Another blog about foresight. I love it! Since you are reading this, you might love it too, or at least have a curiosity about it.
In the last blog about how trends influence the future, we made a systems map that helped us prioritise the trends we started within this blog about foresight and eco-conscious design. We are working on finding different futures for this challenge:
"Our linear product design system creates a massive landfill globally."
Today you will be reading about finding other drivers of change, such as people's world views and belief systems. We are going to do this by using a system thinking method.
Systems thinking moves away from linear thinking and connects related topics to the challenge. It's a holistic approach to seeing how parts interrelate and how systems work overtime within a more extensive procedure.
"A system is a set of related components that work together in a particular environment to perform whatever functions are required to achieve the systems' objective." – Donella Meadows.
For example, take a pancake. A pancake consists of multiple ingredients, like milk, flour, and sugar. If you were to bake a pancake without milk, you wouldn't get a pancake anymore. It would be a dry paste of powders. This is the same with systems, take something out of the equation, and it won't function as it would anymore. Of course, mild could be replaced with another fluid, like water. In that case, the system is changed and will taste and feel different.
What we're going to do
We're going to use systems thinking to map out the interrelations between the trends we already identified and have a look at people's world views and belief systems.
There are different ways we can go about systems thinking. We'll be focusing on the systems map for this blog, specifically on the iceberg model. If you are interested in learning more, I encourage you to read this blog by Leyla Acaroglu.
These methods are helpful in your own life and for your future. Imagine knowing what might happen in your future and being prepared for it. Does that not take away a lot of the stress you might be feeling?
Whereas foresight helps us define different futures, systems thinking allows us to create interrelations between things. Both are essential in understanding the issue we're trying to solve.
Why we should use foresight and systems thinking:
It helps to prepare you for different futures as you can create an action plan
It helps to see interrelationships
It helps to give a broader perspective
There are also reasons not to use foresight tools:
You can't act on them. Foresight is a method that requires action. If you create a whole plan and do not do anything with it, it's just a waste of time.
The four prioritised trends we ended with in the last blog:
Demographic shifts of mindsets.
We will focus for this exercise mainly on the top 2 trends, climate crisis and globalisation. We will look for the interrelations between peoples' behaviours and belief systems using the iceberg model.
We see a white 'mountain' sticking out of the ice when we think of an iceberg. We often don't realise that the iceberg holds its feet much lower under the ice. The iceberg model helps us to see what we can't see directly.
The iceberg model consists of four elements, events, patterns/trends, underlying structures, and mental models. You can read more about it here.
The iceberg model from EcoChallenge
Let's break the iceberg up.
The event is our problem.
"Our linear product design system creates a massive landfill globally."
Patterns and trends
The underlying trends for climate change are:
Rising ocean temperatures and levels.
Natural disasters like blizzards and droughts.
Some of the patterns we have seen are carbon emission control, improved weather forecasting, changes in housing requirements, and displaced populations.
For globalisation, the underlying trends are:
The technical- and information revolution.
Economic- social, and cultural systems.
A much more integrated global market.
New economic powers in Asia and Latin America have boosted growth and made a decisive contribution to reducing world poverty.
Now let's figure out what has influenced these patterns and what are the relationships between the parts.
For climate change, there is, for example:
- population growth,
-linear product system,
- food waste,
- food choices,
- non-sustainable materials we use for creating products,
- fixed mindsets of investors, designers and engineers.
These are global complex systems that are hard to change, innovation in products and materials, and increased access to information for globalisation.
What assumptions, beliefs, and values do people hold about the linear product system? What ideas keep the system in place?
We can find this out through research and surveys with customers specifically about this topic.
For climate change, these are some statistics summarised
It is a complex topic, as there is no one way everyone feels about climate change. And this study of 30,000 people in 28 countries uncovered these.
People are concerned and expect that climate change will significantly impact a person's life. Majorities in all countries believe that climate change will result in:
Severe damage to the global economy.
Lost cities due to rising sea levels.
Mass displacement of people from some parts of the world to others.
People understand drastic change needs to be taken. However, they generally believe it's less up to the individual to take climate action than their country. They don't think them making a change makes a difference.
Most people of the world feel that we can still avoid the worst effects of climate change, although it would need drastic changes soon in how we tackle it.
For globalisation, here are some statistics
Last year, Ipsos shared a study that measured support for globalisation and trade in 25 countries worldwide.
According to a recent Ipsos-World Economic Forum survey of adults in 25 countries worldwide, most people think expanding trade is good. But support for globalisation has declined - with half of the people unsure of its benefits and a third advocating for trade barriers.
In the short term, globalisation can be disruptive and painful, as it can undermine local reforms. However, it can grow economies, reduce poverty, and empower people worldwide in the long term. The seeming contradiction in survey results is understandable: people want more of the good and less of the bad of globalisation.
How does all of this now connect to our challenge?
People's impact on systems can either fast track or down track a trend. People can be pretty reluctant to change as many prefer convenience over change. Change requires a new action, which costs more effort than staying with what we already know and do. It might be the case that, in the future, governments will set strict rules about how we live. For example, there might be a limit on how much carbon we use each day as people won't voluntarily take action to slow down. This also influences people's current beliefs, saying that the action lies with organisations, not themselves. We should remember that these beliefs also might change over time. That people don't believe in individual change right now does not mean it stays the same in the future.
Action should come from each of us. However, if the climate does not seem to change much, why would we act now? The same counts for our linear product design system. Currently, most of us do not see the waste. It's hidden for us. We don't know the mess, and we don't want to see it. So why fight for a change? I believe the more visual the waste becomes, the more people will act.
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