. Any useful forecast of the future needs to appear at least a little ridiculous
  3. We shape our tools; then our tools shape us

Although we can plan for the future and try to understand what might happen, no one really knows what will happen. When it comes to foresight, the sky’s the limit. Foresight is based on facts, trends and logic, but just like no one could have known things like the internet or recording sound would become possible, no one really knows what we have in store for the future.

We have a choice in what tools we create, how we create them and how we use them. Once tools are created, we end up adapting to them (when is the last time you went somewhere without your phone?) so we must be mindful of our intentions and possible scenarios for everything we create. Who knows what could happen next?

Designer and lifelong learner | www.sumayahabdulla.com

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