Keeping a focus on customers throughout the design process has long been the domain of the persona, but we rarely use them in favour of two more powerful and applicable tools; behavioural archetypes and behavioural modes.

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Many of the organisations that we work with today understand the importance of design research and, for a handful, it’s now integral to their business. Much of that research centres around customers and there is no doubt that organisations who truly put a focus on the customer at the top of their priority list have a distinct edge over those who do not.

The complexity and diversity of challenges we’re asked to lead companies through have never been greater, from wholescale digital reinvention to new concepts that can help them grow. …

Customer-led design is an accepted norm these days; a go-to approach for innovation teams. But there’s a fundamental flaw in customer-led design when you’re trying to take a real leap forward: customers can’t lead you there.

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Image credit: Lauren Coleman

If I asked you “how will you feel about X in a year’s time?“, what would your answer be?

Obviously, your response will vary according to what ‘X’ refers to. Let’s start with something you might call an everyday preference or taste.

Imagine you, like me, really don’t like gin, and never have. It’s very unlikely that you’ll feel differently about it in a year’s time. It’s kind of a permanent state in your life and your “I won’t touch the stuff” response to my question is likely to be a pretty good prediction as a result.

Now what about if ‘X’ referred to something you get satisfaction and utility from, like a fancy watch. You know that it’s useful today, and you know that it will continue to tell the time in a year, so you’ll still expect to feel pretty good about your watch then too. …

Futurestate design is all about revealing hidden potential and shaping a clear vision of your next big transformational step. Now it’s time to focus on the people who will get you there.

A gymnast, people diving into a computer
A gymnast, people diving into a computer

In the penultimate article in this series, we set out some of the key components of an effective transformation strategy; the strategy that will enable you to bridge the gap between where you stand today and the vision of the business you must become to flourish in the future.

In this final article, we’ll talk briefly about that last magic ingredient in the futurestate design formula: empowering the organisation to execute the strategy successfully and bring (a version of) that futurestate vision to life.

It’s worth remembering that this series is focused on futurestate design in the context of helping organisations transform. We’re focusing on achieving the big step-change (a leap-change) that essentially performs a reset: the aim ultimately is to operate a business on the principles of service-led strategy (you can read a 101 on that here) so that a leap is never needed again, at least not on this scale. …

If you’ve been following the series so far, you’ll know by now that the core purpose of futurestate design is to release you from the bonds of legacy thinking and behaviours.

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By envisioning the type of organisation you can become, you articulate a design target; a tangible vision that you can use to inform and engage your organisation and energise teams towards achieving a common goal.

The value of articulating this vision can’t be overstated. Every time we conduct a futurestate design exercise, it leads to a much more compelling vision of the future than anyone anticipated. It puts a stop to incrementalism and aligns everyone behind the kind of step-change business innovation that is essential in the digital economy.

A futurestate vision is only valuable if you can actually get there.

Of course, there’s generally a long way to go to achieve a version of that futurestate vision, and that’s where strategy comes in. In our last article in this series, we touched on current-state analysis and why it’s important: essentially, it defines the ‘from’ in a ‘from-to’, where the ‘to’ is the futurestate vision. …

So far in the Futurestate Design series we’ve been pretty focused on the future, as you might expect. By now, we hope, we’ve established that current-state analysis can’t tell you anything very useful about your business of tomorrow. It tells you where you are now, and where you have been, but not where you can go.

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Where it does help is in identifying how great the gap is between the business of today and the vision for the future. In this article, we’re going to unpick this complex subject a little to give you some guidance on when and how to use current-state analysis.

In our 7 futurestate design rules, rule number one was ‘Don’t look at what you do now. Not even for a moment.’ In many ways the golden rule of futurestate design is to always start in the future if you want to arrive at a compelling futurestate vision for your business. …

When envisioning the futurestate of a company or a service, we’re usually faced with the challenge of designing for a customer that doesn’t exist yet. What do we mean by this? Well, they exist in the obvious sense, they’re just not ‘there’ yet.

Images of a man trying to fly in a rocket-powered suit, and a VR headset user, a well as images representing future gazing.
Images of a man trying to fly in a rocket-powered suit, and a VR headset user, a well as images representing future gazing.

If, in the 90s we’d surveyed people to see if they’d rent out their houses to strangers, they would have largely answered no. Their future selves, with the launch of AirBnB, seem to have turned on a dime. …

Week four of our Futurestate Design series, and by now we’d like to think you’ve got a good understanding of futurestate design and are looking at things through a different, more confident lens, as you think about implementing change in your organisation.

Pictures of tools, builders, Post-It notes, computers and people collaboratively working
Pictures of tools, builders, Post-It notes, computers and people collaboratively working

If you’re new to the series and want to find out what we’ve touched on already then:

  • Read this to find out what futurestate design is, and why it’s important
  • Here you’ll learn how to get the right mindset to start a futurestate design programme
  • And here we outline a snappy 7 rules to futurestate design to help you keep on the right track as you build the strong foundations for your future business

Today’s installment of the series takes the form of a downloadable deck outlining tools that you can use to start workshopping new concepts within your team and wider organisation. …

Following our last two articles in the Futurestate Design series (what futurestate design is and how to approach it with the right mindset), we wanted to give you a crib sheet, of sorts, outlining the basic rules to futurestate design programmes.

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Think of these less as rules to abide by, and more as a simple set of guide rails to ensure you think in the right way.

1. Don’t look at what you do now.

Not even for a moment. By thinking at all about the current state of your business, you will carry things with you that you assume have to be there, because you’re paying such close attention to them.

You can (and should) look back, but only once you’ve figured out what shape the future might take. …

Unlock a genuinely transformative vision of the future for your company by equipping yourself with the right thinking tools

Geometric shapes with overlaid black & white photographs (the moon, a camera, a snail, an athlete, a horse, a pile of money)
Geometric shapes with overlaid black & white photographs (the moon, a camera, a snail, an athlete, a horse, a pile of money)

As we touched on in our introductory article to the Futurestate Design series, most people find it hard to step out of today to think about designing a new future for their organisation.

In fact, thinking about today has never been easier, because the tools have never been better.

Operational data, commercial performance, current competitors, existing customers, and market research: as lenses on a business, they can provide insights leagues ahead of anything previous generations of business had available.

Here’s the kicker: literally none of them are useful for futurestate design. In fact, they’re potentially dangerous, because no matter how you use them, they root your thinking in the present. …

Opening up our toolbox to help businesses future-proof in the digital economy.

Geometric shapes & photographs showing innovation (crystal ball, space travel, Elon Musk)
Geometric shapes & photographs showing innovation (crystal ball, space travel, Elon Musk)

In the 17 years since we first launched our business we have worked with hundreds of organisations, all with a common goal: to build a better business for the digital economy.

A key part of that process involves asking where their potential lies in the digital economy, and exploring what they can become in the future if they harness it.

One of our most striking observations is how difficult most people find it to step out of today and scope the future. To overcome this, and to unlock their potential, we developed a series of processes and techniques that we call ‘futurestate design’ that have arguably become the most important part of our strategy and design work here at WF. …


Wilson Fletcher

A business innovation consultancy. We design strategies, services and experiences that turn established companies into strong digital businesses.

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