We're occasionally asked to describe our "process," a locked down methodology or rigid approach that favours certain tools or workflows—a legacy of the days of strategy consulting or shrink-wrapped design thinking approaches, no doubt.
There are many pathways to finding and enjoining others to imagine futures better—literally dozens and dozens of methods. But after reflection, we realised all successful future explorations for us do have, at least internally, a flow—a set of phases that help us get from "everything you can imagine" to a useful narrative, built on demonstrable insights, that can be assessed for learning.
Even when we have prior research in hand, we still augment this with our own sensing, folding both new signals and those we've collected as part of our ongoing research—whether that's digging through studies, chatting with experts or connecting dots of our own. Each project has its own frame which needs new signals and knowledge.
From these unstructured signals, we step into sensemaking, using often emergent, experimental models for bringing some logic to what seems disordered. We look for themes, connections, collisions and oppositions. This gives us a useful map of the terrain—a wireframe on which to layer rich detail.
Yet we need some sufficiently coherent models of the world, future use cases or smaller vignettes to bring this map into motion. We apply different kinds of existing scenario models, or construct new ones, to bring dimension, substance, and critical variation to these future situations.
Beyond this, we use storytelling forms to engage others in this exploration. We may see them through the eyes of a person, be summoned by evocative objects, or have the structure of a canvas model. They may take a familiar, comfortable media form, or be expressed as an immersive experience. The context of the exploration, and nature of the audience, often determine how best to materialise a future.