About half of my time is now being spent on the Sensing City project. As a result updates to this blog will be infrequent as the project gathers pace. In the meantime you can also monitor progress on the Sensing City FaceBook page. Thanks.
It’s been a long and very rewarding journey working with the Canterbury District Health Board (Christchurch, New Zealand) and the fruits of the labour are starting to be born. One of the latest projects to come out of long term transformation thinking was featured on a local news channel, and can be seen below:
In October last year the Singapore Government held it’s first ‘Foresight Week.’ I was invited to both the International Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning Symposium, but, more interestingly, also the Foresight Conference. I make this observation about the latter event because it was organised by a team in the Prime Minister’s Office called the Centre for Strategic Futures (CSF). While the Risk Symposium was attended by a couple of hundred people from around the world, the Foresight Conference was held over three days and had an invite-only audience of about thirty.
Included in this thirty were the likes of Paul Saffo, Peter Schwartz, Jeremy Bentham, Neal Stephenson, Dave Snowden and Ian Goldin. The mix of people, backgrounds and theories in the room was extraordinary, and here’s my long overdue notes from the session (note that it was Chatham House Rules so no specific attributions are made).
The richness of the sessions made for one hell of a mind map, and looking at it now I’m only going to pull out the highlights that caught my attention:
However the overriding theme through the three days was complexity and how it impacts the world today. The world today is not the world of 50 years ago, however the governance structures that create order in the world today were created when the world was much more stable. What do governments of the future look like in a world that screams complexity at every turn?
I don’t know the answer to that but would like to finish my notes with two quotes that resonated with me over the week in Singapore:
“Religions are like operating systems for societies”
“Risk is the price you pay for opportunity.”
It’s been a busy year on the publishing front. Firstly there was Really Bad Workshops (and how to avoid them) which I self published mid-year, and now there’s Sustaining Innovation.
It’s a collection of insights from various innovation initiatives around the world. I wrote a chapter on the Shell GameChanger Technology Futures programme, and co-authored it with my colleagues Tim Jones and Leo Roodart, the recently retired head of GameChanger.
It’s on pre-order here:
UPDATE: You can now read the chapter online here.
Over the weekend I was interviewed on Radio New Zealand about a initiative to forecast the future of Christchurch (my home town that has been devastated by a series of earthquakes since Sept 2010). It was called Magnetic South and was a version of the Foresight Engine developed by the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto.
It’s a way of scaling public engagement so that ideas can not only be submitted, but can also be built upon in a transparent manner. The software also adds a game layer which turns the initiative from something potentially dry, into something that becomes compelling and addictive.
Magnetic South went extremely well, with over 8000 ideas submitted, built upon and improved by collaboration from the time the game commenced.
You can see the threads of the game here, where some very sharp visualisation enables the tracking of individual ideas as the are commented on and built upon.
Although I was the one that was interviewed, kudos needs to go to Richard Gordon, CEO of Landcare Research who backed the game, Bob Frame who drove it (and who took some conversations we had a couple of years ago to places that I didn’t expect) and Stephanie Pride who got very little sleep for the 5 weeks prior to the game, and during the game itself.
(However my interview did cause a hiccup in the process, when Radio NZ listeners took the chance to logon in such numbers that the server in Silicon Vally crashed the game prematurely.)
You can hear the full interview here.
Over the last 18 months I’ve been working with Tim Jones and a few other key individuals on the Future Agenda programme. It’s the world’s largest foresight programme (with over fifty workshops around the world) and possibly the first open source programme.
It picks up from the work we did for Shell in 2007 on the GameChanger Technology Futures programme.
The book pulls together the key findings from the programe and has just been released. Tim was on CNBC last week discussing some of the trends as we look out to 2020:
I’ve been working a lot in the health system over the last three years, breaking paradigms and introducing new approaches to delivering sustainable health care in the next ten years. Many people in the system believe it’s a complex system, but I had a fascinating conversation today with someone who totally disagreed with this. When headhunted to be a CEO at one of Australasia’s biggest hospitals he had no health experience but had managed complex multinational corporations with thousands of employees and tens of thousands of products. He said that without a doubt these organisations were complex. Health, on the other hand was not. His exact words were worth repeating:
“Health systems are not complex, they’re disorganised. Healthcare is the only trillion dollar sector that is run like a cottage industry.”
The more I get to work with people in the health system the more I’m inclined to agree with him.
Working with a client on a prediction market/ideas management marketplace that we hope to reach 10,000 people with. Now that’s keeping me busy…
In the second post subtitled “what has been keeping me busy,” Future Agenda is now live. This is a unique cross-discipline programme which is uniting the best minds from around the globe to address the greatest challenges of the next decade. In doing so, it is mapping out the major issues, identifying and debating potential solutions and suggesting the best ways forward. We’ve used a website as a centre point for the programme,which in effect is creating a structured open-source approach to foresight.
I encourage you to visit the site and to add your comments.