Innovation & The Future Are Intertwined
I love running foresight programs for our clients for many reasons. I think that we can have the most fun when we think about a period which is more than 10 years out, it’s easier to help your inventors disconnect their current day to day jobs from the future which they are developing ideas for, and it is less restrictive than asking them to come up with innovation that they can deliver today, or even within the parameters of patentability.
The cool thing about futurist programs is that they can truly unlock all of the really crazy ideas in their minds that they have thought of, but realized may never fly. When you ask people to think 10 years out, they can only typically think 5 years out, thus generate truly interesting and disruptive ideas, which are perfect for developing targeted IP. If that’s not the outcome you are looking for, we can simply backcast that idea to today – and deliver the precursor to those ideas, thus generating actionable ideas for right now.
Some people feel that thinking about the future is hard – since there are so many variables and possibilities. However, if you ask me, thinking about the future is really the only thing we do – and do well – there is nothing we can DO about the past, and there is very little we can do about the present. No, the near future is where most of us live. We are typically comfortable planning the next few weeks and months, and maybe up to a year if we have vacations and trips planned. But beyond that, we stumble. We see all sorts of possibilities and are usually bound up in options – we see so many possible outcomes, that we can’t decide on our direction because we rely on certain things falling into place – some of which we have no control over – but there are many we do.
As I said, we can control our future, to a degree. And since we can control our future, we have more say in that future than we think. We have the full ability as well to change that future. Which is another reason why I find futurist programs so interesting – in most groups where we do this, there is this little spark of realization – this awakening where the inventor realizes that what we are asking for is not a solution to the problem of today – something he or she may have been struggling with for days, weeks, months or years, but an opportunity from tomorrow, a fresh time and place where anything goes, and you can get exactly what you want, when you want it.
It is the future. In a way, it is science-fiction – a depiction of the future, grounded in the reality of the physical world – which is exactly what we are asking for. We want our inventors to generate ideas for a future time, extrapolating and juxtapositioning trends in their minds and on paper, opening their minds to cool new possibilities, all of which are possible.
Being a futurist is like being a weatherperson – you will be right – you just don’t know when. Everything which is being envisioned will happen – the only question is when (and if – as in if you decide to move forward and build it).
In our view, innovative and disruptive thinking can only happen if you encourage your inventors to think about the future – whether the near future or the far future. Innovation happens when you dissolve the bonds between the everyday lives of your inventors, and their ideas to come.