Futures Research


Launching March 15
FTI's 2020 Tech Trends Report

The Future Today Institute’s 2020 Tech Trends Report is in its 13th year of publication and has received more than 8 million cumulative views. Our 2020 Tech Trends report identifies 400 emerging trends across 31 industries that will begin to enter the mainstream and fundamentally disrupt business, geopolitics and everyday life. We offer analysis, strategic recommendations, business opportunities and detailed risk assessments, as well as 26 futures scenarios. A digital download will be available here on March 15, 2020.

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How To Do Strategic Planning Like a Futurist

Futurists think about time differently, and company strategists could learn from their approach. For any given uncertainty about the future — whether that’s risk, opportunity, or growth — we tend to think in the short- and long-term simultaneously. To do this, FTI uses a framework that measures certainty and charts actions, rather than simply marking the passage of time as quarters or years. That’s why FTI's timelines aren’t actually lines at all — they are cones. 

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Paper: A National Office for Strategic Foresight Anchored in Critical Science and Technologies

Despite an abundance of technical experts across its agencies, the U.S. federal government lacks a centralized office charged with long-range, comprehensive, streamlined planning to address critical science and technology developments. The status quo risks misalignment between agencies and redundant strategic work. There should be a new, centralized office championing strategic foresight. This will involve leadership in strategic processes using data-driven models to analyze plausible futures, continually evaluating macro sources of change, finding emerging trends, and mapping the trajectory and velocity of changes. Focused on providing authoritative, unbiased insights to the executive branch, it should facilitate forward-leaning research, knowledge dissemination and capabilities building via ongoing strategic conversations, experiential learning, and rigorous quantitative and qualitative proceedings that result in concrete actions. This paper outlines a comprehensive proposal. 

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The Four Futures: A simple tool for taking strategic action

We recently advised a team of brilliant senior managers on the future of home automation and consumer products. Rather than focusing only on their competitors, the team was willing to think more broadly: to 5G infrastructure and network operators, biotech startups and AI researchers. At the end of our session, we had a big list of priorities, and one looming question: when to take action. We've observed senior managers struggle with this question again and again. The reason is simple: they are defining "action" in limited terms. Paradoxically, that indecision might have led to indecision if not for a simple decision matrix. FTI's matrix has four quadrants and measures your level of confidence about emerging trends and asks whether your team needs actions or insights. The answers to those two questions reveals what action to take: brainstorm ideas, build capabilities, develop strategy or find future areas of disruption. 

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Future Forces Theory

FTI’s Future Forces Theory explains how disruption usually stems from influential sources of macro change. It is a way of understanding where disruption is coming from and where it’s headed next. The sources of macro change represent external uncertainties—factors that broadly affect business, governing and society. They can skew positive, neutral and negative. We use this simple tool to apply the future forces theory to organizations as they are developing strategic thinking on trends. 

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FTI's Strategic Foresight Funnel

The Future Today Institute’s strategic forecasting funnel, first published in 2006 and described in The Signals Are Talking: Why Today's Fringe Is Tomorrow's Mainstream (PublicAffairs 2016), 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  nally, 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. To identify trends, use steps 1 – 4. To imagine future worlds, use steps 1 and 5.

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Bespoke Trends Analysis, Futures Scenarios, and Stragic  Foresight Research For Your Organization 

FTI partners with other institutions and organizations on custom research projects. We are available to consult on projects, assist researchers with their work or to develop white papers or other materials. Please contact us with if we can assist you with your research effort.

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