The Futurecasting Sprint
A 3 day process for crafting vision with science fiction and connecting it with actions you can take today.
Do you ever feel like it isn’t clear how what you’re doing right now impacts the larger vision? It’s why we work — we’re trying to build towards a future that we imagine will be better than the present. However, how often do we actually get to take a step back and really think through the future we want to create?
That’s the problem we set out to solve with the Futurecasting Sprint. It’s a 3 day process that provides the space to really think big. We use science fiction to imagine how the world might change and what products and services should exist as a result. It’s experiential — we want to paint a picture of how it will feel to live in this future state. That’s what’s really inspiring about science fiction — you could see yourself experiencing it, so you feel this pull to create it. This narrative is like a secret weapon — it’s a North Star that aligns the team and ignites passion.
But vision isn’t any good without a roadmap to get there. After we Futurecast, we use lean startup methodologies to define short term actions we can begin to start testing the roadmap. We’ve honed this approach over the last 6 years and startups we’ve worked with have raised a collective $90M, so we’re excited to share it with the world!
Why vision SO important
A well crafted vision is often simple and inspiring: making humans multi-planetary, democratizing electric cars, or organizing the world’s information. Clearly communicating a vision for the world allows your organization to operate with more confidence, passion, and autonomy. It’s a compass everyone on the team can use to make sure their efforts are aligned.
So why do most startups struggle to communicate a design and vision for the future? It’s intimidating, of course, especially if it’s a contrarian view of the future. It takes time, courage, careful planning, and patience — not necessarily in ample supply for most new endeavors. Peter Thiel argues that the current startup landscape as indefinitely optimistic — often reliant on iterative processes rather declarative world views.
“To an indefinite optimist, the future will be better, but he doesn’t know how exactly, so he won’t make any specific plans… Instead of working for years to build a new product, indefinite optimists rearrange already-invented ones. In contrast, a definite optimist has a specific vision for the future, one that doesn’t rely on customer feedback, but often a more radical view for how the world should be.”
— Peter Thiel, Zero to One
Most leaders have an intuition about their vision, however, they assume everyone on the team shares that vision. The most successful startups we’ve worked with often have a very clear vision of the future, and a roadmap to get there. We believe there’s actually a lean way to craft long-term strategic vision to ensure alignment across your team, investors, and customers. The key is thinking big, keeping it visual, and leveraging science fiction to tell a story about the future.
The key is thinking big, keeping it visual, and leveraging science fiction to tell a story about the future.
Introducing the Futurecasting Sprint
A futurecasting sprint is only as successful as the pre-work that goes into running it. You’ll want to make sure that the right people are in the room. We’ve found the sweet spot is around 5–10 people per group with all important decision makers and stakeholders present. You’ll also want to complete as much research as possible on the current product or service, your target customers, and current product roadmap.
Step 1 — Discovery
The discovery phase seeks to answer who we are currently designing for and identifying their biggest problems today. Our objective is to identify points of friction, and rank the problems they’re experiencing. We want to establish a consensus around the core problem and what’s getting in their way. As you’ll see in the Futurecasting Canvas, we typically unpack the solution in a storyboard format and identify points of friction.
Step 2 — Frame
This is one of the most important parts of the sprint — defining the problem you’re solving. Craft a “what if” statement that describes the state of the world that you hope to achieve 5 to 10 years out. Define 3 success criteria that you could measure to make sure you’re on track to achieving this vision. *tip, think broadly about your success criteria and how it relates to humans and the world. Think beyond profit. Usually, our projects focus on democratizing an exponential technology.
Step 3 — Inspire
Look to analogous industries, technologies, emerging business models, and science fiction to create a group of references that get you thinking forward the next 4–5 years.
Step 4 — Futurecast
This phase is where much of the creative energy will be unlocked. It’s about imagining an ideal flow without limiting yourself to feasibility or viability. Like most great science fiction, it’s not actually about the technology — it’s about how the technology can be leveraged to rethink a human problem or process. That’s why we use narratives. In this step you’ll choose a persona, build a world, and unpack your vision into a visual narrative of your own.
Step 5 — Retrocast
Now that you’ve futurecasted your vision, your team will likely have a stockpile of risks and assumptions they’ve identified on the way to achieving your vision. Now is the time to let write them all down. Identify long term risks, mid term risks, and short term risks. Prioritize them and then start creating experiments. Would could you do now to start testing your roadmap?
Step 6 — Prototype
Unpack resources required to build the first short term experiment. This is where lean startup methodologies kick into full gear. It’s about designing an experiment that takes the first step to validating or invalidating your riskiest short term assumptions.
Try it out!
Download The Futurecasting Canvas
We’re excited to share the Futurecasting Sprint in hopes that it creates more startups and projects that will endure. We also recognize that it’s a work in progress — we’d love for you to conduct your own Futurecasting Sprint and let us know how it goes!