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Case study

Future focused ideation sessions for a large international team

We ran two engaging and inspirational sessions to get 80 people networking, collaborating and generating ambitious ideas for their shared future.

The brief

We worked with the EMEA Corporate Communications team for a global pharmaceutical company to run a series of idea generation sessions as part of their annual conference.

We were allocated two-hour workshop slots over two days of the conference, to lead participants in activities that would help them take the long view – thinking big to create a shared vision of the future.

Future thinking is sometimes hard because we’re naturally drawn to look for things we’ve seen evidence for already. See the sidebar for more on this.

What we did

Two Creative Huddle facilitators led the group through two high-energy sessions to consider the future and create a strategy in response.

We first asked people to “Walk the Line” – to take a position according to their interpretation of the future and their perceived readiness to tackle it.

We then helped the group form small teams to create a roadmap to the future by considering several alternate scenarios. We used four “futures archetypes” – generic headlines that offer platforms upon which to build more specific stories:

  1. The future is what I expect.
  2. The future is better than I expect.
  3. The future is worse than I expect.
  4. The future is weirder than I expect.

For each of these, participants were asked to take a minute alone to jot down the first thoughts that come to mind, then to pair up with someone else and compare answers. Then, pairs joined into groups of four and continued to share. Finally, at the end of all four scenarios, everyone was asked to add their favourite answer(s) on a post it note to a space on the wall – we provided a space for each of the four futures. They could then review these during a coffee break.

The outcome was that participants were able to see how diverse are the many predictions of the future and the possible developments ahead. How should their department change to respond to this? How should each individual personally adapt and develop?

After several more activities to explore future outcomes and ideas, we led the group through a fast action planning process and they pitched big ideas to their colleagues.

“You guys worked well with the delegates, were the right balance – set the right tone and got great results.”

How to think about the future

When it comes to thinking about the future, research has found that we use the same part of the brain for envisioning the future as we do for recalling memories.

So, if you try to envision the car of the future, for example, your brain will help you out by serving up existing car images to help you build this vision. Or, if you want to think about supermarkets in 2030, your brain will present you with images and memories of supermarkets you’ve visited in the past.

This clearly limits our ability to predict the future. How can we make our own original predictions if they’re so wedded to things we have already experienced or discovered?

To get better at predicting the future it’s useful to seek out variety, be curious about the unusual, and know a little about a lot. This way, we’re able to use this richer and more diverse store of memories to fill in the blanks of the future in new, unexpected ways.

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