About the Future Today Institute
The FTI Way
Founded in 2006, the Future Today Institute researches, models and prototypes future risk and opportunity. As the leading strategic foresight and futurology management consultants to executive leadership teams worldwide, FTI’s data-driven applied research reveals trends and calculates how they will disrupt business, government and society. Together with our clients and partners, FTI is helping leaders achieve their preferred futures. Our pioneering, data-driven forecasting methodology and tools empower leaders to make better decisions about the future, today.
We are living in an era of tremendous uncertainty. Our anxiety stems from information overload and the onslaught of new technologies. A great wave of disruption—anchored in artificial intelligence, automation, robotics, self-driving cars, genomic editing, cognitive computing, the Internet of Things, and big data—is underway. As these technologies move from the fringe to the mainstream, they promise to forever change our companies, economies and social structures.
This disruption has left many leaders feeling like they’re meandering through a haunted house, lost in the darkness, without a way to clearly see what’s around the next corner. Fearful of the next big scare, they make poor decisions, none at all, or worse—they try to turn back, hoping to recreate the world as it was decades ago.
As futurists, our job is to flip the switch, turn on the lights and illuminate the path forward. Once leaders are able to see and hear what’s up ahead—all of the trap doors, hidden rooms, masks and costumes—that haunted house is transformed into a regular old building that can be navigated without fear or concern. With the lights on, we embolden leaders to realize their own preferred futures.
Founder and Quantitative Futurist
FTI provides our clients and partners with tangible strategic insights that lead to action. We identify new value flows, model risk, and help executive leadership teams confront uncertainty so that they can anticipate and plan for the future. FTI is a network of world-class researchers, strategists, data scientists and designers led by CEO and Founder Amy Webb.
What is a futurist?
You may be wondering what, exactly, a futurist is. Don’t worry—you’re not alone. A futurist is someone who models next-order outcomes using a broad spectrum of weak signals, strong signals, trends, and other factors. Futurists work in an interdisciplinary field combining hard sciences (mathematics, engineering, sciences, technology), social sciences (game theory, economics, cultural anthropology) and other fields, such as design, philosophy and management theory. Futurists do not make predictions. They make projections in order to create a state of readiness, to determine strategic actions, to aid in decision-making, to build long-range plans, or to simply imagine alternate future states.
The term “futurology” comes from the Latin (futurum, or fu-ture) and the Greek suffix -logia (the science of), and it was coined by a German professor named Ossip Flechtheim in 1943, who, along with author H. G. Wells several decades earlier, proposed “futurism” as a new academic discipline.
Modern strategic foresight, or futures work, originated in storytelling in the late 1800s. H.G. Wells, who was a novelist and journalist, developed something he called “predictive writing.” While Wells is known best for his novella The Time Machine, his most important work was actually a series of articles about the future called “Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress upon Human Life and Thought.” Using signals from the present, he wrote about next-order implications of science and technology on everyday life, imagining a national highway system, automated machines to replace was was then the human servant class, and even prefab houses. Eventually, he described the rise and collapse of capitalism. He passionately argued for an academic approach to futures studies, and thought that there should be a methodical approach to foresight. That’s important because Wells himself didn’t use a methodology — it was clear that he thought there ought to be a formalized process. He used his skills as a journalist and as a storyteller to speculate about the future.
During and after World War II, Nicholas Rescher and Olaf Helmer developed the Delphi forecasting technique while at RAND, which used structured conversations with experts as a way of collecting data. They were interested in signal data and trying to understand change. Herman Kahn, who was also at RAND, combined the data he had access to along with game theory — he wanted to understand outcomes. It was Kahn who first used the word “scenario” to describe a plausible future state in rich detail. He understood the power of data-driven storytelling. In the 70s, Pierre Wack built on Kahn’s scenario planning for use in the private sector while he was at Royal Dutch Shell, and that process was further perfected by Peter Schwartz at Royal Dutch Shell in the 1980s.
We make connections. Our goal is to see next-order actions and implications. Our forecasts are used to help leaders, teams, and individuals make better, more informed decisions, even as their organizations face great disruption. The work of futurists, or futurologists, has never been more important than it is now as we face a global Covid-19 pandemic. The novel coronavirus will cause aftershocks in every industry.
We at the Institute look forward to helping you navigate the challenging road ahead. Catastrophe can be a catalyze for change. Our promise, and the mission of the Future Today Institute, is to help leaders make better, more informed decisions, ensuring the vitality of an organization’s future, today.
The Future Today Institute's strategic forecasting model uses quantitative and qualitative data to identify weak signals and map their trajectories into tech trends. Our seven steps alternate between broad and narrow scopes, which include: framing your work, identifying weak signals at the fringe, spotting patterns, developing trend candidates, calculating a trend's velocity, developing scenarios, and finally, backcasting preferred outcomes.
The steps of our methodology can be used independently to surface new trends or to generate scenarios, or they can be used to guide your strategic planning process. Toidentify trends, usesteps 1- 4. Toimagine future worlds, use steps 1 and 5.
1. Converge: Determine your questions, time horizons and stakeholders.
2. Diverge: Listen for weak signals at the fringe. Make observations and harness information from the broadest possible array of sources and on a wide variety of topics.
3. Converge: Uncover hidden patterns in the previous step. Use FTl's CIPHER framework to identify trends. Look for contradictions, inflections, practices, hacks, extremes and rarities.
4. Diverge: Ask questions to learn how the trends you've identified intersect with your industry and all of its parts.
5. Converge: Calculate the velocity andtrajectory of change that areboth internal andexternal to your organization.
6. Diverge: Write scenarios to describe impacts and outcomes in the future.
7. Converge: Backcast preferred outcomes. Define your desired future and then work backwards to identify the strategic actions connecting that future to your present.
Our logo was developed by Emily Caufield, the Institute’s Creative Director, and her idea was to communicate two core concepts: who we are and the mission of the Institute.
Inside the box are a set of circles and rectangles, which might seem interchangeable at first. However, if you look closely starting from the left, you’ll see the letters F T I. Together, those letters form an ideogram representing the notion that the future is very much intertwined with what we are all doing today.