Our Futures programs began in 1983 as multi-client workshops among 16 multi-nationals. Later, annual programs were added to address specific themes again for groups of organisations. From there programs evolved as single client commissions – frequently to stimulate innovation among their many global businesses.
The following are samples of Workshops held with clients in recent years.
Warsaw: Europe from red to green
Helsinki: The quality of intelligence
Milan: The Life Care business: who cares in future?
Stockholm: Dematerialisation of the economy
London: The Quaternary era: Beyond Reindustrialisation
The prospect of “reindustrialisation” seems to have become the watchword of all politicians anxious to reassure the lost blue-collar generation that the loss of industrial work can be reversed. It is a fallacy of monumental proportions. Work once done by highly skilled blue-collar employees tending machines is increasingly rare. Machines are either smarter or automated, or the work they generate is menial and repetitive for all but the very poor, newly urbanised workforces. Despite the evidence of the shift towards the so-called service economy, we still associate economic growth with making things, almost to the extent of course of subsidising the production of things we no longer need! The problem lies in our failure to recognise what is the motive or mechanism for growth. It may not be ideas, per se, but their application – to impose some limited and temporary order on the environment of which we are part – that helps us to manage our complex economic existence.
Stockholm: Transient Identities: future youth values
London: Managing the mosaic: the business impact of diversity Stockholm: The Attractive City: the future mobility business London: Smart Markets: from chance to choice
Stockholm: The Nether Economy: an invisible explosion
Not all of us might share that view of the goal of our economic existence. For one thing, we are increasingly unaware of the very economic existence of an increasingly large proportion of our number. This is neither exclusively the black economy, nor the drug traffic or any number of other undesirable activities. It is simply that more and more of the increasingly mobile population exist outside of the jurisdiction of any one state or authority. We coined the term “nether economy” to describe just that growing activity that governments could not record. The less we know, of course, the more uncertainty we face. This clearly extends to the opacity of complex financial transactions across borders. Perhaps volatility is increasing because our understanding of the economy is based on a gradually smaller recorded base. We simply have to find a way to pay for the commons, the assets and services we benefit from but do not buy in a market.
Quebec: An economy of competing cultures
Many abstracts have commented on the loss of privacy associated with the growing ability to track each of us in almost real-time. We have wondered about whether this will encourage us to assume multiple identities to confuse and protect our privacy. Perhaps we like to be recognised and are less concerned by privacy. What we have yet to discover is whether these new realms of personality extend or dilute our cultural identity. It is almost a taboo to suggest that cultures compete; yet it is clear that the values, beliefs and norms, which define our culture, have differing qualities. The openness to innovation is one such quality which cultures share to varying degrees. Certainly societies promote their cultural strengths in competition with one another. Cultural mutation may be happening faster than we appreciate.
London: Global Instability: winning or losing control of our futures
Stockholm: Which defence against what?
Stockholm: The entertainment economy
Boston: Surviving and Thriving in the Bio-system economy: Designs on Living
Stockholm: Bio-diversity by design: engineering the environment
London: Genetic Intelligence of Organisations: future evolutions of business
Helsinki: Nuclear Futures again
Stockholm: The Ascent of the small: Redefining scale advantage
Stockholm: Futures for Space
Montreal: Cultural franchises – the new institutions
London: Talent spotting: the corporate transfer market
Stockholm: Expanding the role of the individual; Knowledge, people and power
London: Creating sustainable communities
Quebec: The attractive organisation: harvesting minds
Tokyo: Food, fashion and form: shaping our evolution
Stockholm: Making the most of momentary markets
London: The dissolution of bureaucracies
The question is now: what lies beyond “the Office Economy”? To put it another way, will the way we communicate and share our ideas and opinions remotely lead to “the dissolution of bureaucracies”? Organisations developed in symbiosis with the office in order to maintain effective control and communication, but when that function is no longer defined by physical presence, perhaps the office ceases to be so necessary. It is clear for all to see that large amounts of office space are being turned into apartments in city centres. Business parks full of “identikit” office buildings may have had their day, lacking the cultural infrastructure to compete with city centres. Perhaps in an age of instant communication and access we are witnessing the emergence of “Momentary Markets,” which exist to fulfil customer needs at anytime, anywhere. The crowd may be the new office?
London: The Post Office-Economy
“Futureality I” is a glimpse into the “post office-economy”, that emerges from organisations’ sustainable response to the growing cost of increasing urban density and mobility. Unlike the prevailing view, that business “should” adopt a more sustainable approach to managing operations in ways that maximise conservation and renewal, it is expected to be in the self interest of business, in this case, to recognise that its own evolution must adapt to the growing knowledge and impact of the costs it imposes on the places where it operates.
London: The Peakring: an urban future beyond London?
Sevilla: The Fistera Fallacy: beyond the information society
London: Science in Flight: memories of place
Tokyo: The Symbiotic economy: Beyond sustainability
The mantra of sustainability may already have become almost meaningless through overuse. What is implied by symbiosis is the recognition that economic behaviour is part of, not separate from the evolutionary development of our niche in the global ecosystem. We have been largely unaware of the timescales, mechanisms and impacts that might be associated with such a profound evolutionary process and now dimly begin to recognise the feedback, which is threatening our existence perhaps. Symbiosis describes the co-existence between species, which goes way beyond the limited meaning of sustainability.
Tokyo : Future Lives
“THE SCREENAGERS” describes an ongoing revolution in how and what we learn. The development of remote learning, providing access to almost limitless sources and quantity of information, is tending to reinforce the growing confusion of science and magic, or worse still, accepted notions of right and wrong. It created a smorgasbord of remote choice of what to learn and whom to trust, from which people can choose their beliefs and behaviour.
THE RECOMBINANTS describes a world of shifting allegiances to impermanent places and peoples. It was made possible by the communications capability to remain in touch with multiple groups simultaneously, and the desire to seek, or belong to simpler communities in an increasingly complex world. It harked back to a romantic simplicity, of almost surreal fantasy. Living in a state of seemingly continual disruption obliged people to seek simpler, temporary refuge in virtual enclaves, albeit within an almost incomprehensible and transient reality.
THE SORCERERS describes a world in which a growing tendency for “seeking to delude your senses” induced significant change in the way we might lead our lives in 2025. In experiencing virtual worlds, we encounter an increasing risk of being deceived on purpose by those seeking to misinform. What we might term the Sorcerers’ deception by design. People’s values and sense of reality are being impacted by immersion in virtual worlds. They, perhaps unwittingly, distract or distance people from the harsh realities of real life?
London : Future Material Flows
London : Future Data Flows
Our ability to represent these systems by detecting their presence and characteristics, expressed as information flows. This suggests that our field of interest is not necessarily constrained by the presence or absence of physical flows, but by our ability to represent the dynamics of our environment in informational terms. Future information flows represent opportunities for developing new ways of detecting, monitoring and managing the systemic risks posed by the changing nature of different realities.
We may draw a parallel between energy and information flows, highlighting the way in which our perception of reality is a function of our sensitivity to the signals we receive about it. In other words, we can record the physical environment in terms of its principal components, at different scales and within discrete systems. However, our ability to sense what is happening is a function of our consciousness that enable us to represent the world we live in as virtual environments. We use these to order our understanding of the physical world.
London: Future network infrastructures
London: Living with our biosystem
This encourages us to consider how risk to human health is constantly evolving within our habitat, particularly cities; it deals explicitly with our attempts to secure our wellbeing through managing exposure to possible pathogens and their continuing mutation; it recognises the possibility that the pace of globalisation of our economy has inadvertently increased risk to the bio diversity on which we depend; it acknowledges that our diet and demand for food is increasing risk to our biosystem, and it heralds the possibility that disease may be the precursor of conflict among communities.
London : Adaptation to Climate risk
Our focus, is not to encourage a debate on climate science or even in attempting to identify the causes of the changes now being observed, but to consider what their implications are for the future business environment. Businesses are obliged to act within the public policy framework, which is responsible for managing the various dimensions of the public realm: the human habitat; the economy; health and security and relations among individuals and societies. Of course business cannot serve markets in isolation, but must work with those public organisations charged with protecting the public interest of individuals and societies. Ultimately ownership of the organisation may be of less importance than how it exercises its remit, whether under public or private control.
London : Deconstruction risk
London: The Office Bypass
“Futureality II” is a world beyond the “office economy” of the present, which just might be as profound as the flight from manufacturing has been for many places. It will come about as organisations recognise that their traditional job of accommodating people at work is neither necessary as a business activity, nor attractive to their employees. This fundamental shift in expectations will be driven by forces arising from the growing level of stress and dissatisfaction experienced by individuals, particularly in organisations for whom they work.