Futures Thinking Presentation
21 JULY 2021
Review into the Future for Local Government
Te Arotake i te Anamata mō Ngā Kaunihera
The purpose of the presentation was to contribute to a review of the future of local government. As background please find links to the following information:
List of the publications referred to in Q&A.
Note: The references to slides are found on pages 36 and 37 of the Powerpoint (by slide number). Other material discussed or that may be of interest are listed below.
GUIDANCE, TOOLS AND RESEARCH
- UK Government Office for Science (UK): A brief guide to futures thinking and foresight (2021)
- UK Government Office for Science (UK), The Futures Toolkit: Tools for Futures Thinking and Foresight Across UK Government (2017)
- OECD, Observatory of Public Sector Innovation Anticipatory Innovation Governance (2020)
- The Futurist (US), Interview with Leon Feurth (US). Creating Intelligent Countries through Forward Engagement (2010)
- McGuinness Institute, (NZ) Report 11 – A History of Future-thinking Initiatives in New Zealand 1936–2010: Learning from the past to build a better future (2011)
- McGuinness Institute, (NZ), ForesightNZ playing cards (2016) Note: These can be purchased here.
- McGuinness Institute, (NZ), Mission Aotearoa: Mapping our Future (2021)
- OECD, Global Scenarios 2035: Exploring implications for the future of global collaboration and the OECD (2021)
- ARUP, 2050 Scenarios (2019)
- Shell, Global 2012-2020 Scenarios: Two Shell Scenarios (UK), found in the book Synchronicity by J, Jaworski, The Story of Barricades (pp. 156–159) and The New Frontiers Story (pp. 166–169).
- Shell, Sky Scenarios: Meeting the Goals of the Paris Agreement (2018)
- NIWA, New Zealand Climate Change Scenarios (2016)
- McGuinness Institute (NZ), Report 6 – Four Possible Futures for New Zealand in 2058 (2008)
- World Economic Forum: The Global Risks Report (2021)
- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder (2013) [Book].
- McKinsey, The Eight Trends that will define 2021 and beyond. (2021) [Podcast]
- UK Government Office for Science Trend Deck 2021 (2021)
- Victoria University (NZ), Policy Quarterly vol 12:3 by Jonathan Boston: Anticipatory Governance: How well is New Zealand safeguarding the future? (2016)
- New Zealand Herald (NZ), opinion piece by Sir Michael Cullen, When uncertainty is the only sure thing (2021)
- The Mandarin (NZ), by Sally Washington Taking care of tomorrow today – New Zealand’s Long-term Insights Briefings (2021)
- Newsroom (NZ), by Roger Dennis, Wendy McGuinness and David Skilling. NZ’s once in a lifetime chance can’t be left to interns (2021). Note: This article is also about the Long-term Insights Briefings.
DISTINGUISHING BETWEEN FORESIGHT AND STRATEGY
- Harvard Business Review, by M E Porter: What is strategy? (1996)
- Strategy: A History. By Lawrence Freedman (2013)
- The New Zealand Institute, by Rick Boven et al. A goal is not a strategy: Focusing efforts to improve New Zealand’s prosperity (2010)
MORE ABOUT THE CONE OF PLAUSIBILITY (Slide 6)
- The Cone of Plausibility is the key tool most futurists use to start a dialogue about foresight. It illustrates probable, possible, and preferred futures. It is a useful tool as it frames a wide range of futurist concepts and insights. For example:
- Foresight is about being curious, collaborative, observant, explorative and creative. In particular it is about seeking new insights from a diverse range of people and trying to understand second and third level effects. The goal is to shed light on what the future might look like, and could look like and how to backcast from a preferred future to today in order to identify key steps in the journey. It is more about ‘what’ (e.g. what the future might look like) than ‘how’ (e.g. how you might get from here to there).
- Trends shape the cone (much like streams that over time become a river).
- Wild cards are low probability high magnitude events that alter the shape the future slowly over time or act as a shock that leads to immediate change.
- Scenarios are narratives that are used to explore possible futures. Much like new geographical terrain, we try to understand the landscape by exploring how changes in certain trends and wild cards might change the outcome. There are many types and purposes, but generally there are country or global scenarios or smaller or specific scenarios (what we call mini scenarios, such as New Zealand climate scenarios (2016) or Shells Sky Scenarios (2018)). We tend to name scenarios so it is easy to discuss and compare one scenario with another (e.g. Shell Global Scenarios 2012-2020, draw a distinction between their scenarios by calling one New Frontiers and another the Barricades – using a high level title to describe their findings). There are many different ways to develop scenarios but the most common is to use a matrix. Importantly, scenarios are not about prediction in the pure sense; success is not measured by how accurate they are (e.g. in 2020) – but how useful they were when they were made (e.g. in 2012).
- The status quo is the strongest (the probable future) and is always hard to change. There are many forms of infrastructure and powerful vested interests that sit within a system that enable/support the status quo to return – getting long term durable change is difficult.
- Some futurists refuse to discuss preferred futures as it makes their work biased.
- Most tricky conversations happen when one person is trying to understand possible futures while another has a preferred future in mind.
- Future studies is as much about art as science. It is still evolving and goes in and out of fashion. It becomes more useful and sought out in times of uncertainty. The aim is to help decision makers understand the future and ideally make better, more durable and flexible decisions.