Sami Niemelä

Sami is a designer who lives the future so you don’t have to. In his daily work he helps companies find their way in a fast moving world, specializing in discovering the cracks and using what grows there as a fuel in creating culture shaping strategies, products and services. He has been working on the field for the past 20 years both in the theoretical side of things, teaching and developing new frameworks and also in practice — he holds several patents and is an awarded designer and a strategist. Currently he is one of the founders and the creative director of an advanced design firm Nordkapp headquartered in Helsinki, and working all over the world. On the side, he co-founded IxDA Helsinki in 2008, co-chaired Interaction 16 in Helsinki, has been invited to judge several competitions and advices ambitious startups such as EDACY, aiming to revolutionize the higher education in Africa.

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Workshop: Building Actionable Futures

Design is an act that intrinsically lives in the future. Everything we create, some things more incremental than others, is bound to life through the act of design. However, to see clearly further than the next revision requires sensitivity and understanding of larger systems at play: macro and micro trends, foresight, business strategy, all blended together with design. At Nordkapp we’ve been actively exploring building futures. Many of our designers have a history working with foresight and futures building new inventions and concepts on trends and market data. During the 10 years we’ve worked under the studio we’ve done our fair share of public and not-so- public work in this realm. We’ve noticed one thing. As technology moves faster, predicting futures is becoming more difficult to anticipate, and in order to build a plausible future beyond the next PI planning, one needs a robust set of tools to do so. One that doesn’t end up at mapping and clustering at Powerpoint, but has solid mechanisms for delivery and organisational alignment to ensure we’ll get there. There are foresight and trend analysis tools on the market but we didn’t feel any of the available options would work for us, in the way we wanted. So we created our own.

The Actionable Futures Toolkit is a set of canvases made to work for you in building and aligning a future for an organisation, service or a product. It will be shared freely under Creative Commons during the spring 2018. The usage varies regarding the scope and the context, but so far we’ve run this with a large financial organisation, an advanced research and development unit, a media company and several startups. And it works beautifully. Now we want to share our work with the world, with learnings and instructions how to run the session once, consequently and in parts diving deep into the strategy and business models that make futures real.

The first release of the Actionable Futures Toolkit consists of four parts, best divided over a several days either one-off or linear sessions, with as diverse participant group as possible. The parts that make The Actionable Futures toolkit are World building, Risk Analysis, the Optimal Future Hypothesis and Backcasting. Each of these are laid out on two master canvases, with a one subcanvas each section, tailored for scalable group work. The parts 1-3 can be executed over a long intensive day, or a two day session. The fourth part usually requires quite a bit of mental capacity so it deserves a session on its own, which can be spread over several days or even weeks making it an excellent planning too for a design driven organization. All of these can be built upon and repeated for organisational alignment and execution. We’ve poured our combined decades of experience on this, and now we would like to share it with you. Because the futures do not just happen, but they are created by our actions.