Hello all!

Black Swans_Pysty_FINAL_RGBWe want to wish you all welcome to Black Swans’ website. We are a student association founded by Futures Studies students of the University of Turku. This site aims to provide information about our association and interesting content for our members.

Please enjoy our site and feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

Don’t fear unexpected future change – prepare for it!

“Change frightens” – said Carl Haglund at the Project Management Institute Conference last week in Helsinki. The former Finnish Minister of Defense and now a CEO of the biofuel company (Kaidi) pointed out to the fact that change, even though is happening all the time, is still seen as a danger. Not only people often deny change (Donald Trump as a president of US, Brexit) but they also do not know how to deal with it. According to Haglund, this applies not only to the public sector, which we traditionally accuse of being slow and conservative, but also to the private business, where managers prefer to stick to “business as usual” as the safest approach.

In 2000, which is now 17 years ago, Roevens and Rowley published their ‘’Organize with chaos’’ book, claiming that ‘’Managers must start loving change’’. Surely, this thought must have been revolutionary back then. What is a bit frightening – it seems same revolutionary almost two decades afterwards! We, humans have a natural tendency to avoid change, which is associated with uncertainty and risk. We love our sophisticated plans, which give us a feeling of control and power. Reports on implementation of projects we deal with include such words as ‘’according to the plan’’, or ‘’behind plan’’ and there is this negative ‘’deviation’’ for ‘’change’’. But really, do we think everything can be planned, anticipated and controlled?

World is far more complex than it seems from the manager’s office. Some changes might be affected by us, some happen when we least expect them – here Haglund shared the story from his life, how he, not expecting this to happen so quickly, became a Secretary of State at the age of 29 only because his predecessor’s mistake.

Also in business, future change cannot be fully predicted but it can be explored and prepared for. Futurists have lots of tools used in e.g. foresight that can benefit the managers and their organizations in dealing with the uncertain tomorrow. Instead of the rigid plans, they provide analysis, forecasts and set of scenarios that can widen one’s perspective on the options. They help the leaders embrace change, enjoy it and get the best out of it.

Futures Research Consulting is a cooperative, which gathers young professionals that can help you and your organization feeling more comfortable about the change. After all, change is the only constant, so prepare for it now!

Contact us for more information about Futures Research Consulting offer: futuresresearchconsulting(at)gmail.com

Karolina Mackiewicz (MA Political Sciences, MA Futures Studies) – project manager, change facilitator and futurist

 

 

 

 

Excursion to the PM’s Office

By Vanessa Deggins

At the end of April, I along with other Master’s Students from the Futures Studies program visited the Finnish government’s foresight unit in Helsinki. It consists of specialists from the Prime Minister’s office and Sitra, The Finnish Innovation Fund. The National Foresight Network is a mostly online forum of Finnish organizations that are active in foresight. Online forums and social media are used to engage citizens, businesses and other actors who may have valuable input. There is also an annual FinnSight Forum where government officials and foresight specialists come together to discuss various issues in preparation for the government’s annual report on the future. On the regional level, each of the 19 regions in Finland have at least one person working on foresight as part of a council that focuses on the areas specific interests and issues.

We started by introducing ourselves to our hosts and what future trends we were interested in. This ranged from education to renewable energy to artificial intelligence. Next, there were two presentations, the first from Kaisa Oksanen, a senior specialist with the Prime Minister’s Office. Kaisa explained the national foresight process for Finland and her unit’s role. They are able to work independent of parliamentary influence but their work is made available to them. Some reports include sustainable growth and its contributions to quality of life and the future of work and working life in Finnish society. They also hold workshops for civil servants to help them understand foresight and to develop a future oriented mindset in their policy decisions. One new trend Kaisa said they are working on is focusing on using experimentation in the decision making process and trying to encourage members of Parliament to take a more evidence-based approach to their work.

The next presentation was from Elina Kiiski Kataja, a foresight specialist with Sitra. She discussed one of Sitra’s most recent reports on the Future of Democracy. She explained that it is a system that hasn’t necessarily adapted much from it’s initial processes almost 100 years ago. This has lead to “democracy fatigue’ which is characterized by lower voter participation due to disillusionment or feelings of disconnection from elected officials. Key to fixing these issues, she said, is new methods of operation to bring about greater inclusion. These issues, it is believed, have lead to the rise in far right parties and populist politicians in many European countries and the United States. Specific examples include Donald Trump’s election in the United States and the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, which were not predicted by the current political models. Part of this change will be reconciling the differences and seeming conflicts between representative democracy and futures thinking, both of which Elina feels are important for any move forward.

Her article on the topic chronicles Finland’s representative structural changes since the 19th century. It has changed from the House of Estates, mostly aristocratic, to a representative democracy brought in by the Industrial Revolution and the rise of a large working class population. As the country has moved away from an largely industrialized society, the key is to figure out what will be the next class or estate that defines the next composition of society and future form of administrative authority.

(opinion) I found the visit very thought provoking as I am interested in how technology has disrupted and continues to disrupt not only society’s standard practices, but some structures of inequality that have been maintained throughout society for a very long time. The other side to this are the people who feel left behind because of the technology. These of course, are the people who are and have been losing jobs to automation, which is projected to continue. The bright side to this is that many jobs will also be created because of automation and I think key to this is to try to find a place for those who feel left behind. A hurdle would be people who don’t want to adapt to fit into these changes. We are all human after all. Another possible negative, as has been seen throughout the entire world, are outside forces, mainly politicians, using these issues to further ulterior motives that have had dangerous consequences. There is no silver bullet of course, and any plan to move forward will require changes on many different levels.

Important Links:

Futures workshops – a flexible participatory method

Futures workshops is an important and regularly used futures research method among the participatory methods in futures studies. The method is usable and used in many different situations and with different kinds of participants from experts to ordinary citizens as example in communities, municipalities, NGO ́s, corporations and small firms. Futures workshops originates to Austrian Robert Jungk who organised in 1950’s structured group meetings for citizens to solve problems and develop proposals for desired future and the first Future workshop was organised in 1962.

Futures workshops method emphasises team work, learning, critique, democracy and empowerment and it is focused on participative group processes and real-life problems. The basic structure of the method – formulating the problem – fantasising of the preferable future – evaluating the ideas and creating an action plan, can be supported with different kind of tools and today there are several elaborated version about the workshops method. Depending on the target, e.g. creating scenarios, future images and visions or heaps of novel ideas the structure and methods inside the workshops vary. Anyhow, the positive and encouraging atmosphere and emphasising creativity support the targeted aims in the workshops.

Workshops can be fun, challenging and productive. With the skilled facilitators workshops can lead the free brainstorming further toward innovative visions with proper implementation plans. When targeting innovative visions the diversity of the perspectives, different kind of participants – the whole spectrum of stakeholders, is beneficial.

The futures workshops are about creating desirable futures and findings ways to achieve the desired future – what could be better?

Satu Tuittila

COOP Blog: Foresight and attitudes towards the future

In Finnish below

Essi Silvonen writes in her blog post  that when a person or an organisation actively participates in building the future, there is a chance to decrease the amount of surprises and increase the level of development that feels preferred.

According to Godet (2006, p.7), we can define five basic attitudes towards the future that a person or an organisation generally demonstrates when dealing with new issues:

  1. Passive: accepts change.
  2. Reactive: reacts to problems and situations when they occur.
  3. Preactive: prepares for foreseeable changes in advance.
  4. Proactive: acts to create a desired future.
  5. Anticipative: smartly combines the re­active, preactive and proactive attitudes.

Foresight represents Godet’s number five, the anticipative attitude. People – or organizations they form – with the reactive attitude wait to discover what will happen and then act accordingly. Although this attitude means making decisions when a change has already taken place, you need some forethought to be able to react when needed. Foresight expresses the preactive attitude as the various options are thought in advance so that one can better equip to new situations and challenges. Companies should be sensitive to what is happening around them so that they can pre­pare for and take advantage of the changes in their environment. Especially small com­panies, who cannot much influence their operating environment, should make possible scenarios of the environment and then consider what they should do, in order to succeed, in any given scenario. The proactive attitude shows up as creativity, imagination and innovativeness in foresight activities. Companies do not just equip to different possibilities but recognize that they are capable of making a difference. Foresight helps them direct their actions more towards the future and have an impact on it.

With foresight, companies get insights and understanding about the factors affecting the future so that they can detect and identify the variables that are the most significant ones for them. The aim is to support and improve the decision-making process by building mutual understanding and making choices regarding future objectives. All this allows companies to prepare better for changes, challenges and unexpected factors. It also helps them in perceiving and understanding future opportunities and producing innovations as well as in finding new business areas and directions for development. How would you define your organisation’s attitude towards the future?

Taina Viima

 

Ennakointi ja asenteet tulevaisuutta kohtaan

Essi Silvonen kirjoittaa blogipostauksessaan, että yksilö tai organisaatio voi vähentää yllätyksenä tulevien tapahtumien määrää ja lisätä toivotunlaisen tulevaisuuden todennäköisyyttä aktiivisesti ennakoimalla ja valmistelemalla tulevaisuuttaan.

Godet (2006, s.7), määrittelee viisi perusasennetta tulevaisuutta kohtaan. Yksilö tai organisaatio voi suhtautua uusiin asioihin hänen mukaansa seuraavilla tavoilla:

  1. Passiivisesti: hyväksyy muutoksen.
  2. Reaktiivisesti: reagoi ongelmiin ja tilanteisiin niiden ilmaantuessa.
  3. Preaktiivisesti: valmistautuu etukäteen ennakoitavissa oleviin muutoksiin.
  4. Proaktiivisesti: toimii luodakseen toivotunlaisen tulevaisuuden.
  5. Ennakoivasti: yhdistää taitavasti reaktiivista, preaktiivista ja proaktiivista asennetta.

Ennakointi edustaa tätä viidettä asennetta. Reaktiivisen asenteen omaavat ihmiset – tai heidän muodostamansa organisaatiot – odottavat nähdäkseen, mitä tapahtuu, ja toimivat sen mukaisesti. Vaikka tämä asenne tarkoittaa päätösten tekemistä vasta sitten, kun muutos on jo tapahtunut, tarvitaan kuitenkin jonkinlaista varautumista, jotta pystytään tarvittaessa reagoimaan.  Ennakointi ilmentää preaktiivista asennetta silloin, kun erilaisia mahdollisuuksia mietitään etukäteen, jotta voidaan paremmin varautua uusiin tilanteisiin ja haasteisiin. Yritysten pitäisi olla herkkiä toimintaympäristönsä muutoksille, jotta ne voisivat valmistautua niihin ja hyötyä niistä. Varsinkin pienten yritysten, joiden mahdollisuudet vaikuttaa toimintaympäristöönsä ovat vähäiset, kannattaisi luoda skenaarioita vaihtoehtoisista toimintaympäristön tulevaisuuksista ja niiden pohjalta pohtia, miten menestyä eri tilanteissa. Proaktiivinen asenne ilmenee ennakointitoiminnoissa luovuutena, mielikuvituksena ja innovatiivisuutena. Yritykset eivät vain valmistaudu eri vaihtoehtoihin, vaan tiedostavat, että pystyvät itse vaikuttamaan asioihin. Ennakointi siis auttaa yrityksiä suuntaamaan toimintansa enemmin tulevaisuuteen sekä myös vaikuttamaan siihen.

Ennakoinnin avulla yritykset saavat ymmärrystä tulevaisuuteen vaikuttavista asioista. Näin ne voivat havaita ja tunnistaa niille tärkeimmät muuttujat. Tarkoitus on tukea ja parantaa yrityksen päätöksentekoprosessia rakentamalla yhteisymmärrystä ja tekemällä tulevaisuuden päämääriä koskevia valintoja. Kaikki tämä mahdollistaa yrityksen paremman varautumisen muutoksiin, haasteisiin ja yllätyksellisiin tekijöihin. Se myös auttaa niitä hahmottamaan ja ymmärtämään tulevaisuuden mahdollisuuksia, tuottamaan innovaatioita ja löytämään uusia liiketoimintamahdollisuuksia ja kehityssuuntia. Kuinka sinä määrittelisit oman organisaatiosi suhtautumisen tulevaisuuteen?

Taina Viima

Godet, Michel (2006) Creating Futures. Scenario Planning as a Strategic Management tool. http://www.laprospective.fr/dyn/anglais/ouvrages/creatingfutures2006.pdf

Experimentation-driven innovations at the City of Turku

Heart bouncing, palms sweating, hands shaking… I drank maybe 10 glasses of water non-stop in that 1,5 hours. Below you can find more about my first official outing as a foresight specialist: a panel discussion in front of 100 people on 2nd of March at Marina Palace, Turku. But here’s a little background first.

Let’s start at the very beginning. On 23rd of December last year I got a message in my inbox to inform me, that I had been chosen for the urban planning research program of the City of Turku to do my master’s thesis. Behind that pretty Christmas present decision there were hours and hours of ideation, coordination, project planning and leaps of faith. I had even sent an email to one of the most prominent foresight practitioners in the world: Professor René Rohrbeck from the University of Aarhus.

Making the thesis is a whole other story, but long story short, it’s about foresight performance in public governance. This is an interesting challenge, as it’s connected to the program of knowledge management of the Finnish national strategy. Performance management has its origins in managing evidence-based knowledge on the organizational activities. But although this is a very common philosophical perspective of managing many Finnish organizations in the present time, it still has its faults, especially when thinking the unthinkable: the future.

The topic of the panel discussion was about experimentation-driven innovation, kokeilukulttuuri in Finnish. One of the key examples of this is the Finnish social security system and the basic income experiment executed by the institutions handling it, Kela.

Check out this Youtube-video on basic income in Finland:

Experimentation-driven innovation is one of the key themes of the Finnish national strategy, and driving this sort of development forward comes from good experiences in “leaning” out activities in, for example, the British public governance. More of the tools on progressing can be seen at Demos Helsinki approach model (in Finnish): http://www.demoshelsinki.fi/2015/10/16/kokeilukulttuuri-miten-se-otetaan-kayttoon/

To me, it was clear from the beginning that I’m going to keep my identity as a student and not to try and pretend to be something else. I tried imagining myself giving out nice comments in complete gibberish, aka. academic discourse, but it didn’t feel like me. What I did, was used the insight I’ve got from my thesis research, knowing that over 50% of the city officials have no previous experience on foresight (a result from my thesis, to be published in the autumn 2017).

I put a “HELP!” note on the Futures Studies Turku Facebook Group (restricted for students only), got some valuable help (thanks guys!) to have an understanding how it would be, made extremely short notes based on the questions that I got a day (!) before, and just went for it.

In the end, the panel discussion didn’t turn out anything like I thought. It turned out better than that. Everyone was relaxed, happy, excited, had different perspectives, ideas and very determined comments. I cannot even tell the details as the situation just created a feeling of flow. But Ellinoora was there and might have a more detailed view. In my opinion, this was because of the experienced but excited facilitators, as well as the extremely interesting presentations before that by Sami Paju and Lilli-Nora Siikasmaa. All the presentations and some highlight, as well as a funny picture of us panelists and me laughing at the end of the line you can see in here: http://www.turku.fi/uutinen/2017-03-08_turussa-omistettiin-iltapaiva-kokeilukulttuurille

All in all, this was definitely worth it. Even though I was thinking “what am I doing here”, it turned out that my perspectives and insights were as valuable as the others’, and I got valuable experience in public performance. Thank you so much Tarja Vuorinen for giving me this opportunity! She also promised that futures studies students are invited to visit the City of Turku for a school trip!

About the blog: We’re gonna start posting about the daily lives of futures studies specialists in the making–us. If you have something to share, something interesting to write about and a will to gather experience and another nice point in your portfolio on digital communication, let us know if you want to make a blog post!

Anna Einola

COOP Blog: Act Now!

If I was asked about one piece of advice to anticipate future, I would say “Act now”. And why is that? Because we are not exploring futures in order to know what will happen, but we are exploring them to find out what needs to done TODAY in order that the future would be preferable for us.

For some of us it seems too wide to comprehend, that a single individual could have any impact on the future and this is partially true – one human impact on the whole future of the world is probably not significant – but one human impact on his own future is enormous. And which one of them affect more on your life, the future of the world or the future of yourself?

None of us is at full control of our own future either, but there are significant things that can be made to anticipate and affect in our own future. Some of us are also in roles that our actions may affect futures of other people, businesses or maybe even wider futures.

If one decides to be a passenger in his life, it is to be expected that things will just happen and future will unfold surprisingly, providing random things. By actively participating in building ones own future will give a chance to decrease the amount of surprises and increase the level of development that feels preferred. This is true in individual as well as organisational context.

Regardless of the level of control you now feel you have over your own life and own future, futuring techniques have the power to help you to picture possible futures more broadly that you could have imagined. It does not aim to provide you with determined pipeline of proceeding in life but rather a set of opportunities and concrete ways to pursue them.

This is why my advice would be “Act now”. And if you are not quite sure what to do, you can start by contacting us and determining whether it´s your own future or the future of your company or association you feel would benefit for some assistance in anticipating and facilitating action towards a preferable future.

Essi Silvonen

Toimi nyt!

Jos minulta pyydettäisiin yhtä neuvoa tulevaisuuden ennakointiin, vastaisin ”Toimi nyt!”. Miksi? Koska tulevaisuuden tutkijoina emme ensisijaisesti suhtaudu tulevaisuuteen asiana, joka tulee tapahtumaan, vaan arvioimme asioita joita meidän tulisi tehdä nyt, jotta tulevaisuus olisi meille toivotunlainen.

Osalle meistä tuntuu liian laajalta ajatukselta se, että yhdellä ihmisellä voisi olla mitään vaikutusta tulevaisuuteen ja tavallaanhan se on myös totta – yhden ihmisen osuus koko maailman tulevaisuuden määrittämisessä on harvoin merkittävä –yhden ihmisen mahdollisuudet vaikuttaa hänen omaan tulevaisuuteensa sitä vastoin ovat valtavat. Ja kumpiko vaikuttaa enemmän sinun sinun elämääsi, maailman tulevaisuus vai sinun omasi?

Kenelläkään meistä ei ole rajatonta vaikutusvaltaa omaan tulevaisuuteemmekaan, mutta jokainen meistä voi merkittävästi vaikuttaa oman tulevaisuutensa ennakointiin ja toteuttamiseen. Moni meistä on myös asemassa, jossa voimme vaikuttaa muiden ihmisten, yritysten tai jopa sitäkin laajempiin tulevaisuuksiin.

Jos päättää olla oman elämänsä matkustaja, on odotettavissa että tulevaisuus on täynnä yllätyksiä, joihin voi olla huonosti valmistautunut. Mikäli valitsee aktiivisesti ennakoida ja valmistella tulevaisuuttaan, voi tätä yllätysmomenttia selvästi loiventaa ja toivotunlaisen tulevaisuuden todennäköisyyttä lisätä. Tämä on totta niin yksilötasolla, kuin yritystasollakin.

Riippumatta siitä, millainen tällä hetkellä kokemasi vaikutusmahdollisuuksien taso oman elämäsi suhteen on, tulevaisuuden ennakointitekniikoiden avulla on mahdollista tutkia vaihtoehtoisia tulevaisuuden mahdollisuuksia paljon laajemmin kuin voisit kuvitella. Niiden ei ole tarkoitus tarjota sinulle valmista putkea, vaan vaihtoehtoisia teitä sekä konkreettisia tapoja tavoitella niitä.

Yllämainittujen syiden johdosta ja siksi että vain sinulla on avaimet omaan tulevaisuuteesi, sanoisinkin että ”Toimi nyt”. Jos et ihan keksi mistä lähtisit tulevaisuutesi mahdollisuuksia availemaan, niin ole ensin yhteydessä meihin ja katsotaan voisimmeko me olla avuksi sinunja yrityksesi tulevaisuuden ennakoinnissa ja käytännön etenemisratkaisujen löytämisessä.

Essi Silvonen

COOP Blog: Multidisciplinarity – why it matters in Futures Studies and foresight

 

(In Finnish, see below)

Nowadays, there’s no such thing as a small or simple problem. When trying to find solutions, by default you have a dozen factors and stakeholders to consider. That reflects the need for a variety of disciplines to bring about useful solutions.

A single university faculty developing a strategic plan for the next 15 years would not only have to factor in the needs of its current students, but also how to attract students over those 15 years. This would also include projecting how much government funding will be available and how to lobby to make sure the school has continued access to funds they need or mitigate possible budget cuts. Economics, political science, marketing are just a few areas that may need to be addressed in a department.

For example, this would be a complex issue whether its a Faculty of Law or Engineering. They have to market the program and make sure they have enough money for the marketing, as well as paying lecturers. This might not necessarily be what an engineer signed up for when they started teaching their subject.

In Futures Studies, by default we are taught to approach issues this way. It is meant to give a holistic, more critical and hopefully more effective solution or set of solutions. To do this, we try to pull from many different academic disciplines. In our program, we have people with backgrounds that include marketing, law, corporate responsibility, human rights, entrepreneurship, public policy and engineering just to name a few. Having this much variety makes our co-op Futures Research Consulting uniquely qualified to handle any issue and offer effective solutions.

This would be the same situation in any company doing strategic planning. It’s not enough just to examine your product or service for efficiency and cost effectiveness. There are many outside factors that can have a big impact on the products. Along with competition, there are changing needs and preferences of the customer, the market and possibly government regulation. At Futures Research Consulting, we have the varied experience to handle this complex task. If you feel that we can fill that need with your company, please contact us.

Vanessa Deggins

Miksi monialaisuus on tärkeää tulevaisuuden tutkimuksessa ja ennakoinnissa?

Nykypäivän organisaatioissa ei ole sellaista, kuin pieni tai yksinkertainen asia. Tiellä tulevaisuuden ratkaisuihin on kymmeniä tekijöitä ja useita huomioon otettavia sidosryhmiä. Tavoitteita on myös yleensä hyvä lähestyä mahdollisimman laajalla näkökulmalla.

Esimerkiksi kehitettäessä koulutuksen strategista suunnitelmaa seuraavien 15 vuoden ajalle, ei voida keskittyä vain tämän hetken opiskelijoiden tarpeisiin vaan pitää miettiä tulevien 15 vuoden opiskelijoita ja heidän odotuksiaan. Rahoitus ja valtion osuus ovat olennaisia muuttujia sen varmistamiseen, että elinkelpoisuus jatkuu. Talous, politiikka ja markkinointi ovat vain muutamia niistä aloista, joita pitää ottaa huomioon, myös silloin kuin koulutuksen alana on laki tai suunnittelu. Koulutusta on markkinoitava ja samalla varmistettava että rahoitus riittää toiminnan pyörittämiseen. Nämä kaikki eivät välttämättä ole yhden ammattilaisen osaamisalueella, vaan tekijöitä tarvitaan monelta alalta.

Tulevaisuuden tutkimuksessa lähdetään aina lähestymään asioita monialaisesta näkokulmasta, jotta saadaan kokonaisvaltainen, mahdollisimman laaja-alainen ja terävä kuva mahdollisista ratkaisuista. Tämä mahdollistuu monen alan ammattilaisten yhteisellä koulutuksella ja yhteistyöllä. Kun markkinoinnin, talouden, vastuullisen liiketoiminnan ja yrityselämän sekä insinööritaidon ammattilaiset yhdistävät voimansa, on näkökulma tulevaisuuden mahdollisuuksiin huomattavasti kattavampi kuin erikoistuneiden ammattikuntien jäsenillä olisi mahdollista luoda.

Tämä tilanne toistuu usein yritysten strategisessa ennakointityössä. Katsottuna sisältäpäin ja yritysten omien voimavarojen ja osaamisalueiden läpi tulevaisuuden mahdollisuudet voivat näyttää hyvinkin erilaisilta kuin katsottaessa niitä ulkopuolelta ja puolueettomien monitieteellisten ammattilaisten toimesta. Yrityksen sisäisten ammattilaisten onkin pitkän aikavälin suunnittelussa hyödyllistä peilata omaa näkökantaansa tulevaisuuden ammattilaisten kanssa, jottei yrityksessä päädyttäisi katsomaan mielenkiintoisten tulevaisuuden mahdollisuuksien ohi vain siksi, etteivät ne näy yrityksen sisältä käsin yhtä selvästi kuin yritystä ulkopuolelta tarkastellessa.

Mikäli tunnet, että sinun yrityksesi pitkän aikavälin tavoitteiden asettaminen kaipaisi nykyistä monialaisempaa näkökulmaa, ole yhteydessä Futures Research Consultingiin ja keskustellaan tarpeistanne.

 

Vanessa Deggins