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Futures Thinking Methodologies
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by Jonas Svava Iversen 26 Futurist Tools

Futures Thinking Methodologies - Options Relevant for Schooling for Tomorrow

There are numerous papers and books on methodologies and use of future-oriented work: But many of these studies either focus on only one methodology and/or are not very user friendly in their presentation of the methodologies described. The aim of this paper is therefore to give a comprehensive and use/user oriented view of a range of methodologies within area of research and studies of trends and driving forces that may shape the future. In this particular context, the term ‘methodology’ covers both the actual methods used and the approach to the design of a future study (i.e. how different methods may be combined.). The main theme will be scenario development, but since this is a quite ambiguous concept it is often hard to draw the line between scenario methodologies and other future-oriented methodologies. We will therefore not only focus on scenario methodology per se, but also on the wide variety of futureoriented methodologies that are often used as a basis for scenario development.


Managing two different kinds of reasoning
Essentially, future-oriented work is focused on learning and on using new insights to achieve a variety of different ends. In order to describe the functions of many of the different methodologies related to futureoriented work, it would seem appropriate to use a terminology developed within the field of cognitive theories of learning. In his study from 1967 on test and measures of intelligence, Hudson identifies two seemingly different form of thinking (skills): Convergent and Divergent thinking.

Convergent thinking is essentially about traditional problem solving. Convergent thinking typically involves bringing material from a variety of sources to bear on a problem, in such a way as to produce the "correct" answer. This kind of thinking is particularly appropriate in science, maths, and technology, since it involves description, observation, deduction, and/or prioritisation in relation to a given problem. Divergent thinking is a skill broadly related to the creative elaboration of ideas prompted by a stimulus. In a conventional line of thought such thinking is more suited to artistic pursuits and studies within the humanities.

This terminology may be used to describe most of the methods and tools applied within future-oriented work. There is a range of methods designed to foster divergent and ‘out of the box’ thinking and there is a range of methods used to foster convergent and synthesis-oriented thinking. Although one may think that scenario and future analysis with its more or less explicit focus on the question of ‘what if’ would be heavily biased towards divergent processes. This is not the case. Good future study design must balance the divergent and convergent processes in order to facilitate a process where the use of the two different ways of thinking produces a result which is exploratory and creative and rooted in facts, numbers, and explicitly stated rational assumptions.

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