Wouldn’t it be great to know what the future holds for us? Particularly in the difficult times we are currently living, it’s easy to wish we’d know what the world looks like in six months or a year. This of course isn’t possible, but futures thinking provides a framework for us to foresee what possible futures might look like. In the words of Malcolm X – the future belongs to those who prepare for it today. So let’s prepare!
To learn how to use foresight strategically and to network with specialists in the field, I attended a scenario co-creation workshop at Futurice. The event was organized on the eve of National Futures Day in order to introduce the newly developed Futurice Lean Futures Creation toolkit.
Similarities between design thinking and futures thinking
Futures thinking and design thinking have some synergies and overlap, not only in theory but also in practice. Personally I have more experience attending and organizing service design workshops and only a bit of experience in futures thinking through coursework at Laurea. Although I am quite new to futures thinking, the tools and canvases used during the workshop felt familiar due to my experience in service design.
My Laurea coursework introduced me to all the futures thinking concepts discussed in the workshop. With this background, the workshop contributed to my learning and provided me with additional tools for my personal toolkit.
The future of work – putting the Lean Futures Creation toolkit to the test
We started off with a brief introduction to the new toolkit and quickly formed groups of 6-7 and started working. The workshop focused on the future of work and all participants had been tasked with finding five trends or weak signals on what work might look like in 2030. Based on these we filled in a PESTLEY table, which we used as the basis for our alternative futures. The PESTLEY table was the first canvas we used.
The PESTLEY table guided our work in the next step; creating alternative futures. For this we used the second canvas. We selected seven topics, came up with alternative outcomes and finally developed three alternative futures based on this work. The team divided into pairs and used the third canvas to guide the development of the different narratives.
The very last canvas we used guided the development of scenarios. My group had been so swept away by the previous steps that we didn’t have enough time to backcast and develop complete scenarios. We did still get to try it and as the facilitator kept reminding us – today was less about the substance and more about the process!
We got to practice using four canvases, developed a deeper understanding about co-creating scenarios and networked with likeminded professionals. The night was a great success in my books!
What if an organization would know what are the pain points of its future customers, which are emerging competitors and partners, what type of ecosystems organization should be part of, what type of legal, social or political issues are arising, what is going to be next industrial trend, how to disrupt the industry? “What if” is one of the most important questions in futures thinking. It enables stretching our thinking and imagine possible futures.
Minna Koskelo, futures designer had a presentation about “What is futures thinking” on Waffle Wednesday at Wonderland in February 2020. According to Koskelo “you can’t control the future but you can have a sense of control if you do understand more the drivers that are affecting the future. “ We don’t know the future but futures thinking gives us a mindset and offers a systematic approach that combines, methods, and tools to explore alternative futures which can support organizations to make right decisions. Koskelo’s presentation made me think about how well organizations are actually aware of the powerful mindset of futures thinking and its methods? Organizations are doing customer insight, business insight but how systematically and continuously companies are conducting future-oriented insight a.k.a. futures thinking? Feels like many organizations are focusing more on what is already visible instead of investing on what is about to come. Research shows that future-prepared firms outperform the average by a 200% higher growth and were 33% more profitable than average!
From where to start Futures Thinking?
When talking about the future there are certain terms that we need to understand. These terms are: megatrends, trends, signals.
Megatrend is a dominant long-term phenomenon with a global impact. Megatrends can change slowly. Examples of megatrends are climate change, senior citizens, digitalization, and circular economy. Koskelo mentioned that many times it is said that companies shouldn’t focus on megatrends when finding business innovation because megatrends aren’t bringing any competitive advantage. Then again we could also ask how many companies are today actually tackling on helping senior citizens?
Trends are changes in people’s behavior, attitudes, and values locally and globally. They have an impact on the culture, society or business sector. Trends indicate which direction development is going. Trend has a lasting impact, but the impact is smaller than megatrends’ impact.
Signal is a phenomenon, the first expression of change or a new trend. Signal might be a weak signal that is very surprising and weird that forces companies to challenge current assumptions. So if a company would spot a weak signal and tries to develop it to a trend, it might offer a competitive advantage.
Tools for exploring the future
The more aware organizations are of the opportunities that the future holds, the more future-proof decisions can be made. There are various tools for supporting in future decision making. Four of them are described below.
What if an organization would get a holistic view of opportunities and obstacles in its future environment? It feels like organizations focus their future view heavily on technology and ignore other important trends. But in order to get a more holistic view, an organization could utilize a framework called STEEPLED that is an acronym for: Social, Technology, Economic, Environment, Political, Legal, Ethical, Demographics. STEEPLED offers a checklist for exploring external factors that might have an impact on the organization’s success – the organization could find signals that might turn into trends!
What if organization could really reach their vision?Backcasting would be the tool to be used in this case. In backcasting the organization defines first its desirable future and from there works backward to identify the critical steps necessary to achieve the desired future, the vision.
What if organization would be able to anticipate its future customers? By using future personas the organization would provide insights of future customers, anticipate what motivates them and what are their future needs.
What if organization would recognize the direct and indirect consequences of a decision, trends and events that might have an impact on the organization’s ecosystem?Futures wheel is a visual tool that supports to create a structured map of the future. When working with the futures wheels a particular trend will be put in the center after which the primary, secondary and tertiary impacts of the trend will be explored in a structured way.
Six business benefits of Futures Thinking
Based on Minna Koskelo’s presentation and my earlier studies in futures thinking I would sum up futures thinking benefits as below.
Futures Thinking 1. offers a safe space to consider and discuss unthinkable options,
2. encourages to think beyond the company’s current value proposition and reveal new business opportunities,
3. offers new innovative ways for decision-making processes and enhance decision making under uncertainty,
4. enables test ideas before translating them into business or innovation strategies,
5. helps to align the whole organization working towards a common vision in their daily work practices,
6. offers a roadmap for navigating complexity and reaching the vision.
Future does not just happen, it depends on today’s choices and is created through interaction and collaboration. What if we start to influence our future today?
References: From signals to future stories Futures Thinking Ojasalo, Koskelo and Nousiainen. 2015. Foresight and Service Design Boosting Dynamic Capabilities in Service innovation. In: Agarwal, R., Selen, W., Roos, G. & Green, R. (ed.) The Handbook of Service Innovation. London: Springer. 193-212.
A modern organisation chart? From Work Up! x HDW: AI and Ethics
New artificial intelligence solutions are popping up everywhere, including the public sector. The amount of available data and constantly increasing computing power make it possible for algorithms to take on more and more complex tasks.
Will artificial intelligence take our jobs and make us useless? Can we trust the robots? The public discussion around these emerging technologies often seems to paint a negative, even dystopian picture of the future. When it comes to disruptive technological change, this is nothing new though. Lack of information or transparency usually leads to fear instead of trust towards the technology. But can we tackle this issue of trust with design?
Last week I attended a Helsinki Design Week seminar called “Future Talks”. It was organized by Future Specialists Helsinki and featured four keynote speeches loosely related to designing for trust in future services. Inspired by the event, I decided to write this blog post and dig a little deeper on the theme of trust in AI and robotics.
Why is trust important?
Ilkka Halava at Future Talks
If users don’t trust a service, they will not use it unless it’s absolutely necessary. This is obvious, but all the more important to acknowledge in the age of extreme competition and easy availability of information and alternatives. As futures researcher Ilkka Halava put it in his keynote at “Future Talks”, digitalization is a massive power shift from systems to humans. Bad and untrustworthy services will quickly become obsolete because they can easily be bypassed.
When creating services based on new technologies that users might not fully comprehend, such as AI or robotics, it’s especially important to gain trust for the service to succeed and provide value.
The question then seems to be – how can we design trust?
7 things to consider
Olli Ohls at Future Talks
To answer that question, we need to understand the core elements that foster trust towards such technologies.
At “Future Talks”, Olli Ohls (Robotics Lead at Futurice) talked about key points on research results regarding what creates trust in the field of social robotics.
Based on Ohls’s speech and Enkel’s article, I compiled a summary of seven things to consider when designing for trust in AI and robotics:
Transparency – when the purpose and intention of the AI or robot is clear, and the underlying logic is understood by the user, it is much more likely to be trusted. A major positive impact was noticed in robotics when a robot was able to verbally explain its purpose to a user, as pointed out by Ohls. The development process behind the technology should also be transparent.
Compatibility – the technology obviously needs to match with the problem it’s trying to solve. It’s also important to consider how users feel how it matches with their values and guides them towards their goals.
Usability – the more intuitive and easier the innovation is to use, the better the chance of creating trust. Additionally, users should be able get a basic understanding of how the technology in question works, what its limitations are, and how one should work with it. As a crude comparison: it’s hard to start driving a truck if you don’t understand the basics of what automobiles do.
Trialability – when users can test the solution before actual implementation, perceived risk is reduced. A trial can be conducted, for example, via a prototype.
Performance – seeing an AI or a robot make a small mistake here or there won’t likely hinder our trust toward it, but constantly underperforming will. Expectation management is important here – users need to know what the technology is supposed to achieve and how it should do it.
Security – the technology should be perceived to be safe to use from both a physical and a data security viewpoint.
Control vs. autonomy – it’s important to understand the context and the purpose of the technology and find the suitable level of automation. Ask the question: should we lean towards the technology making the decisions, or the technology assisting a human in making decisions?
Takeaways and thoughts
AI and robotics are still very new to most people and the concepts might seem intimidating. To use the technologies to create real value, we need to design services around them that are trustworthy for their users and for the society at large. Keeping the points above in mind during your service design project could be a good start in working towards that trust.
The author Miikka Paakkinen is an MBA student in Service Innovation and Design with a background in business management and information technology.
What do you think of the list? Could your experiences regarding trust in services be translated to AI or robotics? Please share your thoughts below!
One Friday morning 28 students from different backgrounds sat down in a classroom at Laurea. At least as I know, majority of these people, had no or just little experience on designing, rather the opposite. The journey from nobody to be a designer had begun.
For long we have lived in a world where we have categorized people to either be creative or not. As Tom and David Kelley state in their book Creative Coffidence, creative people were considered to be artists, architects, designers etc. Others should stay in their tightly described boxes and at least stay as far away from marketing or product development as possible. Tom and David call this “The creative myth”, which we, brave new students, were about to break.
As the world is changing into more and more complex, we need more creativity and ideas. Traditional way of creating things is just not enough anymore. Our lecturer Katja Tscimmel well pointed out; “just look around in your everyday living. Is there anyone more creative than a mon trying to get the kicking kid into kindergarten. Or have you ever realized how many variations of food you can make from yesterday’s leftovers.” How could we harness this everyday creativity to serve a bigger purpose? The key is in mindset change.
Tim Brown stated already 2008 in Harvard Business Reviews article, that by changing the way we think, we can transform the way the business and the world is developed. Creativity in business context is group work. Its taking advantage of peoples’ different experiences and outlooks on life and turning it into new innovative combinations of services, products or strategies. Thinking an ideating together, testing new ideas and being able to think outside the given box is in the core of coming up with new ideas and innovations.
As we, new students at Laurea, were given our first task to innovate new student services, I was sceptic. Would we ever come up with any ideas or anything we would ever dear to show someone else? By letting go of the need for control or knowing the end results before even starting the work and just trusting the process, we dived into a fun, inspiring and in the end very creative group work.
Tim Brown listed some personality features needed to be design thinker and this how those showed in our case. We had to let go of our deep beliefs and step into the end users’ shoes. “What are the problems exchange student face?” Empathy combined with ability to use integrative thinking was critical. The use of “what if”, “How Could we” and “furthermore” took us forward in your thinking and in your ideation process. We had to stay optimistic and experiment things, as the clock was ticking. If it didn’t work, fail fast, take the next idea and be willing to start over if needed.
In the end of very inspiring two days we had internalized the design thinking idea, tested many creative DT tools and created several new services to improve exchange students stay in Finland. Pretty well from “nobodies” 😉
We participated design breakfast arranged by Kuudes. According to their web pages Kuudes is Nordic insight, strategy and design agency. They have been doing motive based profiling of the customers for over ten years and they have published their latest studies last year. Kuudes has found eight different Finnish customer profiles based on different motivations. You can see those from the picture below.
Different kind of profiles appreciate different kind of things. This comes close to different kinds of values of life. Profiles also get irritated about different things. They are categorized to x and y axis according to conservation vs. openess to change and according to being selfish or selfless. From the web-pages of the study you can find more detailed information about different profiles. There are insight about profile´s behaviour and demographic details. Moodboards and checklist are also used to visualize the profile.
Picture: moodboard of the dreamer
You can also find videos from the web-pages that show you how different profiles choose their daily foods. There can be found many kinds of opinions which foods are healthy and which are not. Different profiles adopt services in different stages as you can see from the picture below.
We found these studies very interesting, but what we can do with all the information and data about these eight profiles? We think service designers can really use this data to design personalised services and products for different profiles. Or at least we can use these ground surveys as a stepping stones to our own service design projects. Kuudes has done very nice work and their work encourages us as service design students to dig deeply those human insights, motivation and values in our own projects.
Last but not least here are some guidelines how to do your own motive based profiles, shared by Kuudes.
Profiling must be done and seen as big picture because different profiles are related to eachother.
Profiles have to be based on deep customer insight: motives and values.
Clarify organisation´s inner needs
Clarify who are going to use profiles
Final results should be easily available to all members of the organisation
Profiles should be visual and inspiring
Co-creation in organisation supports implementing
You have to also understand the future, on which direction things are going in crucial fields
“Aalto Experience platform fosters and promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding and designing for experiences by combining scientific, artistic, business, and technological angles to human experiences.”
13th February marked the day of the Aalto Experience Platform Kick-off. With the mission of making Aalto University a world leader in multidisciplinary experience research, Experience Platform is an open community for experience research. Besides a brief introduction on the platform itself and networking, the kick-off offered insights on some of the multifaceted approaches to experience research by presentations on User Experience, Citizen Experience, and Consumer Experience.
What is an experience?
In their opening intro session Markus Ahola (Project Manager, Aalto University) and Virpi Roto (Professor in Experience Design, Aalto University) started head-on by addressing the not-so-simple question of “What is an experience”. Not surprisingly there was no conclusive answer but a mixture of responses and definitions by the multidisciplinary Experience Platform academic board members – each of them giving a different perspective to demonstrate the complexity of the question on a video that was shown.
A general trend behind the research and the Experience Platform seemed to be the growing investments (not only monetary) in experiences while material possessions are being less and less valued. Through my human-centered and soft-value-focused glasses the slogan of the platform “Memorable experiences, meaningful life” seemed like a breath of fresh air in the often cold and money-focused world of ours. On a practical side, it was also interesting and inspiring to hear that the platform will have a physical, multidisciplinary working space after the summer.
Hannu Seristö, Vice President External relations at Aalto University also gave a short speech about human-centricity being needed not only in business but also in the public sector while pointing out that humans have not exactly been in center of business traditionally. However, times are changing, and with that feelings and experience, and particularly ease of buying, continue to be increasingly important.
Who do we design for?
With that it was time for Kristina Höök, Professor in interaction design at KTH Sweden to step on stage for her presentation on “User Experience – designing with aesthetics through bodily and emotional engagements”. Her presentation content and style was exactly what the Experience Platform introduction highlighted in their operation in general: human, brave, and crazy. At times provocative (and in my opinion, in a good way: keeping the audience interested, trying to shake us a little and question our own beliefs), her presentation gave plenty of examples on the importance of movement and of understanding oneself first in order to design for a (separate) end-user. Movement was not a focus in design I had previously, in all honesty, thought about too much – except for e.g. potential limitations in one’s moving that might affect a service perhaps. But following the presentation it made sense and I found myself reflecting on many thought-provoking parts of the presentation.
From the service designer point of view one of the most memorable parts of Kristina’s presentation was the statement “you can’t design for someone else if you don’t know how it is or how it feels yourself”. This statement at first sounded to me almost as the total opposite of empathy and putting oneself in the other one’s (=end-user’s) shoes – traditionally one of service design’s main guidelines! And that made me think: fine, if one is naturally emphatic and would consider the other and their needs, wishes etc. naturally anyway, but what if the designer is a selfish one with no regard of other points of views than their own? However, throughout the rest of the presentation the point became clearer and actually was very close to, not the opposite of, empathy: using oneself as the end-user, researcher, designer at the same time, but through empathy and compassion. Perhaps for a more traditionally scientific research field this could be provocative in a totally different way, as one of Kristina’s main points was “research through design” – not having research done separately and in isolation, then followed by design based on the results. Another interesting point was the interest in designing things that are not only reading your emotions but create technology to make people experience new things about themselves and their body – not just things like like facial recognition or counting your steps. In hindsight this had a nice connection also to the following presentation from Anne Stenros, Chief Design Officer at City of Helsinki, who also spoke about the shift from high-tech to human-tech. Add a Feldenkreis video with a baby and a sitting bone exercise and you’ve got the most interactive and perhaps memorable presentation of the kick-off.
Citizen Experience – From Audience to Actor
Next up was then Anne Stenros from City of Helsinki. Her presentation was around citizen experience and in particular the shift from audience to actor: city-users becoming city-makers. Her quirky and well-spoken style was a hit in my opinion, with her topic being both fascinating and well-presented. She went through some current trends and emerging signals of the city universe and the citizen experience, with a note of human-centricity visible in each scenario. This presentation too arose many thoughts and reflection as well as shared practical examples of some of the trends already visible in the city design today. Personally I was a little relieved to hear that the era of “Smart city” was about to transform to “Responsive city” – reinforcing the previous presenter’s point in the shift from high-tech to human-tech. According to Anne, the shift was about responding to needs of citizens rather than optimizing technology for users.
A brief look into the trends in consumer experience
Lastly, Eric Arnould, Professor in Marketing in Aalto University gave a presentation about consumer experience based on the perspective of theory. Some of this was familiar from the service design studies but it was a good recap nevertheless. A groundbreaking thought in 1982, consumption not being about making rational choices but about “fantasies, feelings & fun”, was a good reminder on how things have indeed changed from consumption being seen as a purely economic exchange like it had been by marketing thus far. The presentation discussed some perspectives on defining ‘experience’, for example highlighting the narrative, material, social and political aspects and on the other hand the cultural, situated and relational nature of experiences. In the end though for me the thing that made me think the most was actually in the Q&A session after the presentation, when an attendee asked Eric about his thoughts on the “new work” and new work spaces. “Consumerification of work”, aka new work spaces that look like leisure-time or consumer space, was a concept that I would like to continue to ponder on also after the event.
Topped with circus performances, demos and some snacks, the event was a wonderful experience. Now we just have to figure out how to define ‘experience’…
The author Kaisla Saastamoinen is a Service Design Masters student with a passion for human-centric design, co-creation, and coffee.