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“Three Horizons Bootcamp”

September 27, 2013

Last week a small group joined Wendy Schultz at Wolfson College, Oxford for a bootcamp on the “Three Horizons” and other futures techniques.

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Before exploring the future, Wendy recommends getting the group to review the past – generally going back twice as far as you want to look forward.  This not only identifies some key moments of change, but helps people be aware of the underlying assumptions and values and also gets people to realise how much change they have lived through.  In terms of group dynamics it helps as well, since everyone has experienced the past, and it’s often fun and lively.

The “Three Horizons” are:

  • Horizon 1 – “Managerial”: today’s dominant patterns and culture that will inevitably drift apart from reality as it changes over time. Typically the managerial mode is struggling for stability.
  • Horizon 3 – (Note one skips on to the end before returning to Horizon 2) – “Visionary”: imagined futures built from emerging changes and “wild cards”.  This can be goal-oriented (the future we want), or what to avoid (eg climate change) – that depends on the motivation of the study.  A trick is to avoid the measurable and to make it visual.
  • We then return to Horizon 2 – “Entrepreneurial”:  looking back to H1 and on to H3, how can the turbulence between them be exploited, what incremental developments are possible and what transformational steps are needed.

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After this mind-stretching activity we had dinner in hall, and retired for a lengthy and alcohol-supported rumination on the ways of the world!

Day 2 saw us joined by Chris Yapp, who went through Carlota Perez’s model [from Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital], which looked at five great waves of development from canals and railways to the digital age.  This shows each has been through a “gilded age” of technological development, with a bubble followed by recession before a “golden age” of wide-ranging exploitation and growth.

We also looked at Causal Layered Analysis which digs below the visible discourse (“litany”) to structure (“causes”), worldview and then to the really deep metaphors and myths.  For example, housing provision issues go from mortgage availability right down to “home sweet home”.

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Then we reviewed Verge combined with the concept of “Futures Wheels” as another way of exploring future developments.

With a really great group of people from quite different backgrounds, contributing positively and dynamically, we all had a wonderful time and learned a lot.  And the depth of Wendy and Chris’s knowledge and expertise was, as ever, hugely stimulating.  SAMI is expecting to run a further course in 2014, probably around February.  If you are interested please contact Wendy.

SAMI is also running two sector-focussed Cobwebs events later this year:

  • 15th October, at the Reform Club in London, digital media business; the future of media
  • 12th November, at the Reform Club in London, emerging opportunities in the biotech age

For invitations, please contact

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