STL Design Community Creates ‘The Thing from the Future’

“I want something just like this, but not this,” is one of the phrases most often heard by anyone seeking to design something new. That something could be as simple as a business card or website and as complex as a new city block or business strategy. The phrase is generally uttered by well-meaning people who are attempting to express some outcome that remains inarticulable with current tools.

The trouble is this: The future is a space that is nebulous and abstract. And creating a prototype for the expression of those ideas about the future is largely the job of business visionaries, design thinkers and organizational leaders. That task is, at best, tough.

Here is what we need: A useful way of interpreting and communicating visions of the future that can inspire creativity.

“Every human, by virtue of being human, is capable of vision. Playing a game like this can help you create a framework for articulating vision.”

“There are people we often call ‘visionaries’ who do this work intuitively,” said Jeremy Nulik, evangelist prime at Bigwidesky. “However, every human, by virtue of being human, is capable of vision. Playing a game like this can help you create a framework for articulating vision.”

St. Louis Design Week 2017
Would you like to play a game of futures?

To more involve the design-minded community in taking on widespread crises of vision, Bigwidesky hosted a special lunch and learn (How to Unlock Creative Vision: A workshop on applying design futures thinking to your biggest creative challenges during St. Louis Design Week. The week was an all-too-fitting time to have the conversation since it gathers the best minds in the design, communications, business and entrepreneurial communities.

St. Louis Design Week 2017
The St. Louis design community turned out for the creation of artifacts from the future.

It was standing room only as Jeremy Nulik facilitated a workshop with dozens of business leaders and design thinkers. He outlined why thinking like a futurist can help anyone to articulate vision. The attendees were then set in motion on playing The Thing from the Future — a game based upon the work of renowned futurist and friend of Bigwidesky, Stuart Candy.

St. Louis Design Week 2017
The Gryffindor shirt is not a political statement.

The game is played with four categories of cards:

  • Arc (the backdrop or category of future)
  • Terrain (the domain the artifact comes from)
  • Artifact (the actual thing)
  • Mood (the emotional response that present-day people would have to the artifact).

Participants then create an artifact to represent the scenario.

The goal of The Thing from the Future is to create the muscle memory for how to interpret visions of the future. And it serves as a way to expose the broad possibility space of multiple futures. During the lunch and learn, the attendees were divided into groups and given a scenario based on their four cards.

The Thing from the Future card game
Angela Ortmann provided a tweet fromPOTUS Eminem in 2038 regarding a collapse scenario of the ag industry. The mood produced in the present day should be happiness. Did it work? #makenapagreatagain

If you want to download the cards used during the lunch and learn, you can print and play them from here. Also, you can use the ones developed by Stuart Candy here.

Here’s how the cards can be used to gamify thinking like a futurist:

  1. The number of rounds, players and judges are determined.
  2. The judge draws one card from each category — Arc, Terrain, Artifact, Mood.
  3. The players use a predetermined time to think through their artifact given the constraints. This can be in the form of narrative or visualizations or both.
  4. Artifacts are shared between players and the judge.
  5. The judge declares the most compelling vision and that player is awarded the cards.
  6. One of the players becomes a judge for the next round and play continues.
  7. The player with the most cards at the end of predetermined rounds is declared the best winner.

If you play using Bigwidesky cards, you are encouraged to post your artifacts to Twitter or Instagram and tag them with #bigwidesky.

PRO TIP: Do not be concerned with playing the game perfectly. The point of the game is to develop the muscle memory for evaluating the possibility space of the future and for unlocking creative vision. By creating rituals or games that seek to “play futures,” organizations and individuals can become more agile and intelligent thinkers. They can also create visions of the future that have depth and weight — two ingredients that increase the likelihood that others will align with the vision. (If you think your organization would benefit from playing the game, send an email to Angela.)