Friday, November 11, 2005

Future Frequencies

This is the first really new book about a different way to look at the future in quite some time. It's creative and original. And, it offers the potential of a methodology to stimulate non-linear thinking that could lead to breakthroughs. It is not a book that can be used to forecast the future. The authors are less interested in forecasting the future than in creating a future for their clients - a future that might include disruptive innovations.

The process appears like many other processes:

1. Future Framing: Establishes the context for the present and potential leverage points for the future
2. Future Pulsing: Using leverage points, identify influences and influencers to provide an insight into future triggers.
3. Future Mapping: Sculpting the triggers into future platforms.
4. Future Scaping: Creating the future scenarios from the selected platforms.
5. Future Tuning: Arriving at a preferred future.
6. Future Fabbing: Implementing the preferred scenario.

But looks are deceiving. The words used are unique in this context and have to be studied to be understood.

The key that weaves itself through the entire book and process is the author's encyclopedic knowledge and understanding of international avant-garde arts (music, sculpture, "paintings", writing, visual effects, sonic effects, etc.). They deconstruct the art and artist to get at how they think. Since by definition the avant-garde is radically different from the common, the ways of thinking are also different. If these ways of thinking can be used to help clients see their world in a different way and after perceiving the world differently, think and act differently, the seeds of disruptive innovation may be planted.

Woodgate writes, "In attempting to create a broader initial context and vision for a futures project, it is essential to break out of the framework set by the client's expectations and agreed deliverables. Otherwise we might replicate what the client could achieve without futurist input. Creating future visions is about breaking down traditional thinking, both ours and the client's. In our work at The Futures Lab, we are looking for revolutionary, not evolutionary, outcomes. As such, the process of "thinking the unthinkable" is a crucial part of this initial stage in terms of providing more "out there" input into the "wide angle lens" and systems dynamics models that we use. It is a mindset, not a "mouthset." Having an unfettered frame of mind at the beginning of a project is critical to the final output.

My basis for adopting the "thinking the unthinkable" concept stems from my early contacts with the Fluxus movement. In 1962, I attended the Festival of Misfits in London, an event organized by Daniel Spoemi and Robert Filliou. At the time, I thought of it as simple absurd fun. Later, as I got more involved in the movement, I realized its complexity and the fact that it was about the inclusion of everyday actions, and in doing so, breaking down the values held among traditional artistic disciplines. I was inspired by the power of Claes Oldenburg's statement: I am the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind man's metal stick."

The book is filled with great quotes and the descriptions of many avant-garde artists and their work - some mind-blowingly different what is consider normal. It is not an easy read, but a book well worth the investment of time and mental energy to comprehend.

"The impossible attracts me, because everything possible has been done and the world didn't change." - Sun Ra


Future Frequencies
Derek Woodgate with Wayne Pethrick
Fringecore, 2004

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