Foresight Frameworks and Tools
Part of our mission at the Future Today Institute is to develop a culture of foresight in every organization. For that reason, the Future Today Institute's research and tools are now open source and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
We have spent nearly two decades researching, modeling, testing and refining the Future Today Institute’s forecasting methodology and tools, which are used in hundreds of companies and government agencies and as part of college courses all around the world. We invite you to use them within your own organization.
The FTI Forecasting Methodology
Our futures forecasting methodology relies on quantitative and qualitative data, and it has seven steps. Our model alternates between flared and focused thinking.
FTI's Foresight Process Visualized
Learn more about how the Future Today Institute practices foresight, the types of data we use, and how one step feeds into the next.
How To Think About Time
To effectively plan for the future, organizations need to learn how to swim in different lanes simultaneously, and to think across a spectrum of time. For any given uncertainty about the future — whether that’s risk, opportunity or growth — leaders must think strategically about tactics, strategy, vision and systems-level change.
Assumptions vs Knowledge
Assumptions vs Knowledge, a scale we call AvK, is a simple but useful tool for checking your instinctive bias while doing futures work. It can be used any time an assertion is made to determine whether it’s based on fact or feeling. On one end of the spectrum are Assumptions (1), pure hunches that are not supported by any substantial data, and on the other is Knowledge (4), declarations made with ample evidence from multiple sources to back them up. With two intermediate steps—(limited evidence or insight but still significant uncertainty (2), and meaningful corroborating data or models but still some doubt (3)—the scale is a great way to keep sentimental bias from clouding your strategy.
11 Macro Sources of Disruption
Technology does not evolve on its own, in a vacuum. Even the most forward-thinking innovators are still grounded in reality, tethered to other areas of society. Trends are subjected to and shaped by external forces. Just as it’s useful to organize our thinking along a chronological path through time zones, it’s important to categorize the various dimensions of our everyday life, with technology as the primary interconnector.
In order to forecast the future of anything, you must listen for signals across these 11 macro sources of change. Download this strategic thinking framework.
To identify trends, we use CIPHER, which recognizes patterns from weak and strong signals. CIPHER acronym describes six indicators for trends: Contradictions, those examples that demonstrate opposing or incongruous forces at play simultaneously, Inflections, occurrences that mark a major turning point or establish a new paradigm, Practices, emerging behaviors that are becoming more pronounced or gaining in popularity, Hacks, inventive, unintended uses for tools, technologies and systems, Extremes, instances of technologies, functions or concepts being pushed to new limits that might change the nature of their use, and Rarities, highly unlikely or unexpected events and phenomena.
Axes of Uncertainty
Leaders often make common errors as they make strategic decisions about the future: they under-predict or over-predict change. The reason? Most of us find uncertainty uncomfortable, so we are reluctant to confront it. We can’t solve for future uncertainty, but we can prepare ourselves to think critically about signals and decisions — to understand all the dependencies we should consider that might impact the future.
The Future Today Institute uses a variety of scenario archetypes and templates. We select the scenario type to match the purpose of the work, whether that is strategic (leaders needing to explore white spaces, create a long-term company vision, pursue M&A or make a big investment) or creative (storytelling for marketing campaigns, movie or TV scripts, exhibition design). The five archetypes in this toolkit represent five of the most common scenario types we develop.
Download this scenarios tool →
Identifying Key Stakeholders
Leaders and teams should work methodically to identify every possible stakeholder using proximity as a guide. When FTI works with organizations, we always begin with the following exercise.