Purpose-Driven Investments

In the broader context of business, product, and service innovations, attention is drawn to the growing need for organizations that are meeting the demands of rapid social and technological changes to practice systematic futures thinking [foresight] at the fuzzy front-end of innovation. In this pilot study, we engaged with a small group of design and innovation practitioners in selected organizations (technology, mobility, and service-based industries) who seek to identify medium to longer-term opportunities for strategic innovation. Insights gained from this initial pilot study will further assist the research team to help identify types of stakeholders that can benefit from futures thinking approaches (methods, tools, and techniques), thus helping them and their organizations to make sense of complexity, and deal with uncertainty in rapidly changing social and technological environments.


Futures Thinking: Futures thinking encompasses a wide range of approaches and activities designed to help business stakeholders deal with uncertainty; applied in business, this systematic approach is designed to addressing the strategic questions of how to survive in an increasingly competitive environment. Foresight methodologies use techniques such as macro trend analysis and expert knowledge to explore alternative futures and classify them into possible (might happen), plausible (could happen), probable (likely to happen), and preferable (wanting to happen).

Design Foresight: Drawing attention to the growing need for organizations to meet the demands of rapid social and technological changes, this pilot study explored the current practice of futures thinking at the front end of innovation. While most product or service innovations focus on meeting current market needs (typically over a 1-3-year time horizon), the purpose of this study was motivated by our limited understanding of how designers and interdisciplinary innovation practitioners learn to identify the early signs of change, navigate disruption, make sense of complexity, and deal with uncertainty to envisage the medium and longer-term futures (5-15 years) of social and technology environments.

Project Insights and Outcomes

Largely driven by the rapid transformation of the Internet economy in China, Internet service providers, the emergence of science and technology enterprises, and user popularity of mobile payment and IoE technology enablers, have radically changed the Chinese consumers’ consumption habits and behaviors in daily life.

Futures thinking and foresight practices in China are in their infancy, and there are few systematic and practice-based applications in present-day enterprises.