Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Thursday, April 17, 2003  

Driving Down Main Street, It’s Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile Any More

Chapter Two

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

“Now, perhaps there are a few rare individuals who are up to the challenge of leading organizations throughout all three of these modes, but for most of us, that simply is unrealistic. So instead, let us try to solve the problem first personally, and then institutionally. Recall Treacy and Wiersema's advice for companies was to focus on a single discipline to create a foundation for excellence. If we cannot follow that advice precisely as an enterprise, there is nothing to stop us from doing so as individuals. Which of the three value disciplines, then, most inspires us?”


Journal of 2020 Foresight: You told us the HR executive learning expedition changed the names of their scenarios as the stories emerged over time.

Trailblazer: That’s right. The final names on their survey instrument became: Agents (Me go-go Fast); Athletes (Running Together); Associates (Welcome Back Kotter / Learning Together); and Academics (Absent Minded Professor / Out to Sea and Treading Water).

J2020F: How did they arrive at their conclusions? Where did they start?

TB: They played a card game that led them implication-by-implication to organizational life phases, issues of fit, talent portfolios, disruptive innovation, emerging knowledge, sustained excellence, transitional states, embodied knowledge, business cycles, intangible assets and internal brands.

J2020F: That’s quite a game. How is it played?

TB: Each team member scanned through the 100 cards, each with a trend, paradigm or driving force printed on it. Here they are in sets of 10:

1 to 10: Warm, Resort Migration Shift Driving the Next Real-Estate Boom
11 to 20: DNA Construction Kits, Hydrogen Hybrid Autos
21 to 30: PCs, Telecommunications, Biotechnology, Nanotechnology, Alternative Energy TechnoWaves
31 to 40: New World Order, US Social Security Goes Belly Up
41 to 50: Overlay of Political and Technical Trends
51 to 60: The Rise of Agents and Athletes – Professional Knowledge Workers
61 to 70: Mass Customization Boom and Deflation for the Next Decade
71 to 80: Be Nice to Your Niece, You Might Make it to 100
81 to 90: A Hundred Trends on the Wall, If 10 of them Happen to Fall …
91 to 100: Future Work: Social and Economic Drivers

J2020F: Then what?

TB: They pitched the cards into 4 piles of roughly 25 each.

J2020F: How did they decide onto which pile a card should go?

TB: They sorted by intuition and discussion as they read each description.

J2020F: So they clustered the cards according to any loose association or affinity to one and another? What happened next?

TB: Through further discussion, they brainstormed which forces in each cluster represented the most uncertainty and the highest impact on their challenge.

J2020F: So, they conducted a forced ranking?

TB: Yes. Through some creative thinking, they brainstormed a list of four polar-opposite dimensions on a flip chart that appeared to capture the essence of their rankings.

J2020F: Earlier, you told us the horizontal x-axis stretched between the two opposites of “Technology-driven Speed” and “Mastery.”

TB: That’s right.

J2020F: And, the vertical y-axis spanned the distance between “Independent Identity” on the top and “Organizational Affiliation” on the bottom.

TB: That’s right. So, when they drew a cross out of the two axes, and then enclosed the sides and tops, they completed a four-box matrix.

J2020F: And the different combinations defined the boundaries of each future scenario, right?

TB: Exactly. One set of combinations that became the Agent cluster formed at the corner of “Independent Identity / Operating at Top Speed”. Sharing the fast pace with Agents, but with an organizational affiliation are the Athletes. Academics form at the intersection of independent identity, but on a human scale of mastery. Moving at the same pace, but with an organizational loyalty is the Associate cluster.

J2020F: What happened next?

TB: They applied the Implications Wheel, originally pioneered by Joel Barker.

J2020F: How do you use it?

TB: You can use it in any number of ways. Over the years learning expeditions gain the most out of it for story development or for improving the original decision, plan or strategy by avoiding threats or accelerating opportunities.

J2020F: In this case the team used it for kick-starting the scenario process?

TB: Yes. First they were told that an implication is any possible result or consequence. Second, they began in the center, at the intersection of the four boxes where the vertical and horizontal axes crossed. They then returned to their original four piles of volatile forces and selected the top two having the highest impact as a basis to begin implications in each quadrant.

J2020F: So I’m assuming the four stacks of cards correspond to the four boxes in the matrix, right?

TB: Right. So for example the expedition reviewed and sorted the forces in the Agent box. The top two the selected were:

The number of self-employed workers grows at a rate four times greater than the number of salaried employees.

The Internet sets the pace of organizational life. It’s speed and velocity means information bypasses middle managers buried in layers of a hierarchy.

J2020F: The initial possibilities radiate out and are first order implications?

TB: Sure, using sticky notes, the team asked themselves, "What might happen if each of these first order things occur?" Both positive and negative implications.

J2020F: If I follow you, then, using sticky notes they write down the next sequence. And, in turn each of the 2nd order implications are examined for 3rd order implications.

TB: You are on the right track. Each of the first order implications branch out, like branches on a tree trunk. We’ve discovered this approach forces us out of our thinking ruts.

It provides a look at more than just what's around the corner. And, almost always it stimulates a more comprehensive discussion of the future to make better decisions.

J2020F: Are there any special rules we should follow to get the most out of the technique?

TB: In doing the wheel do it in complete concentric circles, rather than chaining 1st, 2nd, 3rd order in sequence.

Make sure you have at least one positive and one negative implication before leaving a node.

And, remember this is a creative thinking exercise, so even if the odds are 1 in a million an item is still possible at this stage.

J2020F: So what were the two first order implications in each scenario?

TB: Associate (Slow pace, organizational loyalty): Organization has a huge investment in an installed base already, but questions its pathway to growth; and

Their product lifespan is longer. They are used to a slower pace of change, in a more predictable and stable business environment.

Academic (Slow pace, professional identity): In this type of organization mastery takes time. Any expertise developed, however, needs to be marketable; and

Expertise is upgraded within a professional community.

Agent (Fast pace, independent identity): The number of self-employed workers grows at a rate four times greater than the number of salaried employees; and

The Internet sets the pace of organizational life. It’s speed and velocity means information bypasses middle managers buried in layers of a hierarchy.

Athlete (Fast pace, team identity): They’re capable of establishing a pace of change in the industry like Intel; and

They need to guard their organization’s core competencies while quickly managing increasing degrees of complexity.

J2020F: From these 8 first order uncertain forces – 2 in each scenario – the second order implications branched out.

TB: In a sense the chain reaction provided the skeletal structure until each individual story began to tell itself, as you will see.

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Copyright ©2002 - 2006 Aarnaes Howard Associates. All rights reserved worldwide.

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