Insights

Rituals of the future makers

May 4, 2018

The wisdom of brilliant, creative, thoughtful people

Melissa Hui, CX Director at Idean, held the opening presentation at Primer Conference in San Francisco on Thursday, May 3rd. She opened the event by discussing the traits and rituals of futures makers.

Melissa is an anthropologist. With a background blending biology and anthropology, the emerging field of Cyborg Anthropology has always been a point of fascination and study: the evolving symbiotic relationship and feedback loops between humans and machine, humans and technology. Having designed for emerging technologies and interfaces, her projects have included creating pre-cursor technologies for mobile tracking of health vitals, ambient computing devices that could influence behavior, and invisible context-aware virtual assistants that whispered into your ear. After joining Idean, she set off to solve a challenge: how do you encourage empathy, creativity and foresight in more individuals and organizations?

This challenge is one that many face in the midst of conversations about the future of work, automation and global shifts that demand a more empathetic and creative workforce. After spending over a decade in technology and design, Melissa observed the rise and fall of companies who have set out to create modern magic and marvels. What hadn’t caught up, however, was the creation of inclusive, meaningful work and workplaces. Why were there so many brilliant, creative, thoughtful people running around doing awesome things? Why did or didn’t that translate to equally brilliant, creative, thoughtful organizations?

Who makes the future?

There’s a hidden tangled mess of factors that either builds up or breaks down these organizations that create the future. The speculation was that perhaps there was something that wasn’t translating from individual wisdom to organizations. How did individual makers of the future think and work? What could we glean and learn from their wisdom? What wisdom can scale to larger organizations for the future of work?

These Futures Makers are defined as people who act as change agents; they’re advocates for a desired future with the ability and desire to push forward to shape and influence that future.Melissa Hui — CX Director, Idean

What emerged was the recognition that these futures makers have an unconventional mash-up of creative fearlessness and relentless purpose which doesn’t fit in any one domain or area of expertise: they frequently trailblaze paths into uncharted territory. They’re always moving, never fixed to time or space. The very practice of movement and pioneering is essential to their work of ferrying and cross-pollinating information and connections between seemingly unrelated ideas and social networks.

  • Clusters of knowledge

Melissa’s preliminary research recognizes seven traits that are in common with many futures makers:

The seven practices of Futures Makers

  1. Radical generosity – a willingness to give of time, ideas, collaboration and encouragement
  2. Asking extreme or complex questions – focusing on ‘why’ and ‘what if’
  3. Make time to think and get lost – spending down time to ruminate and be unstructured
  4. Continuous practice of experimentation and prototyping – not only to think, but also to do and to make
  5. Battle fear and zones of comfort – regularly questioning doubt and uncertainty
  6. Rampant collaborative and knowledge networks – building and maintaining incredible communities of knowledge, expertise and collaboration
  7. Triple threats – combining domain expertise, craft, and networks, in a unique way that produce the work that we see today

What does this mean for the creators and thinkers of the future

The research continues to explore the context of Futures Makers and what organizations can learn from them, but have the responsibility to also practice these habits, build empowering rituals, and develop the mindsets that allow us to do better for others.

  • Behaviors for future thinkers and makers

As Futures Makers ourselves, we need to be positive and proactive change agents, tireless advocates for inclusive and meaningful futures, and makers that practice with care and thoughtfulness in response to the future. It’s uncomfortable, but it’s how we embrace the opportunity to shape the future. If we don’t do it and do it well, who will?