October 5, 2018

“As a technologist, I see how AI and the fourth industrial revolution will impact every aspect of people’s lives.”

– Fei-Fei Li

This module represents an important shift in our foresight process. Module 0 and Module 1 focused on framing our foresight activities. Next, we conducted a set of exploration activities by first orienting to the intelligent-systems landscape (Module 2) and then scanning for key signals and drivers of change across the intelligent-systems landscape (Module 3) and the broader global landscape (Module 4).

In Module 5, we move from activities aimed at gathering information to activities aimed at synthesizing and making sense of the information at hand by creating a list of key drivers and trends. These key drivers and trends will serve as valuable inputs to the process of creating stories about possible future scenarios and constructing alternate futures.

In this module, we attempt to summarize some of the key drivers and trends that we observed from our exploration phase. These drivers and trends were created by the RTI Innovation Advisors research team in collaboration with intelligent-systems experts and the SPRING Pioneers (select IRI members who are working alongside RTI Innovation Advisors). The source materials for these drivers and trends are from Modules 2, 3, and 4 and from various thought-leader interviews.

In this module, we break from our traditional “crash course” and “deep dive” format and present instead a list of synthesized drivers of change organized by category. Note: This list is neither comprehensive nor exclusive and is built upon our extensive research of signals that have informed the trends and drivers of change. The list is intended for a broad corporate audience and is generally agnostic to specific industries or companies. SPRING seeks to simultaneously engage more than 100 organizations to think more broadly about the thematic area of Intelligent Systems. Identifying the drivers and trends that uniquely impact your organization is an important part of any foresight process. This list will help you think about the future, but additional work may be needed to identify drivers of change specific to your organization. Supplement this list with the key drivers and trends identified during your own scanning before moving to the next step in the foresight process. What drivers and trends did you identify that we did not include? We would love to hear from you! Email jredden@rti.org with insights from your own scanning activities.


Before We Begin… How to Use These Drivers of Change

The 70 drivers of change that follow are powerful tools for your organization. But like any tool, there are some right ways and wrong ways to use this tool. The following are a few recommended DOs and DON’Ts for these intelligent-systems drivers of change.

Recommended Best Practices

  • Engage a diverse team to consider and work with these drivers of change. Strategic foresighting is a team sport, requiring a diverse set of perspectives from across your organization and perhaps outside experts as well. To get started, carefully choose a cross-functional team by selecting a diverse group of people willing and able to think about the future. The power of thinking about these drivers of change is in the methods used—which all rely upon diverse teams to review, discuss, and interpret these drivers together. Experiential learning and team immersion is the best way to get to shared insights. Without shared insights, there cannot be shared confidence and conviction in what these drivers mean to your company.
  • Use these drivers of change to stimulate conversation inside your organization. Looking at drivers of change is a great way to stimulate important strategic conversations inside your organization. Is HR ready for the changes coming to the way intelligent systems are used to attract and retain talent? Are they aware of the changing workforce needs your organization will likely encounter over the next 5–7 years? How will marketing leverage intelligent systems to increase personalization, trust in the brand, or better connect with customers? What is the R&D or IT strategy for intelligent systems? Stimulating conversation is only a starting point.
  • Use these drivers of change along with some proven interpreting and visioning methods and exercise. As noted, at this stage in the SPRING foresighting sequence, we are moving from scanning to interpreting and visioning. To do this, we can use a variety of methods, such as horizons plotting, trend analysis, and emerging issues/drivers analyses, impact-uncertainty analysis, futures/implications wheels, probability trees, or causal layered analysis (see Module 1 for more context). Each of these methods provides a structured way to work with drivers and trends and begin to consider how these factors may shape various plausible alternate futures and scenarios. For more information and examples of methods and exercises, see the resources provided in the deep dive section of Module 1—Foresighting 101—or contact RTI Innovation Advisors.
  • Use these drivers of change as part of a structured foresight process. By far, one of the best ways to use drivers of change is in the context of a complete strategic foresight exercise, which is exactly how we are using them as part of SPRING. In the SPRING foresight process, the drivers of change are an interim product that we use as input for our visioning activities. Does your organization already have an established foresight practice? Great! Send these drivers of change to your company’s foresight team as input to their strategic planning activities. If not, your organization should have a defined process for helping executives and business unit leaders understand potential changes on the horizon and formulate a robust strategy that incorporates insights from your foresight activities. Need help setting up a strategic foresight practice inside your organization? RTI’s Innovation Advisors can help. Reach out to jredden@rti.org to learn more.

Pitfalls to Avoid

    • Do NOT presume that this module alone will create impact for your organization. One of the founding principles of the SPRING program is that creating confidence and conviction inside your organization requires more than a single report. That is especially true of these 70 drivers of change.
    • Do NOT use these drivers without a structured method. 70+ drivers of change quickly become overwhelming. Without a method to turn these insights into meaningful implications for your organization, they remain simply a fun read, food for thought, or overwhelming noise.
    • Do NOT assume that this list is complete. Remember, SPRING simultaneously engages 100+ organizations. The best strategic foresight weaves organizational context into every step along the way. Which drivers are not listed that are likely to impact your organization? Your industry? Your geography?
    • Do NOT try to digest and make sense of all of these drivers in one sitting or just by yourself. There is a lot here. If you have been following along with all of our modules, you know that digesting this information takes time. Also, many of your insights, and those for your organization, will come from working through these drivers and trends with a focused team using a good analytical or interpretive method.

Want the rest of the module?  IRI members and SPRINGBOARD attendees can download it here.

Nonmembers may request one module free of charge.  Subsequent modules can be purchased as a bundle here.  To request this module, please email Lee Green at green@iriweb.org.