Untangling Alternatives. A design toolkit about possible, probable and desirable futures
At Tangity, we created a toolkit to enable our designers exploring a flood of futures and being able to collect insights and clues to stimulate a debate and to deal with the uncertainty of our times — in terms of individuals, societies and businesses.
Untangling alternatives is not a toolkit for fortune-tellers; in fact, it’s quite the opposite, it is a mission for explorers, travelers and adventurers. Do you feel like one of those? Great, because to explore and untangle the future with our toolkit, you need to: leave your biases behind, embrace complexity and uncertainty, change your perspective and deal with the unreal. This is the only way to start a real journey through the future and to spot and collect the signals and the opportunities to design a preferable future for all along the way.
“The preferable future is the future we believe we want to achieve, from business, social, environmental and ethical points of view”.
Why should I travel into a kaleidoscope of future scenarios?
Today, more than ever, knowing how to deal with uncertainty matters. It is now clear how everything is connected and changing quickly, where technology enters our lives, and unexpected new situations bloom around us every day. But how can we dive into uncertainty but avoid getting lost? The first thing to do is the creation of future scenarios. Thanks to these alternative realities, your crew of future travelers will be able to explore specific situations or fields and try to speculate how societies, companies and individuals could plausibly evolve — together with their products and services.
“We imagine future scenarios which in turn lead us to possible alternative futures to explore and that can teach us valuable lessons that we act on today.”
The most valuable path towards the future
Untangling Alternatives aims to be an easy-to-use tool that you — together with your colleagues or clients — can use to achieve various goals. Your exploration can approach the future in three different ways:
- by searching for new directions;
- by defining new beginnings;
- or by testing the future’s impact on your ideas/concepts/solutions.
4 steps to embark on a journey to the future
Step One: You need a time machine
Keeping in mind that you can travel “whenever”, the toolkit offers you a speculative compass that we named “What if..? Cards”. This deck of cards guides your exploration by providing signals from the present, emerging trends and disruptive stories. These “questions” result from in-depth research we conducted to play with what’s around us. Depending on the topic of interest, the “What if..? Cards” should represent the challenges our world could face in the next years and inspire your journey. With the cards, you can be stimulated and brainstorm future scenarios like: “What if there will be a future without work?” or “What if 9am to 6pm work routine will disappear? ”. The only rule is to keep the timespan under control and keep in mind that future is not “magic”.
Step Two: Time travel simulator is on
At this stage, you should have a good number of alternative realities on your radar. To decide which future to chase after, you need to select the scenario that meets certain aspects. It doesn’t need to be too predictable/obvious neither utopian/magical/dystopian. It would help if you chose the future scenario that offers an evolution that teaches us something positive; it doesn’t need to aim at perfection, but towards something that we can see as achievable and learn from. To make your selection easier, you can use the so-called “The Zone” canvas that helps identify practical futures to pursue. Once a scenario is selected, you should imagine yourself time travel to that universe and be ready to visit it!
Here’s a video to spark your inspiration ;-)
Step Three: The portrait of an alternative world
So, you finally landed in the future, and now your adventure begins. The toolkit guides your exploration by offering the instruments to immerse yourself into this future reality. Empathize with the society, people, economy, politics and environment of this world. Take your time to speak with the inhabitants — Are they human? Are they machines? — and to imagine living like one of them. Remember: by outlining the portrait of this alternative world, you are collecting the most interesting insights that can help to design our next future. How to do it? Simply follow the canvases and use them all or only selected ones, depending on the depth you want to achieve!
“We can prototype our future instead of waiting for data to tell us what the future is going to be.”
Step Four: Future glimpses
As you probably realized, traveling to the future is the best opportunity to learn about the present. How do people live in that future? What are the challenges they need to face? What are the opportunities? But the most important question still is: How do we get there? Which are the essential steps to take, starting from tomorrow? The collection of future glimpses you will have gathered will help you define the journey ahead and create the roadmap with the actions to accompany your peers and society towards tomorrow. Together, we went to the future and now back to the present to prepare for what’s ahead: the future we want! A future that you can define by filling out the “Future traveler report canvas” that you can use as the basis of a new product’s or service’s vision.
After some future travelling that’s what we have learned
At Tangity, we love to create ideas that are not yet of this “world”. In fact, every time we design a new product or service, we are shaping the near future, deciding how people will interact with our product. With the Untangling Alternatives toolkit, we are taking a step forward: offering designers a tool to question their work and ask themselves how the future — the far future — will look like, responsibly.
Our Untangling Alternatives toolkit is the result of future trips in which we guided our teams and our clients out from the comfort zone, gently nudging them to envision unusual scenarios and define opportunities to work on in the future. We have done it boundless. We mapped out uncharted routes and pathways and gave ourselves and our clients permission to imagine beyond.
“It is reality that awakens possibilities.”
— Robert Musil, The man without qualities
Now, fasten your seatbelt and start using the toolkit.
This toolkit has been created by Other Societies, the future travelers unit of Tangity.
Maddalena Bellè, Senior UX & Service Designer
FIlippo Perlini, Senior UX & Service Designer
Elena Tecce, Senior UX & Service Designer