If you want to get people to freeze up, ask them, "What does your future look like in ten years?" Unless they're psychics, strategists, or futurists (see: Faith Popcorn) and they're whole life is future thinking, chances are folks'll give you their best impression of deer in the headlights.
People need a concrete container to fill with the abstract concept of a future state. John Ward of Many Minds calls this "useless sense-making." My favorite method is the Grove's Cover Story Vision. It plays out like this:
"Imagine a point in time, ten years from now, when you've accomplished every goal you've set out for yourself. You've achieved your vision. You've successfully executed your strategic plan. You've delighted your customers and employees. You're living the dream.
"In fact, you've been SO successful that your favorite industry magazine has decided to feature you in their next issue. For the next hour in groups, you're going to design that issue. Which magazine is it? How does the cover story headline read? What does the cover look like? What are some of the images associated with the article? What are the quotes - what your customers and other stakeholders saying about you? What are some of the metrics? What are the sidebars - the human interest stories, or the impact your success has had?
"Work in groups at your table. You have a template, magazines to cut pictures out of, markers to draw with, tape, scissors... everything you need. Spend a little time brainstorming up front, then we'll hear from each group."
The Grove has an alternate version of the Cover Story Vision called In The Movies. After having used both, I prefer the Cover Story Vision because it's easier to conceptualize producing a magazine article than a movie.
In March 2015, Heather Martinez and I were invited by a friend to help a girls' high school soccer team do some future visioning. We designed another version of the Cover Story Vision, modeling it after a school yearbook. We took the team through a series of guided questions: Imagine yourself on graduation day. What do you want your year book to say? What do you want your friends to write to you? What clubs will you have participated in? What were you voted most likely to do?
It's easy for participants to conceptualize their visions of the future if they have a concrete container of a visual template like the Cover Story Vision. Once the container is filled, it's not difficult to derive the components of the vision necessary to lay out objectives and goals.
Here's a copy of the yearbook template Heather and I designed, please use it!
Other future visioning methods:
- Have participants perform a skit of a mock CNN interview taking place in the far future where participants talk about their huge success.
- From Trent Wakenight, have participants give two minutes of an acceptance speech for an award they've received as a result of their success.
- Postcards from the Future