inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #0 of 74: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Thu 24 Feb 05 08:35
    
Inkwell.vue welcomes Derek Woodgate and Wayne Pethrick of Futures-Lab, a
futurist consultation based in Austin, Texas.  They've just published
_Future Frequencies_, a book that "delivers a unique insight into how
innovative approaches in the realm of progressive culture can stimulate
revolutionary thinking for thinking about the future." The book
discusses their successful approach in creating an understanding of
future opportunities for corporate and institutional clients. It also
discusses the impact of progressive or fringe cultures on their work.

Practicing Futurist and founding and board member of the Association of
Professional Futurists, (APF), Derek set up the Futures Lab at the end
of 1997, having previous experience as an executive on the board of two
major corporations (Vivat and VF Europe) and over 15 years Senior
Vice-President-level management and operational responsibilities in
international businesses and a 9 year spell with the British Foreign &
Commonwealth Office.  Derek is best known for creating revolutionary
futures for major corporations including Nissan, Casio, WorldSpace,
Ford, Pennzoil, Nestle, Dial Corp, Cadbury-Schweppes, Hugo Boss,
Intercontinental Hotels, MTV and many more. He graduated with a Bachelor
Degree (Hons.) from University College London, in Contemporary Slav
Studies and then gained his Masters in Economics - (concentration in
politics) from Zagreb University, a city where he spent over ten years.  
He is a frequent conference speaker, panelist and commentator on the
future. Derek is, a professional member of The World Futures Society and
on the board of the Central Texas Chapter, The World Futures Studies
Federation and is also on the Vision and Strategy Committee for the
future of Central Texas. He has lived and worked in eleven countries and
is at home in seven languages.

Authenticity, Excellence and Relevance are three key things that Wayne
Pethrick strives for in his work as a Futurist. He sees his role as
helping clients make sense out of complexity, by forecasting emerging
trends and by identifying unseen connections, in order that they might
plan successfully for their future.  Wayne is well known for the
creation and development of an environmental scanning process for
emerging issues which has been adopted by several institutions and
corporations (e.g. European Commission, Ford Motor Company) as for his
use of image based communications in futures work. Wayne is also sought
after for his expertise and insights in the area of ethnographic futures
and urban culture. Accordingly he has a number of conference speaking
engagements and media interviews to his credit as well as serving as an
advisor to various boards and organizations.  With a Masters Degree in
Studies of the Future from the University of Houston-Clear Lake, he is
one of the few futurists with professional training in the field.

Jamais Cascio describes himself as "a freelance world-builder." As a
writer and consultant, he specializes in the design and creation of
plausible scenarios of the future, combining developments in science,
technology, social trends, and political systems. He's done this for a
wide variety of clients, including major computer firms, non-profit
organizations, European postal services, game companies, and television
producers. He was the primary author of the 2003 Global Business Network
core global scenarios. He's spoken in fora as diverse as an Italian
technology conference ("FuturShow 3000"), NPR (debating with Bill Joy
about the future path of technology), and a retreat for energy industry
strategic planners. He's also been an occasional game designer for for
Steve Jackson Games, and he wrote the Broken Dreams and the Toxic Memes
books for Transhuman Space, a new "hard science" science fiction
role-playing game. He's written about the collision of technology and
society for Wired, The Washington Post and Time.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #1 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Thu 24 Feb 05 08:52
    
I should also note that my role these days is as co-founder and senior
contributing editor for WorldChanging.com, a website which focuses on
identifying and analyzing the emerging tools, technologies, models and ideas
for building a sustainable, democratic, "bright green" future.

Thanks for setting this up, Jon.

Derek, Wayne, welcome.

Just to start out, could you tell us a little bit about what you think
"futurism" is these days? Many people outside the field often imagine that
futurists are all about predicting what's coming, either in a 1950s Disney
THE WONDERS OF TOMORROW sense or a 1980s Faith Popcorn/advertiser-friendly
superficial slogan sense. But that doesn't mean that those of us within the
field all agree on what we're doing!

So -- what *are* you doing?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #2 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Fri 25 Feb 05 06:28
    
You are right that there are numerous views on what a futurist is or
does and in our case "my lift intro" is that we create concrete,
actionable future opportunites for our clients and that we work in the
space beyond R&D and Strategic Planning. This is true I believe for
business futurists (we commonly work on seven to ten year out
horizons}, but those that work on more global issues with longer time
lines would probably see there role more in terms of presenting a range
of possible scenarios. Our scenarios are often seen as definitive
strategies and direction for the future. On some things we would all
agree and that is that we do not make predictions and we are not solely
trend watchers or framers. As Dator says a futurist has to have the
ability to synthesize, combine apparently unrelated connections, invent
and create. As we say "knowing the future is one thing, making it
happen is another" We are about creating the future, where in my view
we significantly differ from people like the so-called pop-futurists
Faith Popcorn, who has done much to bring the profession to the
forefront, even though I don't consider her a futurist in the sense I
have explained. The Association of Professional Futurists of which I am
a board member is doing its utmost to bring  more specificity to the
profession, without constricting its growth and extension.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #3 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Fri 25 Feb 05 07:36
    
You will here us regularly talking about revolution, about creating
revolutionary futures,  category redefining outputs, not more of the
same, repackaged in a newer, bigger, faster model, or what we call
"evolutionary futures". This sometimes initially frightens our clients
until they realize the benefits of the approach, which may ultimately
mean more of a dynamic change for them, but takes them into areas thaye
would never have considered. It is about finding new contexts,
understanding and accepting that the future is about discontinuous
change and "thinking the unthinkable" , which leads us to break out of
the framework set by the client's expectations to create a broader
intial context and vision from the outset.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #4 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 25 Feb 05 10:56
    
I've found that there's often tension between the need to provoke clients
into thinking beyond their comfort zones and the need to maintain plausible
utility. It's something of a truism that we often tend to overestimate 
short-term changes and underestimate long-term changes. We saw this happen time 
and again during the dot-com boom, where pundits would proclaim the 
revolutionary aspects of the latest new software or hardware release; few of 
those revolutionary promises could ever be fulfilled.

How do you balance that need to provoke and the need to be grounded in the 
plausible?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #5 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Fri 25 Feb 05 14:20
    
I agree with you about the need for a heavy dose of realism - getting
the creation and adoption of  programs for change in balance. However,
to me I find that mindset is incredibly important and that if we start
off with limitations and major preconceptions, we come up short.
Obviously, we ultimately need to deliver practical, plausible futures
that will get implemented. That is why as you will have seen from the
book, we have a six stage process, that engages the client either in
smaller (six or so) or larger groups (20) of key multidsiciplinary
personnel at each stage, both to keep them undestanding the insights
and flow and also to optimize interaction throughout. In the final
stage Futurefabbing, we not only create implementation strategies, but
also a "Rolling back the future", which works back from the preferred
future towards the present and sets a timeline for development. In
creating any scenario, it is important to build in sufficient
flexibility so that it can be adjusted, extended and remixed as it is
developed to enable the substitution or addition of new technologies,
new ways of going to market, etc. To me it is the direction defined by
our platforms that are most critical and of course, thinking about the
future well in advance. Naturally a lot of great ideas simply happen
from experimentation or by default.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #6 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Fri 25 Feb 05 16:23
    
The book is interesting on a couple of levels, and I will get into more
specific questions about it in a bit. 

There's a strong marketing element to FUTURE FREQUENCIES, but I think it works
well as the best kind of marketing for your group, by laying out your processes,
step by step. Being open is much more attractive than being secretive and
proprietary, and clearly your network of contacts adds to your value. At the
same time, the book functions as a primer for business strategists looking to
introduce more futurism and scenaric thinking into their own practices. Much
like Schwartz's ART OF THE LONG VIEW, the book's description of practical
experiences supports a guidebook for action.

I'd like to know, though, how you see FF being applied by non-business, 
non-strategist, non-futurist readers. Why should someone who doesn't do this for 
a living read the book?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #7 of 74: Wayne R Pethrick (waynepethrick) Fri 25 Feb 05 17:55
    
Our process is robust enough for it to be replicated across a range of
 client projects. It is also simple enough that it doesn't occlude our
thinking, instead providing a 'handrail' of sorts to keep us in
contact with the project scope.

We sincerely believe that tools and processes, be they for futures
studies, graphic design or hairdressing, will only take you so far.
Experience, relationships, emotions, knowledge, perspective,
motivation, context, serendipity... in a nutshell, how we think. All
these things weigh in on how those tools / processes are implemented
and used to arrive at an outcome. 

Because thinking is our bread and butter, we are personally and
professionally intrigued by how others think. The book provides us with
an opportunity to share the thinking of a range of brilliant people
who have either inspired us and/or who we find common ground with.

I'd like to think that the examples from the field of progressive
culture would serve as good enough reason for someone to read the book.
That they have been given the context of business futures and strategy
does not mean that they can only serve this area exclusively - after
all, we, as humble futurists, are obviously not the primary focus /
reason for the work of those who we write about.

The tools are important, but the thinking and its application and
contextualization is the preeminent message of the book.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #8 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sat 26 Feb 05 10:04
    
One of the observations you quote early on stuck with me. Musician David
Coulter, meeting and playing with Phil Minton for the first time, said
"Improvisers have a vocabulary. It is implicit."

Talk a bit about improvisation in your work and in your thinking.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #9 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sat 26 Feb 05 13:06
    
In the book I commented that seemingly without a plan, Minton took the
stage  and his performance with Coulter reflected spontaneity and a
mutual love of space and time. In some ways, improvisation is the
creative interplay between vehicles and ideas and it would be easy to
say that we juggle with fantasy and great thoughts and ideas just
somehow ensue, However, I think that in my case the vocabularly that
David refers to can be explained through music terminology, where
within the patterns and rythmic structure of the issue at hand I find
counter, transitional, extending/enhancing or even destructing motives,
phrases and accents (which I often refer  to as impact points) that
reconfigure or redesign/reframe the original issue. 
Luckily, Wayne and I seem to have the Coulter/Minter inner connection.
In our work, this is important in order to  come up with fresh,
meaningful ideas and contexts that shift the process into a higher
gear. At the same time, whatever spontaneity is involved is augmented
by one's experiences and knowledge, whether it is from the reservoir or
from a momentary inspiration arising from say, connecting a number of
unexpected elements. It is free-form thinking, yet still within the
rhythm structures I mentioned. To give an example, you can think of a
windshield as a means of protection from the outside world that permits
us to see; or you can see it as a potential vision aid that augments
visibility, reaction time, etc. It is still a windshield, but it
changes the way you think about it in terms of either looking at
laminate structure or potentially embracing the power of adding
nanotechnology. That begins to drive the thinking in a very different
direction and ultimately takes on maybe a third context that we hadn't
yet thought of. Critical aspects of our work are non-linear thinking
and 'nomadic' thought and extreme experimentation.  Maybe this way of
thinking is inspired by my deep rooted interest in the experimental
arts and desire for the non-ordinary (by my definition, of course). I
think it helps to look, hear or feel totally new vibes. As Coulter says
in the same piece: "I listen for the missing colors" and "We ned to
learn to listen, before we can hear anything". John Cage's Silence is a
good start point. However, intuition, emotion and that "soul" thing
probably have as much of a role to play.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #10 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sat 26 Feb 05 17:42
    
How do your clients respond to that free-form thinking? Do they eventually
get into it? More importantly, I think, does it stick with them?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #11 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sat 26 Feb 05 21:12
    
Even though, I would suggest that one of the main reasons they engage
us is because of our reputation for having a somewhat unique process
and approach to future studies, sometimes they initially find it
difficult to comprehend where we are coming from or going to, even
though in many instances they had heard us speak at conferences, prior
to engagement. However, once the process begins to shape and we begin
to develop clear future leverage points and demonstrate how a wide
angled lens approach (which is generally shown by means of a
multi-level systems dynamic model), they begin to realize that we may
be on to something they would be unlikely to come up with themselves.
Therefore, they are usually intrigued sufficiently to join the ride.
Throughout the process, at various points they are exposed to the
free-form thinking such as at the Frontline Panels, where we bring
together a group of experts from various disciplines (not usually
related to the subject at hand) to help us create some future insights,
or at the Living the Future workshops where together with the client
we elaborate the scenarios we have created. However, much of the really
inventive thinking is done at The Futures lab without the client being
present. I think they would be both surprised and perhaps even
disturbed by the manner in which we experiment. However, as long as we
arrive at credible outputs, they are probably more intrigued by how we
did it than concerned. Given that most of our clients are major
corporations, it is most likely they would find many of the thinking
techniques, influences and inspiration referred to in the book quite
alien, but hopefully at the same time exciting. I am not convinced that
they are prepared to pursue the same level of free-form thinking
themselves, they rarely seem that comfortable.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #12 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sun 27 Feb 05 14:26
    
How did the two of you get together?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #13 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sun 27 Feb 05 15:58
    
Peter Bishop, the Chair of the Studies of the Future program at the
University of Houston, Clear Lake recommended Wayne to me.  Wayne
graduated summa cum laude with his Masters in Studies of Future. He
came to me first as an intern. Somehow we just hit it off from the
beginning, so I signed him up immediately. As he explains in his
introduction to Future Frequencies, we are very different, but
incredibly complementary and share many interests in common, notably
music and then there is FIFA 2005 on Play Station, both of which we use
to de-stress (well I'm never stressed of course!!). Actually both of
us have been in bands and we frequently go to concerts together. On the
other hand, it is probably in jointly redeveloping our process, that
we discovered just how much we enjoy working together. He's the quiet
one, I'm told I am the loud, crazy one.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #14 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Sun 27 Feb 05 16:58
    
How does working collaboratively to think about the future differ in your
experience from working alone? There are some obvious ways it will differ,
of course; what are the less obvious?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #15 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Sun 27 Feb 05 21:43
    
A network of one ain't much fun. While it is easy to think that the
collaboration only stretched between your immediate colleagues, in
actuality creating the future involves a myriad of interactions,
interfaces and moments of inspiration that come out of nowhere and
bounce around until they begin to take on a new form. In the book we
look a number of different forms of collaborative thinking, that are
sometimes very deliberate and conscious and other times simply develop
sub-consciously or even unconsciously. As Jean Liebner says in the
piece on Connectivity Art, describing her 16ft flow chart that
connected the UNA Bomber to numerous famous and mythical American
artists, writers and entertainers, "I created a complicated system in
my mind that I wanted to see on paper". That is often something I do
which ultimately involves inner collaborations and external. Similarly,
if we consider the inspiration I mention I gained from William
Gibson's Pattern Recognition it is truly beneficial to have more than
one person helping identify the patterns, codes, signals, signifiers
and other icons that help us understand the connectivity between the
connects and disconnects that allows us to more easily identify what is
likely to be important and drive the future. Again, in the section on
White  Spaces, Black Holes and the Upside Down World techniques, to
build upon the DJ Spooky quote "There's always a rhythm to the spaces
between things." - we see and feel the rhythms differently, which helps
us generate additional possibility spaces for our client. In Chapter 4
(FutureScaping our foundry of invention) I discuss definitive areas
where collaboration is critical and how we benefit from such
collaborations. In the Remix (of the future triggers)  where we expand
the space, viewpoints and context of the future platforms we have
developed, as a group we question the manner in which we have built up
the platform and its content and seek to optimize the future platform
with respect to its potentials sphere of influence.The platform
triggers are mixed rather like a DJ would combining what exists, with
elements from earlier parts of the process and with new thoughts that
come to mind. In this respect I was very inspired by collaborations I
have witnessed between disparate elements some of which I described in
the Science Art Collision piece where I write about the collaborations
between SRL's Mark Pauline and Luc Steels of the AI Lab in Brussels or
between Anne Balsamo and musician/composer David Shea where Shea
created an audio-visual orgy from Balsamo's quotes from the works of
Baudrillard, Kroker, Gibson, McLuhan,  Deleuze, Cardigan, etc. I find
creating these types of collaborations or leveraging our interfaces
with our expert networks or the Frontline Panels assist us in building
or at least extending our thought processes. I am often acknowledged or
accused of thinking erratically, which ultimately leads us to some of
our better results, but conventional thinking can help elevate and
advance the idea and provide the plausibility you mentioned earlier. I
prefer the team concept. Although my team would probably suggest only
when I am the leader (I don't agree, of course), but it does beckon the
question what collaboration and/or working alone really mean.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #16 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Mon 28 Feb 05 10:11
    
Does this process require working together in person? Have you had any
success with virtual collaboration processes?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #17 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Mon 28 Feb 05 11:09
    
For three years, Wayne and I worked together in the office with our
other staff. Last year he returned to Australia to set up The Futures
Lab Australia in Perth, under an agreement that brings him back to
Austin 4-5 times a year for about a month at a time. These are planned
to coincide with the FutureMapping and FutureScaping parts of our
process, when the more creative aspects are brought to bear. In the
meantime, we have contact everyday via video-conference, using AIM and
Apple iSight. It works really well, but I definitely prefer
face-to-face in real space for more complex thinking. It tends to
change the way you do things.In virtual space, one person tends to take
the lead far more and the others respond, add, revise, etc. Not all
the time, but more so. Wayne also accesses his computer in Austin via
Timbuktu, so we are fully networked and that really works well and we
use compatible software throughout. In our collaboration with our
London associates Your Future, with who we jointly work on projects, we
tend to divide up the work, based upon skills and competencies and the
bring it all together. Talking concepts through out loud with
colleagues and jotting, etc works better for me personally, than trying
to integrate a variety of written pieces, but I would not let the
complexity curtail the task at hand. We are all very confident with
virtual collaboration processes. There seems little doubt that in the
near future companies will opt for even greater virtual integration and
unbundling of resources with management putting more focus on and all
internal resources into core competencies with employees likely to
represent about a third of the total workforce, with some 25% of
complementary services being outsourced, a further 25% being
contingent, engaged as and when required (through agencies, etc.) and
15% self-employed specialist/expert consultants, continuing the
de-aggregation process. This is where the emerging social technologies,
facilitated by the physical technologies, will play a large role,
supported by new infrastructures that will lead to a new division of
labor and new social contracts. Paul Osterman, Deputy Dean of the MIT
Sloan School of Management is a leading visionary in this area.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #18 of 74: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 28 Feb 05 14:09
    
As an occasional panelist, I'd like to hear your thoughts about the
Front Line Panel process, and a little about the thinking that led you
to start doing the panels?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #19 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Mon 28 Feb 05 17:39
    
As you know Jon,  a Frontline Panel Which is a very important
constituent of  Stage 2 - of our process - (FuturePulsing).  It
consists of an ecclectic group of ten or twelve future-thinkers from a
variety of industries and disciplines who have been selected by us to
provide innovative, unconventional input for future development,
usually once we have completed the scanning process against the future
leverage points (key influences) or when we  already have some future
insights on the subject at hand that we wish to expand or embelish or
develop in fresh directions. Given that the participants are all
experts in their respective fields and forward-thinkings in their own
rights, we are looking more at opening new gateways and hijacking
unexpected signals than typical incremental ideas and thinking.
The panels are more a platform for in-depth discussion rather than
typical brainstorming sessions. they are run more like a forum-style
workshop than an ideation session or focus group. We usually hold them
in inspirational locations, such as art galleries, photographic studios
(our most frequent Austin location) or houses with fine architecture
like the Schindler House in Los angeles, which we used for our client
Nissan. We always serve a light meal and plenty of wine to lubricate
the discussion and the client usually sits at a separate table in the
room and is only allowed to ask questions at the end of the session. We
never disclose who the client is as it would shade the thinking from
the outset. Most people having preconceived ideas about brands,
products and positioning etc, which would color their thinking and
judgement. 
I arrived at the idea for the panels back in 1996, one crazy night in
Den Hague in the Netherlands after the Crossing Border Festival in
which I was involved. At around 2 a,m, the atmosphere was electric. A
group of us were sitting in the lobby having  wild, unfettered
conversations about a host of subjects and I could feel the power of
such a forward thinking group of progressives giving it their all from
their varying viewpoints. 

The group included ex-Swans Frontman Michael Gira, Irving Welsh (of
trainspotting fame), Dutch authoress karen Spaink, Sonic Youth's Lee
Ranaldo, Belgium artist Rude Trouve, Scottish writer James Kelman, DJ
Spooky, Tindersticks frontman, Stuart Staples and John Giorno,
originator of performance poetry and archivist of the history of spoken
word through his record series Giorno Poetry Systems.  I was mixing
and meshing a concerto of audio-visdual frequencies in my head from the
disconnects, from which I later created a spoken word piece titled
"Fragments". 
Even though I have spent numerous nights and days in such company
since and still do, I shall never forget the feeling I had that night.
It simply made me realize the power of getting enough people together
to debate a subject from very different angles. The Frontline Panel is
simply a business version of that night, complete with the alcohol.
I have conducted over 60 panels to-date and often the panelists have
no idea what we actually achieved. they would be surprised just how
directional the output is, when analyzed, worked up and redeveloped as
a whole.
Thanks for you help over the years Jon.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #20 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Mon 28 Feb 05 18:12
    
Wow. Some of that is superficially similar to the GBN scenario process, but
it's clear the origins are completely different. It's as if GBN was started
by artists instead of ex-Shell strategists.

You note that you don't tell the panels who the client is. Have you ever
been in a situation where a panelist wouldn't have worked for a client if
s/he had known ahead of time who it was, and/or was upset afterwards when
s/he found out?
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #21 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Mon 28 Feb 05 20:15
    
I am not certain about how the panelists would have behaved if they
had known. I'd be more concerned about their lack of interest that
ethical concerns as we do not have any clients with whom the public
have ethical problems except one that has had some issues outside of
the USA. However, I did come across this problem in the past when Brand
Futures, the forerunner of Your Future was working for BAT. I think
that in the future with clients likely to come from biotech,
bioengineering and certain nanotech or singularity areas or even where
autonomous agents take over the controls from humans or where privacy
is a major issue,  or even in some food areas that are obviously not
healthy or in matters pertaining to cosmetics or cleansing products I
could see that more transparency will be required.
At  the same time, I expect to see a new range of rules and regs and
ethical/moral caveats along the lines suggested by Fukuyama in Our
Posthuman Future:  Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. I
definitely see your point, but I think the consequences of disclosing
the client's name at any point is detrimental to the process.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #22 of 74: Wayne R Pethrick (waynepethrick) Mon 28 Feb 05 21:02
    
If you will excuse me for a moment to return to Jamais' question and
Derek's response to the virtual collaboration process, here is my two
cents worth.

Derek wrote: "In virtual space, one person tends to take the lead far
more and the others respond, add, revise, etc." I would tend to agree
with this, particularly if a schedule of roles has not been clearly
defined. One thing that I have noticed, [sweeping generalization coming
up] is that virtual collaboration is far more accomodating to finding
agreement than it is towards dealing with and conveying disagreement.
Of course by disagreement I mean the *good* type of disagreement
whereby "steel sharpens steel" and true collaborative virtuosity
emerges. 

At first I thought that this was a personality trait - as Derek has
mentioned "He's [Pethrick] the quiet one, I'm told I [Woodgate] am the
loud, crazy one." - But that doesn't stop us 'having at it f2f in the
office'.

Perhaps it's the technology? We talk in realtime, often accompanied by
video, for up to three hours on some days together with the usual
assortment of asynchronous e-mailing and file sharing. The comfort
level with the tech is ample, so that is not a problem. In most other
cases, virtual modes of communication, and the distance / anonymity
that they offer, seem to actually amplify an individual's occasion to
voice their point of difference, as too many flaming list-serve
responses can attest.

I know that various researchers have made this the focus of their work
and so I wait on them for findings. In the meantime, we are obviously
aware of the shortcomings of doing our thing virtually and are working
to nurture the working relationship that we have in person, in the
on-line realm. To be fair, the pros certainly outweigh the cons, and
both Derek and I are happy with how things function given that we are
often 10 500 miles apart. 

Any similar / dissenting comments or thoughts? 
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #23 of 74: Wayne R Pethrick (waynepethrick) Tue 1 Mar 05 00:08
    
Just to pick up the point about the relativity of our process via
Frontline Panels et.al. to the GBN scenario process, one of the
strengths of the latter is to maximize focus. I would like to think
that one of the strengths of our process and the reason that we involve
individuals in the Frontline Panels is to maximize difference. This is
what we often refer to as creating revolutionary futures. 

Rather than taking two or three key uncertainties / change drivers and
 then 'drilling down', we work more inclusively, 'playing' with a
multitude of scenario logics (and illogics) that are part of a larger
system and future landscape.

Obviously, because we work largely in the corporate business sector,
we too must corral the divergent thinking that emerges to ensure that
it is implementable and of sufficient depth to be able withstand 
thorough interrogation from our clients. 

Having worked with both the GBN and The Futures Lab processes, I know
both to be worthwhile and effective in achieving viable deliverables
for clients. I must add however, that our's is much more fun!

That all said, Jamais, your WOW! is well founded.
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #24 of 74: Jamais Cascio, WorldChanger (cascio) Tue 1 Mar 05 13:17
    
Much to respond to, here.

You mention not having "clients with whom the public have ethical problems," but
that doesn't quite encompass the range of issues with which a panelist might be
troubled. As an example, the one client I refused to work with (while at a
non-GBN consulting group) was Exxon/Mobil, after I found that they were looking
to us to help them expand their ability to market petroleum products, and told
us up front not to talk to them about renewables or global warming. While oil is
not something that the public at large has great ethical problems with per se, I
can certainly see some of the people you'd have as panelists being quite upset
in a similar fashion to find that their work on identifying the shape of future
consumer trends (or whatever) was being used to help push more oil consumption.

Good panelists (or what GBN called "remarkable people") recognize that, just 
because they aren't interested in a given company or product, they can still 
have fruitful explorations of possible futures for that company/product. I'd be 
surprised if you had many potential panelists say no for reasons of lack of 
interest.

(As an aside, I found the suggested rules and regulations in Fukuyama's text to 
be quite problematic, but that's probably not relevant here.)

With regards to the virtual interaction between the two of you, that's not quite
what I was asking (although it is interesting). Have you worked with *clients*
in a stand-off, computer mediated fashion?

Knowing how much fun the GBN sessions can be, I can only imagine what a Future 
Labs sessions is like...
  
inkwell.vue.238 : Derek Woodgate & Wayne Pethrick, Future Frequencies
permalink #25 of 74: Derek Woodgate (derek-woodgate) Tue 1 Mar 05 16:20
    
I agree with you on potential ethical concerns, but I believe the
format we use encourages people to speak up about their concens as the
topic is discussed. It happens frequently - recycling water for future
homes, the death of anti-bacterial products, a numerous marketing
issues, etc. You are right. We may ultimately recommend pursuing a
preferred future with which a particular panelist may not agree. Maybe
I am just too insensitive to concerns, in such matters. Bad boy! I am
joking of course. Given that we work 7-10 years out, sometimes shorter,
I suppose I may be confronted one day by an irate panelist who
suddenly realized I failed to pursue his/her sustainable materials idea
to the max.

On the virtual collaboration with clients, we obviously have used
conferencing in many shapes and forms, but notheing like Michael Bove's
VTV idea, which is something Wayne is working on at present.

Have you done much of it yourself and if so in which formats.
  

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