Incast explores possible alternative futures using general scenarios of how the world might be in the future.
Uses of the method
To generate possible alternative futures and their potential impact on society.
- Breakout thinking from today's paradigm.
- Sharing of future thoughts in a team-based environment.
- To find likely futures
- As an organizational visioning exercise
- People restrict their imagination or find it hard to think outside the box.
- Vested interests restrict thinking.
Steps to complete
- Establish teams of interested people to participate in this method.
- Create general scenarios by adding them as Issues to be considered here. e.g.
Scenario: The Decline and Collapse Future
“Decline and Collapse” describes a future of global breakdown: economic, political, social and environmental.”
Set a time horizon
In this context, any one of your scenarios described is possible. DO NOT DISCUSS ITS RELATIVE PLAUSIBILITY OR PROBABILITY;- a context exists; simply consider how you would cope most successfully.
After reading their given scenario ask the teams to answer each question in turn about what would life be like in this future. Teams can work on one, mutiple or different scenarios that you have created.
Ask the teams to suspend their disbelief and not to ask HOW this scenario came to exist; or too question its fundamental assumptions. Explain that they have awakened to find themselves living the scenario. What is their life like then?
Imagine what political controversies, international events, critical issues, awards, celebrations, sports events, and other newsworthy items might occur in this future. Take details to their logical, if extreme, conclusions. Remember that some traditional activities, offices, organizations, and lifestyles may disappear entirely in your scenario. Some lifestyles and activities may be transformed, existing in this future in an entirely new form. And this future may compel the creation of entirely new offices, services, businesses, schools, and activities. Exceed the boundaries of the present wherever it seems logical given the context of the scenario: your suggestions only need to be logically consistent with the assumptions of the scenario.
- Report your findings as a series of headlines in the news media appropriate to this future [and say how news gets disseminated].
- Ask the teams to be prepared to present their headlines to all participants.
- Now ask participants 'What challenges and opportunities does their analysis present to policy-makers, business leaders, and communities?
- And ask, "Who in your community would gain the greatest advantage in the context of their analysis?" "Who would be marginalized?"
- And, what would be the biggest change to daily life?
- Aggregate and agree all of the convergent and divergent thinking across teams and develop a view on the most probable future.
- Then, work back as teams or as full group to define potential new future visions and values, required leadership models and skills for the probable future.
- Capture everyone's most exciting idea and biggest fear.
- Determine the fixed elements (almost certain hard trends) that will inform your strategic response: slow-changing phenomena e.g. demographic shifts, constrained situations e.g. resource limits, in the pipeline e.g. aging of baby boomers, inevitable collisions e.g. climate change arguments.
- Capture critical variables i.e. uncertainties, soft trends and potential surprises. Both these and the fixed elements will be key to creating scenarios and examining potential future paradigm shifts.
- Capture unique insight into new ways of seeing that can be utilized by the organization.
- What conclusions can we draw from the exercise(s)?
- How might the future be different?
- How does A affect B?
- What is likely to remain the same or change significantly?
- What are the likely outcomes?
- What and who will likely shape our future?
- Where could we be most affected by change?
- What might we do about it?
- What don't we know that we need to know?
- What should we do now, today?
- Why do we care?
- When should we aim to meet on this?
- Finish by noting your next steps. Next steps could include a further round of iteration, a recommendation on how to get the answers or use of other research and methods such as 'Starburst' to create more vantage points on the issue.
'Incast' can be shared with others or kept private using the 'Visible to' fields and through the 'tag', 'report', 'share'', 'link and 'comment' functionality. Use 'tag' and/or 'report' to aggregate your analyzes, 'share' with others via email, Facebook and Twitter etc. or add a 'comment' to ask others where they agree/disagree and encourage them to make their own analysis from their unique vantage point.
Developed at the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies
Even with all the advice and tools we have provided here starting a foresight project from scratch can be a daunting prospect to a beginner. Let us know if you need help with this method or want a group facilitation exercise or full project or program carrying out by us. We promise to leave behind more internal knowledgeable people who can expand your initiative for better organizational performance.
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