I dare to claim that there is no other topic more intriguing than the future. Foresight thinking has been in the headlines and discussions for the whole society during the uneasy time of the pandemic but also before that. The world is changing and the work life together with it. What kind of future would you be able to think for your company and more importantly to yourself? The ever so currant saying Charles Darwin suggests us to be adaptable to change in order to survive and Future Female together with Muutostoimisto Tuleva provided us with a solid tool set for an individual bridge futures thinking to the present.
Foresight is the new civic skill
Over the past 10 years or so, the landscape of work has undergone a massive change in the form of remote work, change of roles needed, the need for re-training and new skills that will be needed during the fourth industrial revolution to name a few. Companies are facing changing needs from their workforce and the pandemic has accelerated the speed of digitalization. How can we then make sense of the future? Muutostoimisto Tuleva states that foresight skills belong to everyone and they make a new civic skill.
The central idea to keep in mind is that we are all making the future. Future is not happening to us but we are all contributing to it. Foresight specialist and strategist Mari Tähjä from Muutostoimisto Tuleva gave the introductory lecture to future foresight whether thinking about one’s own career future, company future or industry future. To be able to predict or plan the future, the starting point should always be self assessment. In a career context you also have to understand your values, your interests and competences that you have.
Futures triangle -tool
Tuleva is operating in the area of foresight thinking in the context of strategic capabilities and career planning. After the lecture, they catered to the Future Female audience with a workshop to plan for the future of a tech company. The core of the lecture and the workshop is The Futures Triangle, a framework that can be used to reflect on the past, point out the current events happening today and also assess and make assumptions of the future. The triangle is a good tool to make sense of the phenomena that have been in the past, are present now and will be in the future. The end result is a story or a pitch combining the most important takeaways from each section. The pitch will summarize the exercise.
What does the future look like?
The co-founder of Muutostoimisto Tuleva Henna Ojala inspired our small and feisty group to discuss and share ideas about the future of work in a tech company in 2030. She guided us through the process which started by discussing the weight of the past. What is blocking tech companies from changing, what are the structures resisting change? The groups brought up topics such as lack of diversity and homogenous work places. The issue of management style was also discussed. The society around us has changed but have the workplaces and the cultures? Harvard Business Review discusses these issues in a recently released article. 86% of a researched organization want to work in a diverse team in the future because roles, skills and requirements will change. At the same time only 66% of HR directors assess the same trend. (hbr.com. 2021.)
The push of the present was the next question and the task was to ideate around the current events. What are the issues making the workplaces change at the moment and what trends can we see? Areas such as sustainability and increased environmental awareness are for sure strong trends affecting companies now and also in the future. Also increased importance of work life balance and mental health issues has become stronger in today’s environment. Technological leaps can’t be omitted and are making a big difference also in the future to the working life of us all.
The last step is to visualize the future. What are the megatrends that are affecting the future for us all and what would be the best and the worst scenarios? Work – no doubt – will change radically. Long employment contracts with one employer may be history when industries will need a more flexible workforce on demand. Also, an aging population will result in longer careers and diversity in all its forms will become the norm. Sitra publishes the megatrends every couple of years and they work as a great tool to open up thinking and as they themselves say: bend the limits of one’s thinking, ideate new and envision what the future might be. (Sitra 2021.)
The workshop ended in a story of a work day in 2030. What would happen, how would the person work and with what tools. My team visualized a day in the life of a tech company employee to be powered with VR and AI, ability to work from anywhere and a flexible contract so that focus to do what are the core competences is guaranteed. The working environment is diverse with specialists from different age groups sharing ideas and supporting each other’s success.
Henna and Mari gave us a taster of the futures triangle and how to apply it. The 2 hours reserved proved to be a very short time to apply the method. This topic calls for more discussions and many more morning coffee sessions to make the best use of.
Harvard Business Review. 2021. https://hbr.org/2021/05/what-your-future-employees-want-most
Writer of the blog is Hanna Lumenkoski, a Helsinki based marketing and business development pro working the field of information management. She is also immensely interested in improving customer experience and success of businesses through design thinking.