“The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.” Though attributed to essayist William Gibson nearly 20 years ago, the quote could not be more relevant today. From flexible working conditions to the coexistence of both physical and digital experiences, COVID-19 has accelerated the trends and behaviors that have been rearing their heads for some time, and pushed them to the forefront of our everyday lives.
Indeed, the future is already here. How might we fully step into it with creativity and resilience?
Recently, a group of IDEO designers in Tokyo convened a creative project to brainstorm and design for the implications of the pandemic on the future of Japan. Called “Emergent Futures,” the goal of the work—accessible below—was not to predict the future, but to prepare for the possibilities it may bring.
To envision these “emergent futures,” we started where we always do: with people, and by observing ourselves, our families, and communities. For each future, we describe what it looks like and what behaviors prevail, the evidence we see for this future already emerging, and what design opportunities exist for Japan-focused businesses.
For example, the first emergent future we explore is Leftover Spaces—the idea that physical spaces will become more dynamic due to public health concerns around occupancy. With this, business opportunities related to rent, consumer preferences, space design, and co-ownership emerge. We explore and ground this emergent future through Kei, an IDEO designer and blossoming curry chef, whose needs inspired us to prototype a pop-up system concept—the Kei Truck. Our research reveals how some businesses are already prototyping this future, including restaurants operating as corner stores and Hoshino Resorts, who is leveraging data tracking to keep guests safe. These examples provoke key takeaways for leaders, from the need to develop a more entrepreneurial, adaptable workforce to using data in a human-centered way.
Though Emergent Futures is a collection of provocations about the state of Japan post-pandemic, the value of this futuring exercise and framework is universal, especially now. For Japan and other parts of the world to meet the challenges and opportunities we face post-COVID—from how to safely utilize physical spaces to how to remain competitive in a changing job market—our response must be human-centered, innovative, and imaginative.
Please share the work far and wide. We hope to spark the global collaboration required to ensure the future is evenly distributed, so we can step into it with confidence and creativity, together.
Download and share Emergent Futures here.
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