No one can predict the future, but you can be prepared
It's popular to be extreme. Nuance is complicated. It takes time, thought and patience. The extreme is, in many ways, the easier option in thinking about the past, the present and the future. Yet, paradoxically, both extremism and nuance persist and grow in this world. And that's exactly the point Designit's Global Future Lab Director, Lasse Underbjerg, is making with his work on preparing for the future. What lies ahead are continuous dualities: opposing forces that forge the future.
But what exactly is a duality? The dictionary defines duality as an instance of opposition or contrast between two aspects of something. What this means in the context of thinking about the future is that however you think about or of the future, it can't be thought of as one-dimensional or heading only in one direction. Instead, like human beings, the future is multi-dimensional, formed by almost infinite tensions.
But people like to put things into boxes to understand them better. It's a simple, compelling categorisation. Good and bad. Us and them. Man and woman. The simplified, binary thinking sees the world as black and white. But duality is not either-or; it's both. And as both sides of a tension develop simultaneously, a whole spectrum of possible futures is revealed. And ways of being. No one can predict the future, but you can be prepared.
Accepting that there's not one future but many different directions deeply transform the way one can - and should - advise on future strategy. It's a mindset change for a sector that has often positioned itself as all-knowing and able to predict the future with rather certain terms. Instead, the concept of duality is more dynamic. Dualities are lenses through which you can understand the tensions arising in a complex and uncertain world. They're enablers – a framework that can help people and organisations explore and shape strategies for potential futures.
If this seems 'vague', that's only because it's a new way of approaching uncertainty, one that accepts it exists. But it's not baseless - the concept of dualities is underpinned and continues to be fed by a huge amount of qualitative interviews and quantitive data. This data is what led Lasse and his team in their journey toward identifying the most relevant current tensions to be taken into account in preparing for the future: Slow- Fast, Convenience - Consideration, Serendipity - Automation, Independence - Community, and lastly, Distribution - Centralisation.
These dualities embrace a multitude of possibilities in an explorative way; for every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. Like there are two sides to every coin, the future is a dance between dualities with nuances to discover.
To envision the concept of dualities as something that can be used strategically in plans for the future, Lasse and his team developed The Futures Generator. The generator is a tool that can show you multiple futures, one concrete prototype at the time. By incorporating AI, it explores that there's not just one direction forward, but rather many different — sometimes contradictory — directions happening all at once, dependent on where your focus might lie.
Want to give it a try? Go on. The results may surprise you.
Interested in giving the futures of your business some more thought? We’d love to chat. Get in touch.