Censemaking No. 35

Seeing What’s Coming

Great design and successful change is about seeing what’s coming and creating products, services and systems to meet this future — by shaping it.

This isn’t magic, it’s good design, a little science, a dash of imagination, and a way of seeing, being, and doing that can be learned.

We’ve got tools and techniques to help you sharpen your foresight skills, design + thinking, and strategy as well as lessons from great transformations of the past, leadership in times of change, and how to create change with real, actual humans.

It’s been said that the best way to predict the future is to create it so let’s create a future we want and explore ways to see, create, and design what’s to come.

The coffee is on so let’s share a cup of inspiration as we look to the future.

Thanks for reading - Cameron

Tools and Techniques for Seeing

Foresight and Futures are areas of practice that combine imagination, data, and design to anticipate, visualize, and strategize ways to shape what’s coming. Learning the basics of this approach can help you see where things are and where they are going.

Let’s start with asking: what is Foresight? The World Future Society has a great starting point for helping you to see differently and outlines the methods, tools, and approaches for spotting trends, tracking changes, and helping shape vision and strategy for moving forward.

Are you tackling the right problem? The 5-Whys approach can help you to get to the root of a problem quickly. By seeing the reasons behind why something happens we can focus our energies on something better.

Great leadership involves presenting a vision for where we can go. Clothing maker Patagonia has been a industry leader in shaping a vision for sustainable, responsible production. This values-based leadership approach is tied to articulation, hiring, culture, and commitment.

Foresight has been called the most important and necessary leadership skill. How do we develop it and how to begin? The Futures School suggests three things to start: 1) question assumptions, 2) look outside inward, and 3) be provocative.

Seeing What’s Coming

MIT professor Otto Scharmer believes we are entering a decade of transformation. This is not just about the world around us, but also the world within us. He starts with suggesting that denial is not a strategy as he outlines 10 lessons from COVID that will shape the years to come.

COVID might have broken a few things, but as Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel argue, we can repair them. They are behind a movement to focus on maintenance and repair rather than building new things — perhaps seeing the future as one of configuration, not creation.

If the future isn’t about possibility then it’s not going to inspire us to do something positive. The Possibility Studies Network is a group dedicated to the study of possibilities with the aim of helping us see what could be.

Seeing and thinking about what’s coming is not just a strategic tool, but a means to promoting mental health, too. The concept of prospection is a psychological process that allows us to see, shape, and create a world we want. Research has linked future-visioning to better well-being, greater compassion, and healthier relationships.

Tools To Design Our Next Steps

How can we shape what’s next, not just see possibilities? That is the topic of a new series co-developed by Cense Ltd and the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement on Designing for What’s Next hosted by Cameron Norman (me) and Tamarack’s CEO Liz Weaver. The first event is June 23rd with additional events coming in September and October. Registration required.

Behavioural economics is one area of research and design that can help us create change and a new guide edited by Alain Samson with contributions from around the world is a great place to start.

Design is also about leadership and learning how to lead when times are changing or volatile. The latest Brite Innovation Review features an in-depth discussion with Paul Sloane on how to be a lateral leader.

Creating a future we want means doing some evaluation of what we try. The Outcome Likelihood and Causal Analysis method is one way to understand the links between what we try and what we accomplish particularly when things are messy. This primer explains how it works.

Keys to Innovation

Resilient, impactful, and well-designed organizations (and innovators!) are consistently good at one thing: learning. Educator and author Scott H. Young profiles research-driven strategies that can help you not only learn more, but learn more deeply.

Another key to innovation is creating the right team and approach to solving the right problems. Luke Craven suggests that we consider establishing SystemOps teams much like many organizations have ‘DesignOps’ units. The aim is to build organizations that enable people to think — and maybe design — in systematic ways, systematically.

Networks — connecting to the right people, knowledge, and resources — are critical for innovation. But how do we find the right ones? The Overedge Catalogue provides an ongoing update of new kinds of research organizations operating at the intersection of research, academia, non-profits, and tech startups all focused on the future.

Once you have your networks established, the next step is scaling and sustaining it. Don’t worry, we got that covered, too. Catapult in the UK has a series of resources, research, and white papers that help outline how to create, scale, sustain, and execute innovation country-wide.

Designing for Humans is an ongoing series over at Censemaking that points out that we can think about users, but real effective design involves a broader approach. Over the coming weeks we’ll continue to showcase how we can better design for the real world, not just our imaginations of how the world is.

Thanks for reading. I appreciate your time, care and attention and for supporting and sharing this newsletter. If there’s anything you’re interested in learning more about or sharing, send it along and we might share it here.

Until our next coffee break….


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