Day 4 of futures of education – The scenarios

Holy wow. What a day. We started our day by watching the youtube response to our work by Nancy White (more reinforcement of our participation in a larger conversation… not that it was needed) all the while knowing we were going to have to move on to the dreaded discussion. We needed to refine our trends discussion to two continuums of trendishness… So i dodged and started working with the OECD document

The OECD document is a futures of education scenario planning explanatory document that is one of the four that i leaned on for the creation of this course. It’s a complete front to back look at scenario planning using futures… and while there are a few issues that i have with the document, it is a fabulous place to start to get people thinking about education futures. Thanks OECD.

We took the OECD suggested scenarios as a nice easy place to start. These offer a chance to see what completed scenarios might look like. We first took a look at scenario number one, walked through it together and, shame of shame, I asked them to read through it in class. We explored the five dimensions that OECD uses for each scenario. These scenarios are about education more broadly than we are looking at it, but they offered us an opportunity to explore the idea of scenario, the extreme way in which they reflect the world and how that can be helpful.

This has been mentioned before, but it is critical that we understand what a futures thinking scenario is not. They are ideal paths… they should not be expected to occur in pure form in the real world. They are not predictions seeking to forecast futures accurately. Prediction is doomed to failure. The value of futures thinking is in opening minds to consider new possibilities and to deal with change. They should not be seen as visions of where an organization might go. These particular OECD documents don’t spell out the steps of the process by which these possible futures were reached, but rather they give us a broad sense of what a scenario might look like.

I then gave the remaining samples to each group and gave them an hour or two to work through the process of building a skit to represent what that possible future would look like. I wanted them to FEEL the future from their scenario, desperately hoping that it would influence a positive discussion on the building of our own scenarios. It really couldn’t have worked any better. Following are three of the five skits from my students. We laughed ourselves silly.

By the end of this process, other than a sore belly… we also had a pretty good grasp of what we were looking for in a scenario. You want substance. You want something that is rich enough that you can feel what it would be like to live in a world where that scenario was true. The next step in the process was picking an axes of tension in order to find new scenarios. We used a 2×2 matrix.

So we ended up with five scenarios… the four described in the image and a fifth ‘wild card’ where UV rays can be converted into enough energy to provide unlimitted power. That is what we got accomplished in the 2 1/2 hours before lunch.

After lunch the work began in ernest. I had each group choose one of the scenarios and attempt to write it out in accord with the work done by the OECD. You can see the results of the early part of our work at our wiki http://nafutures.wikispaces.com. I took a look being the work being done and suggested to my students that we could try and publish this document in some format or other. The work was already that good.

If you persuse the wiki, you’ll get a sense of their early work. We took that and did a cross examination session near the end of the day and talked about keeping people firmly in their quadrant to allow the overall structure to hold firm. There were a couple of instances where people were backsliding into what ‘they believed’ rather than what the scenario was tellling them, but the group self corrected. Which is cool.

6 thoughts on “Day 4 of futures of education – The scenarios

  1. Hi Dave,

    Thanks for sharing these videos – looks like you’re having a great time!

    I have a percolating blog post on the subject of “connectedness is all”. When you showed the diagram where one of the learners mentioned “rhizomes”, I was immediately struck by how often we focus on peripheral details when it’s the core elements that we need to consider: what are they entities we are considering? How are they related to each other? How might they be related to each other in the future? (after all, today’s configuration/pattern can change dramatically when one of the elements is eliminated or suddenly gains prominence it has not had in the past). As with learning and knowledge, connections are the key.

    I love your statement: “Prediction is doomed to failure. The value of futures thinking is in opening minds to consider new possibilities and to deal with change. They should not be seen as visions of where an organization might go.”

    Futures thinking is less about trying to predict the future and more about trying to increase our capacity for adaptivity. Creative thinking, scenario exploration, and similar techniques serve primarily to disrupt our current static views and to become receptive to alternative scenarios and futures.

    Thanks again for sharing!

  2. Bingo. Futures thinking is like taking our brains and our imagination to the possibility gym and working out, so when something new hits us smack between the eyes, we have the ability to recognize, react, adapt and see the world anew!

  3. Predictions are gimmicks, they are like supermarket tabloids or carney tricks. I always liked the distinction Paul Saffo makes between predicting and forecasting, some might see as splitting hairs (not me):

    “Predicting is about certainty, and forecasting is about appreciating uncertainty. Forecasting gives a context for decision-makers to act in the face of uncertainty. In the business world, uncertainty is our friend, because uncertainty is opportunity.” —
    http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/296816/The_Future_Really_Is_Now

    especially that middle sentence

    This has been fascinating to observe remotely, Dave. Thanks for the openness!

  4. I laughed through the scenarios and thought that they were a great vehicle for understanding the concepts. Looks like you were having just too much fun in Singapore! I’ve been following the course sporadically as I move around, but the stuff you’ve provided is great.Your openness and discussions are so helpful. Thanks and apologies for my low level of participation this time. I treasure the resources and love your course as well as the openness and uncertainty of futures forecasting.

  5. I hit “submit” a bit too soon. I realize this is a couple of months later than the event,but thought you would appreciate the comment none the less. Thanks for all your good work.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>