The Future, Backwards

Determine the next steps and actions required towards a desired outcome.

The Future, Backwards cover image
Topics
Alignment
Complexity
Narrative
Sensemaking
Visualization

The Future, Backwards exercise allows us to take a complex problem, and understand the many factors around it and to construct a vision of the system by its events that is not causal in nature and therefore not subject to narrative bias. The outcome of the game is that participants will understand a complex situation and system much more, and be able to guide events towards a desired outcome and away from an undesired one.


Activity overview:

The exercise consists of describing the current state of affairs along with two other possible scenarios: a positive future and a negative future state. Then, for each of the states, participants will identify the significant events that led to that outcome in reverse chronological order - as if going back in time. This provides a different view of possible sequence of events and helps participants clarify their understanding of the current situation.


Setup:

  • Break into 3 groups of 3-7 people. If the group is composed of different hierarchical levels, it is best to keep levels together. When homogenizing, the views tend to average out, falling along the usual corporate lines.
  • Provide 2 flip-board sheets to each group. The sheets should be taped together lengthwise.
  • Give different colored postit notes to each group, with at least red, green, blue and yellow postit colors.


Sequence:

All groups will work at the same time on the same activity. Each activity uses the same color postit.

  1. 3-5 min / Blue postits: Describe the current state in as many postits as needed. Place the resulting postits two thirds of the way from the left, vertically centered on the paper.
  2. 3 min / Yellow postits: Identify the most significant recent event that preceded the current state. Important: only look backwards, it is not need to ensure that the event flows forward correctly.
  3. 7-10 min / Yellow postits: Identify the most significant event that preceded the one just found, then repeat the process a few times. One postit per event.
  4. 3-5 min / Red postits: Describe the worst possible future scenario in as many postits as needed.
  5. 3-5 min / Green postits: Describe the best possible future scenario in as many postits as needed.
  6. 10 min / Yellow postits: Identify the most significant event that preceded the worst possible future scenario, then all the events that preceded that one.
  7. 10 min / Yellow postits: Identify the most significant event that preceded the best possible future scenario, then all the events that preceded that one.

At this point the "Future, Backwards" exercise is complete, but you still want the participants to draw conclusions from the experience. A few possible conclusion activities are:

  • A few rounds where one person stays at the table and others rotate to other tables. The person that stayed explains the the visitors their findings. Rotate until visitors have seen all tables, then have them debate findings in their original group.
  • You could do the above strategy using the world cafĂ© configuration to move people around.
  • Each table could present to the overall group, allowing for debates.
Source
https://cognitive-edge.com/the-future-backwards/
Like
Created on Oct 22, 2020 20:53,
last edited on Oct 22, 2020 20:50