Futuring & Innovation: Compelling Topics

The most compelling topics on the subject of Futuring and Innovation.

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  • There are forces that may help facilitate or reduce the likelihood of success of innovation, such as technological, cultural, economic, legal, ethical, temporal, social, societal, global, national, and local.
  • TED talks are videos that addresses innovations related to Technology, Education, and Design, and they can be found at this Web site,
  • Sociotechnical Systems: the interplay, impact, and mutual influence when technology is introduced into a social system, i.e. workplace, school, home, etc. (com, n.d.; Sociotechnical theory, n.d.) The social system comprises people at all levels of knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and needs (Sociotechnical theory, n.d.).
  • Think tanks are a group of people that review the literature, discuss the literature, think about ideas, do tons of research, write, provide ideas, legitimize ideas, advocate, lobby, and arguing just to address a problem(s) (Mendizabal, 2011; TBS, 2015; Whittenhauer, n.d.). In short, they are idea factories: creating, producing, and sharing (Whittenhauer, n.d.). The balance between research, consultancy, and advocacy and their source of their arguments/ideas: applied, empirical, synthesis, theoretical or academic research; help shape what type of think tank they are (Mendizabal, 2011). Finally, there are two types of think tank models, one roof model where everyone gathers in one physical place to meet face-to-face or the without walls model where members only communicate through technological means (Whittenhauer, n.d.).
  • Nominal Grouping Technique (NTG) is a tool for decision making, where it can be used to identify elements of a problem, identify and rank goals by priorities, identify experts, involve people from all levels to promote buy-in of the results (Deip, Thensen, Motiwalla, & Seshardi, 1997; Hashim et al., 2016; Pulat, 2014). Pulat (2014) describes the process as listing and prioritizing a list of options that is created through a normal brainstorming session, where the list of ideas is generated without criticism or evaluation.  Whereas Deip et al. (1977) describe the process as one that taps into the experiences of all people by asking them all to state their idea on a list, and no discussion is permitted until all ideas are listed, from which after a discussion on each item on the list can ranking each idea can begin. Finally, Hashim et al. (2016) stated that the method is best used to help a small team to reach consensus by gathering ideas from all and exciting buy-in of ideas.
  • Dalkey and Helmer (1963), described that the Delphi project as a way to use expert opinion, with the hopes of getting the strongest consensus of a group of experts. Pulat (2014) states that ideas are listed, and prioritized by a weighted point system to help reduce the number of possible solutions with no communication between the experts or of the results during the process until the very end.  However, Dalkey and Helmer (1963) described the process as repeated interviewing or questioning individual experts while avoiding confrontation of other experts.  Questions are centered on some central problem and between each round of questioning consists of available data requested by one expert to be shown to all experts, or new information that is considered potentially relevant by an expert (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963; Pulat, 2014).  The solution from this technique improves with soliciting experts with a range of experiences (Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004; Pulat, 2014).
  • Serendipitous innovations: discovering what makes one thing special and applying it elsewhere, like Velcro’s.
  • Exaptation innovations: Never giving up, finding secondary uses for the same product, and not being afraid to pivot when needed, like Play-Doh.
  • Erroneous innovations: Creating something by accident in the pursuit of something else, like Saccharin (C7H5NO3S) the artificial sweetener.
  • Kodak is a great example where a good plan but something went wrong because of circumstances beyond their control.
  • The traditional forecast is essentially extrapolating where you were and where are you are now into the future, and at the end of this extrapolated line this is “the most likely scenario” (Wade, 2012; Wade, 2014). Mathematical formulations and extrapolations is a mechanical basis for traditional forecasting (Wade, 2012). At one point, these forecasts make ±5-10% in their projections and call it the “the best and worst case scenario” (Wade, 2012; Wade, 2014).  This ± difference is a range of possibilities out of an actual 360o solution spherical space (Wade, 2014). There are both mathematical forms of extrapolation and mental forms of extrapolation and both are quite dangerous because they assume that the world doesn’t change much (Wade, 2012).
  • Scenario planning could be done with 9-30 participants (Wade, 2012). But, a key requirement of scenario planning is for everyone to understand that knowing the future is impossible and yet people want to know where the future could go (Wade, 2014).  However, it is important to note that scenarios are not predictions; scenarios only illuminate different ways the future may unfold (Wade, 2012)! Therefore, this tool to come up with an approach that is creative, yet methodological, that would help spell out some of the future scenarios that could happen has ten steps (Wade, 2012; Wade, 2014):
    1. Framing the challenge
    2. Gathering information
    3. Identifying driving forces
    4. Defining the future’s critical “either/or” uncertainties
    5. Generating the scenarios
    6. Fleshing them out and creating story lines
    7. Validating the scenarios and identifying future research needs
    8. Assessing their implications and defining possible responses
    9. Identifying signposts
    10. Monitoring and updating the scenarios as times goes on

Resources:

  • Dalkey, N., & Helmer, O. (1963). An experimental application of the Delphi method to the use of experts.Management science9(3), 458-467.
  • Deip, P., Thesen, A., Motiwalla, J., & Seshardi, N. (1977). Nominal group technique.
  • com (n.d.) socio-technical system. A Dictionary of Sociology. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/socio-technical-system
  • Hashim, A. T., Ariffin, A., Razalli, A. R., Shukor, A. A., NizamNasrifan, M., Ariffin, A. K., … & Yusof, N. A. A. (2016). Nominal Group Technique: a Brainstorming Tool for Identifying Learning Activities Using Musical Instruments to Enhance Creativity and Imagination of Young Children.International Advisory Board,23, 80.
  • Mendizabal, E. (2011). Different ways to define and describe think tanks. On Think Tanks. Retrieved from https://onthinktanks.org/articles/different-ways-to-define-and-describe-think-tanks/
  • Okoli, C., & Pawlowski, S. D. (2004). The Delphi method as a research tool: an example, design considerations and applications.Information & management42(1), 15-29.
  • Pulat, B. (2014) Lean/six sigma black belt certification workshop: body of knowledge. Creative Insights, LLC.
  • Socio-Technical Theory (n.d.) Brigham Young University. Retrieved from http://istheory.byu.edu/wiki/Socio-technical_theory
  • Wade, W. (2012) Scenario Planning: A Field Guide to the Future. John Wiley & Sons P&T. VitalSource Bookshelf Online.
  • Wade, W. (2014). Scenario Planning – Thinking differently about future innovation. Globis Retrieved from http://e.globis.jp/article/343

Whittenhauer, K. (n.d.). Effective think tank methods. eHow. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/way_5728092_effective-think-tank-methods.html

Think Tank Methods

A discussion on the concept of think tank methods, or methods that are deliberate and foster innovation.

Think tanks are a group of people that review the literature, discuss about the literature, think about ideas, do tons of research, write, provide ideas, legitimize ideas, advocate, lobby, and arguing just to address a problem(s) (Mendizabal, 2011; TBS, 2015; Whittenhauer, n.d.). In short, they are idea factories: creating, producing, and sharing (Whittenhauer, n.d.). The balance between research, consultancy, and advocacy and their source of their arguments/ideas: applied, empirical, synthesis, theoretical or academic research; help shape what type of think tank they are (Mendizabal, 2011). Finally, there are two types of think tank models, one roof model where everyone gathers in one physical place to meet face-to-face or the without walls model where members only communicate through technological means (Whittenhauer, n.d.).

McGann (2015) stated that the explosive growth of think tanks could be attributed to the growth in information and technology and a decline of government’s control of information, while there is a rise in the complexity and nature of the issues.  The U.S. houses 1989 think tanks, which is about 33% of the world’s total think tanks at 6,618 and housed in 182 countries around the world (McGann, 2015; TBS, 2015). Meanwhile, Europe houses 1822 think tanks (McGann, 2015).

Current trends in think tanks are: globalization; growth of international actors; democratization; demands for independent information and analysis; big data and super computers; increased complexity of policy issues; the information age and the rate of technological change; increasingly open debate about government decision making; global “hacktivist”, anarchist, and populist movements; global structural adjustment; economic crisis and political paralysis; policy tsunamis; increasing political polarization; and short-termism (McGann, 2015).

Think tanks within a company can be used to help Research and Development teams within the company (Penttila, 2007).  Think tanks in both capacities have the challenge to harness their knowledge, information, and energy to support progress (McGann, 2015). However, some companies cannot afford an innovation center or a think tank, even though it is a vital in today’s current market, due to competitive challenges, resource challenges, technological challenges, and policy challenges (McGann, 2015; Penttila, 2007).  Penttila (2007) gathered five strategies from think tanks that are a positive force for innovation: (1) combining ideas by looking for intersections between ideas and how they may work together; (2), think backwards by starting with the desired outcome in mind and working your way back; (3) rapidly prototype by putting ideas into action on a small yet realistic scale; (4) have funds set aside for encouraging people incubate and chasing after ideas; and (5) record ideas through an online environment.  For companies with little budget adopting a without walls, model thinks tank is more economical, and most overhead costs are not paid by the think tank, allowing for more money to be invested into research (Whittenhauer, n.d.).

Measuring the influence of a think tank composes of: the number of active scholars in it, publication record, scholarly achievements, how well they are attracting and holding visitor traffic from their web portals, average yearly revenue, number of categories they address, and how deep did their research affect the culture (TBS, 2015).  This is essentially assessing them by their intellectual depth, influence (politically or within the organization), marketability, value generating capabilities, etc. (McGann, 2015).

The top 10 most influential think tanks in the U.S. according to TBS (2015) are:

  • Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs (Politically Independent)
  • Earth Institute (Politically Centrist)
  • Heritage Foundation (Politically Conservative)
  • Human Rights Watch (Politically Liberal)
  • Kaiser Family Foundation (Politically Independent)
  • Council on Foreign Relations (Politically Independent)
  • Brookings Institute (Politically Progressive)
  • Cato Institute (Politically Libertarian)
  • Ludwig von Mises Institute (Politically Libertarian/Classical Liberal)
  • American Enterprise Institute (Politically Conservative)

Looking at the top two think tanks more closely

Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs: Based off of Harvard, this university-affiliated think tank deals with issues like nuclear power plants, nuclear security, international security and defense, cyber espionage, environment and climate change, energy, science and technology, international relations, conflict and conflict resolution, governance, economics and global affairs (Belfer Center, n.d., TBS, 2015). They have a monetary monthly traffic of $7.7M and have over 100 media references (TBS, 2015).

Earth Institute: Another university-affiliated think tank, founded by Columbia University, the primary focus of research for this think tank revolves around the climate, water, energy, agriculture, ecosystems, global health, urbanization, hazards and risk reduction, which are all foundational to the earth’s systems and life (Earth Institute, n.d.; TBS, 2015). They have a monetary monthly traffic of $5.2M and have over 100 media references (TBS, 2015).

Resources: