Future Studies: a driver for new businesses
Future Studies won’t provide us with winning lottery numbers, but it can tell us what the next scenarios may be for your company, market or customers, mapping the biggest threats and opportunities. It can help control risks and respond quickly in order to build sustainable success.
In this article, in addition to understanding the meaning behind Future Studies, you’ll see how it relates to innovation and how it can be applied to guide your business.
What is Future Studies and why should you predict possible futures?
Some of the world’s most celebrated entrepreneurs — Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, for example — are often cited in the media as prophets. They anticipate the future and create solutions for that future, and in doing so, they often end up having a major impact and deciding the fate of markets.
But it’s not about divination, let alone prophecies. These executives are considered futuristic for very specific and differentiating reasons. They use a highly speculative mindset to outline their companies’ strategies.
With perspectives of 30, 40 and 100-years from now, they create products and services that fit into that long-term vision and in so doing, create a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Future Studies is about driving the future, not just forecasting it.
The perspective they show becomes more tangible to their audience, and they, in turn, stimulate new industries —partly because the titans of technology publicly share their prospects for the future. In addition to courage, this requires time, attention, positioning and a whole bunch of innovative effort.
What they do has a name: scenario forecasting.
Disruptive futurists build toward expected forecasts, anticipating possible futures and using scenarios to develop their pipeline for innovation. It is not the same as exploiting existing partners, resources and technologies in new ways to promote innovation.
Is Future Studies the same as innovation?
Future Studies and innovation are great and essential, but they’re very different. Most companies are just capitalizing on innovation, few invest in future design exercises. By adopting such practices, you can explore paths to long-term planning and risk management. This requires imagining how the future could be and anticipating the necessary steps and shape potential realities.
Futurists need to constantly look for still modest signs — murmurs of possibilities in culture and behaviour. And trace the potential trajectory of these segments into the future.
Future studies is the exercise of curiosity.
By combining our present and infusing it with likely long-term scenarios, we can imagine the different results for each situation and therefore, we can start asking questions like:
- What would it be like to live in this future?
- What can we see, hear and touch in 10, 20 or 30 years?
In summary, by identifying new areas of opportunity, the steps needed to reach this long-term vision become apparent. Finally, their innovations have a direction that is long-term.
By illustrating these long-term goals and communicating them to our audiences – the way true futurists do – the path of immediate innovation becomes clearer.
Future Studies is the expansion of prospects
This happens in a more collaborative and effective manner when we give people the opportunity to align themselves with our shared vision of the future.
Innovations should then seem like a path of breadcrumbs guiding us into the future outlined in our futuristic vision. In a world of eternal flow, companies that share strong and plausible visions of future realities have the opportunity to represent something bigger—and gather more participants around their vision.
As we study Musk, Bezos and the futures they have presented to us, we tend to see a one-sided vision, built by an individual and not by the collective.
However, when we look at it thoroughly, it becomes clear that we need the participation of a wide range of companies, governments, NGOs, and individuals to challenge the perception of the near future with their unique voices.
In other words, in order to portray not just one future, we need many different types of perspectives, elements of commonality among the various narratives and views to be explored. This is quite similar to innovation itself. It is nearly impossible to innovate with a singular vision, using common sense. You have to collaborate, and exchange ideas.
How can Future Studies guide new businesses?
Currently, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to launch new products and services. First, there is a growing need to be faster. The development schedules for new business models can, but should not be, long, as we all know.
That’s where Future Studies has become a guide for the most innovative companies. The ability to anticipate the needs of modern consumers is fundamental. The ease to predict and take advantage of trends, as well as set new standards, is also very important.
They provide important scenarios about how customers and industries can evolve. They are professionals guided by innovation and experienced in mainly disruptive technologies and have an entrepreneurial vision.
Future studies gives companies an advantage not only over their competitors but also against opposition that ia still unknown or even those that may not yet exist.
Future Studies and the Fourth Wave of the technological revolution
Finally, it is essential to look at Future Studies from the perspective of the fourth wave of the technological revolution.
Digital technology has evolved through four major waves of development. Life underwent major changes when the Internet made computing technology available to everyone and then again when the mobile Internet made digital services accessible anywhere.
A new wave of change is taking place today with the Internet of Things (IoT) digitising the physical world. But it’s a fourth wave of technology that organisations should consider in their strategies. This includes Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
Machines are just beginning to learn on their own, they discover new knowledge independently and act autonomously. Algorithms and extreme automation are clear symptoms of the fourth wave.
In short, Future Studies is not possible without keeping in mind the fourth wave of technological evolution. It is the use of methods and systems within this wave that provides the tools for IT and business teams to predict possible futures. Through Business Analytics applications, for example, it is possible to look back to the past and, at the same time, do predictive analytics in a systematized manner.
Did you understand what futurism is, what your relationship with innovation is and how useful it can be for your business? Gain an even deeper understanding; download our e-book Business Analytics: The Age of Data has already begun!