Summer Course in Innovation and Future Thinking
As the pace of social, technological, economic and environmental change increases, designers, strategists and innovators find it harder and harder to anticipate, understand, plan for and create around this uncertainty. Social cultures evolve and change like bacteria, new processes, materials and connections emerge in technology, new business models spring to life overnight and the physical world around us adds to this instability as pressure to become sustainable grow.
This course —the Futures Lab— will help students improve their ability to detect signals of change, organize insights into understandable models, synthesize new ways of mapping possible futures, identify the potential barriers and opportunities these futures present, and design innovative products, services or ideas that satisfy emerging needs. By learning the fundamentals of foresight and futures thinking, and how to tie these to innovation and creation, students will gain a toolset that doesn’t tell them what will happen in the future, but gives them the capability to identify and assess alternative futures presented by the world around them. Whether designing a new business, forward-looking fashion, a Smartphone app or the next decade’s car, this course provides the tools for anticipation and action.
Summer course in Innovation and Future thinking
The objective of the Futures Lab is to provide students and professionals from varied backgrounds a strong baseline understanding of foresight and how it ties to strategy, innovation, and creation. This is done not only by teaching essential data collection and modelling, but narrative development, strategic framing, prototyping and communication.
This course begins by asking the fundamental question: “Why think about the future?” It will explore this through an overview of essential futuring skills—horizon scanning and trends identification and analysis—looking at weak signals, micro- and macro-trends—and how to use these to think about implications and unexpected outcomes. This will include observational analysis, searching Barcelona for indicators about the future, studying behaviors, messages and signs that point to emergent change.
We will visit scenario development, roadmapping, timelines and backcasting, and creative ideation to develop new future narratives as a way of writing stories about the future we can use strategically. We will also have Skype talks from futurists, innovators and designers who employ these techniques in their own work.
From this basis, we will look at innovation practices and processes—traditional top-down, bottom-up and open innovation—and how these are being used in both major companies and cutting edge startups. By learning how to tie foresight to innovation, we will look at future-proofing new design and product development.
Lastly, we will look at prototyping using the futures we have created and build toward a final project that presents solutions to the wicked problems we’ve uncovered—creating for the next decade.
As a transdisciplinary topic, this course is designed for students and professionals from different fields with wide interests, backgrounds and future paths. Because it blends the strategic business view with the insights and aesthetics of design and product development, it should be of interest to those interested in innovation or creation of new products, services and concepts. It is designed for those who like to mix rigorous thinking with creativity.
John V Willshire
Founder of Smithery, a strategic design unit based in London. Since forming in 2011 they have been on mission to help companies make things people want, rather than make people want things. This is his third year teaching on the IED Innovation and Future Thinking course, and his first as overall course co-ordinator.
The work at Smithery spans many disciplines, but is formed around a broad territory of strategy, design, culture change, and prototyping. Central to this work has been establishing a new form of ‘appropriate design’.
Based on the concept of developing a metastrategy (a strategy of strategies), this means that rather than attempting to seek out and implement the one ‘right’, organisations must instead be versed in many different approaches. Helping organisations learn to adopt the most appropriate stance, through a system of movement, layers and loops, means creating compelling innovation projects where the experience takes hold within the organisation. One of the tools designed for this approach, Artefact Cards, have grown to become a successful range of different creative tools for ideas practitioners and companies across the globe.
The beneficiaries of this approach include LEGO, BBC, Konica Minolta, Experian, the British Council, The Science Museum, Vodafone, Lloyds Bank, Google, Carlsberg, University of Glasgow, University of Stirling, the FSA and the V&A.
John also teaches these methods at further education establishments such IED in Barcelona and the Saïd Business School, Oxford, as well as delivering keynotes at various conferences around Europe like dConstruct, Webdagene, The Conference and more. Previously, John was Chief Innovation Officer at PHD Media in London.