DESIGN HAS always been preoccupied with the future. Every act of creation plucks some thing from an alternate timeline that didn’t exist in this universe, setting our world on a path towards a new, untold future.
Unfortunately, our narrow focus on business-as-usual that simply extrapolates a linear path towards the future has made us complacent and unwilling to tackle truly wicked problems. Despite staring down the barrel of a rapidly changing climate, we’ve convinced ourselves that the scale of adaptation required is insurmountable.
COVID-19 has made us more comfortable with change
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we’ve underestimated our ability as a species to enact wide-scale, systemic change — not over the course of a generation, but within mere days and weeks. And, with each entrenched system and institution that buckles under the pressure of COVID-19, we unearth new opportunities to redesign them.
But, how do we actively design towards preferable futures in lieu of another pandemic of climate catastrophe? Firstly, we need to become more futures literate by remaining open to the multitude of potential pathways our work can take to influence the world around us. This notion, that multiple futures exist in tandem, can be represented as a cone extending from the knowable past through to a variety of futures ranging between probable and futures to the preposterous. By working through multiple scenarios, we’re able to consider and anticipate the possibilities — and implications — of our work, thus developing robust strategies that account for a rapidly changing and complex world.
Tinkering our way through an unknowable future
Secondly, while the future is always unknown and consistently unfolding, we must latch onto prototyping and making as a way to reduce the uncertainty of the future as we actively design towards preferable futures. After all, the future has always belonged to those that are empowered and willing to take a stand and project their vision onto the world around them. Making our ideas physical in a quick and lowcost manner like rapid prototyping allows us to sense how the world will respond to our interventions and adjust our strategies as the systems we operate within adapt accordingly.
We’re making this ethos part of the way we approach design challenges at Deloitte by incorporating design futures practices into the training we provide to our emerging leaders via the IGNITE program, which recently partnered with a global charity focused on alleviating poverty in our lifetime. We’ve also developed and nurtured our futuring practice with an accompanying playbook that is proving popular with our federal government clients as they anticipate potential policy implications moving into the next decade.
Owning the future we want
After a particularly tumultuous 12 months, we shouldn’t let the future continue to happen to us. If we don’t actively participate and simply sit back, then someone else will make critical decisions on our behalf. All of us need to be engaged in designing the future and we can start with imagination and purposeful creativity to tinker our way to a future that is equitable and fulfilling for all.
Published 01 May 2021