Give Your Customers the Future Now
After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:
- Describe futurecasting and why we do it.
- List three tactics for futurecasting.
- Describe how to integrate a futurecast into your process.
The Future Is Now
You understand your organization “as is” today. But resist the temptation to assume that you understand the challenge and start solving. It’s time to put your innovation quest in the context of the future.
Henry Ford and Steve Jobs taught us that if you ask your customers what they want, they usually request small improvements to what exists today. (Thank goodness, Ford didn’t invest in breeding race horses!)
Innovators are constantly seeking out and sensing the trends, technologies, and other forces that change how we live 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years in the future. We call this futurecasting. It’s how we identify game-changing solutions that disrupt markets, reset our expectations of how things work, and seize competitive advantage. Futurecasting is how you future-proof your innovation and your organization.
If you think this sounds like hocus-pocus, bear with us. Futurecasting is a valuable part of the process because it creates a sense of urgency and a burning case for change.
What Is a Futurecast?
A futurecast is a mash-up of trends, phenomena, and predictions that create a compelling argument or case for change. Some of the pieces include:
- Global societal shifts—What is happening outside in the world that may affect society or populations overall? For example, “There will be 6.1 billion smartphone users by 2020” or “There will be 7.7 billion people in the world by 2020.”
- Cultural trends and implications—How are those exogenous forces starting to shift cultural attitudes and behaviors? Look for signs of things that are new or different. Remember when a car share company was first launched? Many people thought, “No one will want to share,” and now the sharing culture has exploded to home sharing, ride sharing, task sharing, and more.
- Industry trends, evidence, and implications—Aqua Blue is thinking about the new trends in hospitality and other lateral industries. For example, the “universal key” to unlock all services at a hotel. You don’t need to carry a room key, wallet, or ticket on your person. One key opens the door to magical experiences, rides, dining, and hotel room doors. What else can universal keys open?
Your futurecast should culminate in a compelling vision or prediction that connects the dots between these different trends. Aqua Blue asks, “What is the future of hospitality?” They could say that based on trends in technology, leading hotel experience, and customer service innovation—the lines will be blurred about when hospitality begins. The customer experience won’t start when you walk through the hotels doors or even when you book a room. Being loyal to a particular brand can mean that you have a concierge or guest services treating you everyday. Exceptional hotel experience might no longer be tied to the property.
To amp your abilities in futurecasting, adopt some of the habits of futurecasters.
- Consume diverse media—Nourish your curious and creative mind by learning about lots of different topics from lots of different sources. Shake up your news feed with a mix of tech, science, business, art, and pop culture news.
- Collect experiences like it’s a job—Do interesting things! You will not design the future in Excel or PowerPoint or find it through a search engine. Go out into the world and turn on your senses. Seek out, and never turn down, opportunities for adventures.
- Talk with unusual suspects—We all grow comfortable with our circles of colleagues, friends, and family. Branch out and listen to people who offer different opinions and expertise. Seek out and create connections with journalists, authors, professors, thought-leaders, inventors, and other interesting people.
- Journal—As you consume media and experiences, record or blog about your observations, reactions, and predictions. Something that may not make a lot of sense now could spark an idea later on with more data. And, it’s often these ideas and your motivation to make them real that invents the future. (And if you aren’t, someone probably is!)
Cross the Bridge from Today to Tomorrow
Now that you have a sense of the current situation and the future ahead, it’s time to reframe your original challenge with the insight and foresight you possess.
Step 1: Refer to Your Original “How Might We” Question
Given what you know now about your business and users today and their trajectory of the future, is this still the right How Might We? Try this:
- Rewrite your How Might We question a few times to explore other possibilities.
- Be contrary and try to write How Might We questions in the negative—imagine what you absolutely would never want to do! For example “How might we make it impossible to check in at our hotel?” Sometimes this approach stirs up a more positive How Might We.
- Take one more shot at How Might We questions in the positive. How many can your team generate?
- Discuss and prioritize the How Might We questions that inspire your team.
Step 2: Reconsider Your V2MOM in the Context of Your New How Might We Question
- How relevant is your original vision? Is there a deeper insight and foresight driven vision to pursue?
- Did your values change or stay the same?
- What new or different methods emerged?
- Any new obstacles?
- What measure can and will you use to track your progress?
After you make changes to your V2MOM, circulate and validate it with your stakeholders. Get aligned and excited! By now you have a design challenge and vision to rally your stakeholders and innovation team, and you’re ready to put insights into action.
Congratulations on finishing your discovery phase. At this point, it’s a great idea to report your discoveries to your steering committee.
- Who your archetypes are and how you developed them
- Which challenges you’re excited to solve for today
- How you can support the archetypes tomorrow
- What the future holds for the business and what are some predictions to consider