How design adds to foresight

The relationship between design and foresight has been a recurring interest in the last few years. It interestingly draws some questions such as "can design help futures research?", "can we define foresight as long-range design?", etc. This is why I found interesting the interview of Nathan Shedroff by Nik Baerten from Pantopicon. An excerpt I found relevant regarding to the aforementioned issue:

"Nik Baerten: The fields of foresight, visioning, scenario planning etc. are not unknown to you. You have dealt with future scenarios a few times as well. Could you tell us something about your own experiences? How did you feel design could add to foresight? Furthermore, now as a chair of the design strategy programme, do you see also value in foresight/scenario thinking etc. for design?

Nathan Shedroff: Scenario Planning is an incredible tool (...) However, it can be tricky in business because, often, executives “get” the new vision but they’re still left with no way to implement it and alternate scenarios are often purposefully provocative extremes. Taking these visions and weaving them back into present strategy is often too confusing or difficult for managers and leaders to do. Design thinking and processes can be important contributors to the scenario-creating process but just as helpful for this implementation phase. In fact, alternate scenarios that build environments and artifacts can really help executives “see” how these scenarios might affect their business. Design processes bring a culture of brainstorming, critique, prototyping, and testing to the product and service development process. (...) Artifacts from the future that relate directly to an organization’s business can help support courage and commitment to innovation since the tangible attributes of prototypes helps leaders “see” examples of offerings "

Why do I blog this? Reminds me of Raphael's blogpost about the making of a view on the future where he explains how a Nokia Design team worked on making tangible and meaningful the Nokia Category Vision with design & experience concepts for an internal strategy forum. Looking more closely at the underlying design process makes Shedroff's point more clear:

"We started to observe people, not objects or technology. We observed and documented needs & wants, moods & modes, behaviors, social ties, lifestyles (...) spent hours distilling internal and external trend forecast reports, digging and hand-picking ideas from past vision projects, gathering inspiration, and interviewing experts and stakeholders company-wide. (...) Then we discussed. A lot. The often small, and sometimes big moments of everyday life. We built and illustrated moments we believed were the essence of connecting, showing off, working, and exploring. All these moments were consolidated into structured scenarios and storyboards. (...) Then we designed in parallel products, colours & materials, and UIs while continuing scripting and storyboarding the four stories. (...) ideas and designs were shared, evolved and incorporated instantly. (...) Then we went into an iteration and assessment cycle while keeping an eye on the looming deadline. What are we trying to communicate again!? Are the designs telling the right stories? How can we sharpen the message?"

Some great examples here from Nokia about how the design process supports foresight.

Also, when preparing my talk for Design Engaged about failed futures, I often encountered the issue of design and/or foresight: the failures I mentioned could be thought as failed forecasts (e.g. the future is not about a certain endpoint/idea) or failed design (e.g. the future is not about a certain instantiation of an endpoint). One can see products as instantiation of endpoints, which is actually what Chris Heathcote commented on last week. Shedroff's arguments above adds up to the discussion by framing another relationship, or dimension, between design and foresight than the one I discuss in my DE2008 talk.