Tag: Future


Design Thinking Futures [Part 1]


PART 1 of 2:

GK VanPatter in conversation with Rafiq Elmansy

Rafiq Elmansy: In one of your articles, MAKING SENSE OF: “Why Design Thinking Will Fail,” you classified design thinking into upstream and downstream design thinking. Can you clarify this taxonomy for our readers?

GK VanPatter: Yes certainly. We see a lot of articles online like the now infamous “Why Design Thinking Will Fail” post that you referred to. Our response, posted to LinkedIn contains a reference to the situation that I just referred to above. The impact of the methodology mess that now exists becomes clear in that article. (See link below.)

Regarding upstream and downstream, we created this distinction as one part of a larger taxonomy while researching and writing our recently published book Innovation Methods Mapping to convey important differences in methodologies. In the book, readers can see and make use of the entire taxonomy as a reusable analysis framework. Our goal in creating the analysis lens is not jargon-making but rather to introduce considerations and meaning not previously present.

The terms upstream and downstream relate to the assumed starting points of the methodology. Upstream means upstream from the “brief”, which is a framed or semi-framed challenge. In upstream contexts, one cannot and does not assume to know what the challenges actually might be. Part of the work is to create the interconnected constellation of challenges, often seen for the first time. The everyday context for upstream is complex organizations and societies where many types of challenges tend to exist. Why would anyone assume all challenges on the planet are product or service related? From our open innovation perspective that makes no sense at all.

Downstream is the brief business where much of the traditional design industries (and graduate design schools) have been focused for decades. Most often in downstream methods, the assumption is that the challenge to be addressed is pre-assumed to be related to product, service or experience design regardless of what the challenges actually might be.











Both upstream and downstream methods are useful. The problems arise when downstream methods are force-fitted into upstream contexts. Today in a competitive marketplace, whether we all like it or not, many graduate design schools are, due to their slow adaptation over a decade, out pitching the quick-fix notion that down is up, that downstream methods are universal, that downstream methods are meta design. That is more about marketing than methodologies. This spin pitching has contributed, not to the making sense of the subject, but rather to the mountain of confusion that now exists and continues to grow. Ultimately that spin will likely undermine the credibility of those advocates, but hopefully not the subject and the interest in adaptive skills.

What we find is that the methodology related sensemaking that we do is welcomed by many and not appreciated by some who would prefer that these differences not be pointed out. Not everyone is going to be a fan of more clarity around the subject of design/design thinking. So be it.

See the entire Part 1 of the interview here:


Building 2020 WorkPlace Skills


We were delighted to see the sythesized 2020 Workplace Engagement Model inside this useful book by Jeanne C. Meister and Karie Willyerd entitled The 2020 Workplace / How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop and Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today.

We would recomend this book to our Humantific readers, many of whom are organizational leaders working on building next generation innovation capacity.

Anything related to envisioning tomorrow is useful in the context of imagining future organizational change and many organizations digest large quantities of such insights as part of their everyday sensemaking, some more formally than others.

We consistently see Collaboration, Authenticity and Innovation playing important roles in many future workplace visions.

Many organizational leaders are not waiting around for all the confirming statistics to be in, but rather are actively working on building this 2020 capacity NOW!

“The 2020 Workplace Engagement Model

Collaboration: This calls for interwoven work, internally & externally.

Authenticity: Core values and transparency demonstrate genuineness

Personification: Employees want tailor-made career paths.

Innovation: In a changing world, new thinking enables sustainability.

Social Connection: No one is an island. The future workplace will be based on sharing and forming a community.”


Future Work Skills 2020: SenseMaking

Envisioning Futures Program

McKinsey: Calling all SenseMakers!


Pattern Recognition

As part of their 2020 forecast our friends over at Institute of the Future have been writing about Drivers of Change. One Driver that we particularly appreciate is pattern recognition and the rise of visual sensemaking:

“An extremely visible world demands new sensemaking…Information proliferation will continue, exacerbating the burden on families, learners, educators, and decision-makers to make sense of vast amounts of data. New tools for visualizing data will require new skills in discerning meaningful patterns.”

Actually the collective sensmaking that we do at Humantific involves much more than data visualization.

See more here on Social SenseMaking. 


Making the Future Understandable

Among the most confidential project types that we do at Humantific are those focused on future trends that inform strategic visions and strategies. With our long term clients in several industries Humantific is at work on multiple projects involving the role of future trends in SenseMaking and ChangeMaking. We did our very first Future Made Visible Project ten years ago and see a huge rise of interest in this work from clients seeking to better understand the future of their industries. What is the future of healthcare? What is the future of banking?  While in the marketplace a few organizations have multimillion dollar budgets to fund future work in collaboration with high profile academic institutions like MIT most seek to create their futures in less grandiose ways. Organizational leaders come to Humantific because they seek a more hands on, participatory route and they want to not only understand future trends but to integrate this research into a broader innovation process.  At Humantific we understand that delicate relationship between SenseMaking and ChangeMaking. Clients often ask us to help them design the envelope in which humans interact with future visions, to make numerous streams of research understandable and to provide the process mastery necessary to make the research part of a continuous innovation process. How might you create a participatory future envisioning process that involves hundreds of employees in multiple locations? How do you integrate future views into your everyday work cycle? These are among the questions that our clients are interested in. Due to its highly confidential strategic nature it is not the kind of work we can show at innovation conferences or here on our web site. Making sense of and jumping off from the future with co-creation is fascinating work that we love to do.