Make your own leaving card

Jason Mesut
Dec 18, 2018 · 4 min read

A powerful backcasting technique for directing your future

Experience the power of writing your own leaving card

How to do it

  1. List different team members, stakeholders, customers and users that you work with or for. Give them a name.
  2. Then write your own leaving card. Imagine what they would say about what you achieved, and how you were to work with.
  3. Start trivial and superficial if you’re stuck, but think about the impact that you had on them. In what way will they miss you?

Background

Backcasting exercises are one of the most powerful and yet simple exercises you can do. With your team. Developing a vision. But even on yourself.

An example visual of a backcasting approach

The idea is simple. You essentially look back on the future from a further future. For some reason, it helps relieve you of the baggage that limits your forward thinking. Just leapfrog and then step back.

The future press release

One of the more popular examples of this is the infamous futyure press release of the future. It’s been popularised through stories of Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Apparently this has been a powerful tool for envisioning new product and service opportunities. One of my favourites is the future obituary. Imagine your future service has ended. What did people say about it, and what it achieved for the world. The outcomes fanatics amongst you would love it.

You’ve got two years to live

I’d heard that The School of Life do a similar exercise within their Confidence workshops. Imagine you have two years to live. What are you going to do? That’s a bit extreme.

It’s your 80th birthday

A sketch of what I hoped people would say that I had achieved by my 80th birthday

Around the same sort of time last year, my coach Julia Whitney, got me to think about my 80th birthday party. Imagine all the people that have really mattered to you are there. Your colleagues, your family, your friends. What would they say about you and how you were.

A sketch of what I hoped people would say about how I was and behaved

After a bunch of reflection exercises and digging deep on my blind spots, this exercise was a significant turning point. It was pivotal in driving my subsequent 12 month plan, including doing the workshops that have led to this Medium series. Thanks Julia.

Example map of my strategic outline of outcomes, initiatives and principles inspired by my coaching and the 80th birthday exercise

The exit interview

In the middle of Summer ahead of some workshops I was planning I attended a Todd Zaki Warfel workshop. He told the story of doing talking chats with the team he was responsible for when he first joined. He would ask them to talk him through what they had achieved in their role as if it was their exit interview. A nice take on the backcasting approach.

The leaving card

An example leaving card i used as a prompt. The real ones are usually much better.

Taking all of these different examples into consideration, I decided to learn from each of them and develop my own. It was reliant on the previous priming of reflection exercises, and some discussions around design value. Many of the key frameworks I have shared in this Medium series were often used.

Following the reflection, I would ask attendees to do the following:

  1. Think through different team members, stakeholders, customers and users that you work with or for. List them out. Give them a name.
  2. Then write your own leaving card. Imagine what they would say about what you achieved, and how you were to work with.
  3. You may start trivial and superficial, but think about the impact that you had on them. In what way will they miss you.

A tough but valuable exercise

I’ve seen how tough the exercise is for people, as there are always a few that struggle to get going.

But when they do, most people get to something valuable. And that’s not really the point anyway. The point is to get you to a projected future and to think through the impacts you want to have.

It also starts to offer better clues into your value, or the value of design in your organisation or to different stakeholders.

Of course, this does feel a little odd. Especially when doing in a workshop within a company’s design team. Though I do assure my clients that it’s worth knowing if someone is going to leave. And even if they’re not planning to, there is no time limit put forwards. It’s not as if they are going to stay working with your company forever.

Want to find out more, follow the series

If you want to learn more about the Shaping Workshops I run, and what I have learned over the years, follow me, or .

Keep your eyes peeled for another post tomorrow.

Shaping Design

A series of frameworks to help you reflect, direct and develop yourself or your team

Jason Mesut

Written by

Creating positive connections between people and technology. Heading up a new design and innovation consultancy called Resonant

Shaping Design

A series of frameworks to help you reflect, direct and develop yourself or your team

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