Summer Course in Innovation and Future Thinking
Length: 2 weeks
Start Date: July 18th, 2016
Schedule: 20th to 28th from 4.15 p.m. to 9.15 p.m. / 29th from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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.
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.
Scott Smith is the founder of Changeist, where he leads strategy, research and design activities. His work is built on over 20 years’ experience tracking social, cultural, technological and economic trends, and combines grounded research with narrative design to explore the unanticipated.
Before founding Changeist, Scott served as director of research applications at Social Technologies, a futures and innovation consultancy. He has mapped possible futures for public- and private-sector strategy, design and R&D teams worldwide, including UNICEF, Nokia, Ford, Barilla and Proctor & Gamble.
Scott leads partnerships and collaborations with a wide array of design, strategy, and innovation groups, including work with with speculative designers Superflux, Near Future Laboratory, innovation agency FutureEverything, and Nordic think tank Demos Helsinki. In addition, Scott serves as an Advisor with London-based Anthemis Group, and he has been an expert consultant to international research companies, including ?WhatIf!, and GfK. He has also supported scenario development for the upcoming Museum of the Future 2016 developed by the Prime Minister’s Office of the UAE.
On the public side, Scott is also a commentary writer for Quartz and a contributor to How We Get to Next, WIRED UK and HOLO. He has guest lectured at the RCA in London, and has been a returning speaker at LIFT and FutureEverything, spoken at SXSW, EPIC, and The Next Web. He also designed and led an innovation lab for FutureEverything in fall 2015 in Singapore.