Phase 1: Envision Future Scenarios
Unit 3: Developing scenarios and challenges
Envisioning context and personas of the future
In this unit:
We synthesise the work of the former two units in order to establish relevant design challenges:
In Unit 1, the team created new contexts of the future by understanding and expanding the collective imagination of the organisation.
In Unit 2, the team explored the needs of future users.
With this information, the team identified critical scenarios with which they could form design challenges by aligning the contexts that were of strategic value to Koa Health with the needs of future users.
The team envisioned scenarios considering different time horizons in the future. At the ‘Planned’ time horizon, there are contexts and conditions which will most likely continue as they are currently. Here, the company is mostly focused on optimising the business. Therefore, the Lab team did not create scenarios for this time horizon.
However, at the Near Future horizon, trends will have reshaped the context and at the Far Future horizon, trends and big events could lead to societal shifts that alter the paradigm.
At these two latter horizons the strategic approach is to manage change, either by creating it, resisting it, adapting to it or leveraging it. We work to expand the collective imagination of what is considered plausible, enabling the organisation to make steps toward opportunity and away from threats. The value of envisioning scenarios for these time horizons is to create the map to plan these ‘directions’.
After completing the research on extreme users and the company, the lab team went through a synthesis process to create relevant scenarios.
The team envisioned scenarios considering different time horizons in the future. At the ‘Planned’ time horizon, there are contexts and conditions which will most likely continue as they are currently. Here, the company is mostly focussed on optimising the business. Therefore, the Lab team did not create scenarios for this time horizon.
At the ‘Near Future’ horizon, trends will have reshaped the context and at the ‘Far Future’ horizon, trends and big events could lead to societal shifts that alter the paradigm. At these two latter horizons the strategic approach is to manage change by creating it, resisting it, adapting to it or leveraging it. We work to expand the collective imagination of what is considered plausible, enabling the organisation to create paths towards opportunity and away from threats. The value of envisioning scenarios for these time horizons is to create the map to plan these paths.
For both the ‘Near Future’ and the more extreme ‘Far Future’, scenarios are stories that depict possible futures. In the lab team’s definition, they need to include a persona, a context, and the way the persona might act in the context.
With each scenario, they also created a series of design challenges that consider the opportunities for the client to act on those scenarios, supporting the personas’ needs in each distinct context. These scenarios and challenges resulted from combining the research done on the organisation, the context and the users —all of which represent the critical components of the project.
To define the scope of opportunities,, the lab team aimed to take the role of mediator between what the client wanted and what the users in those specific contexts wanted.
Expanding the ‘Near Future’ strategy
The work the lab team carried out to understand the company’s business strategy in unit 2 was concluded in this stage by creating scenarios for the Near Future time horizon.
By assessing opportunities in different markets, the team determined that the market that most aligned with the company strategies and resources was the ‘mental wellbeing’ market. Within that space, they decided to focus their attention on students going into university, and in particular, they looked at non-clinical anxiety.
They spotted opportunities within mobile healthcare and university marketplaces. The lab team made this decision based on the client’s current capabilities and the type of impact they could have in that particular sector. They used this research to define scenarios and design challenges that they could use for their project briefs, particularly for the studio projects.
The ‘Near Future’ scenarios were less extreme and less focused on the future than the work for the ‘Far Future’ horizon. Instead, they were aligned more closely with the company strategy. In this way, some of the concepts could be implemented within the client’s platform, demonstrating that by expanding the scope of what is plausible the company could be more innovative.
Near future persona
The research on the market and the competitive landscape influenced the decision of which audience to prioritise. The lab team realised there was great opportunity with younger generations who are learning to understand and wield their own agency at times of significant change.
Once they specified the target users, they conducted further research.
They narrowed down the scope to:
- people aged 16 to 24, struggling to find a proper balance of their work and social life, with their personal aspirations;
- and,people transitioning from school to tertiary education and then to work.
The lab team consolidated their findings with the creation of a singular, ‘Near Future’ persona. Then, they analysed the needs and goals of this persona through the lenses of each one of the six societal dimensions (See Fig 1).
This process helped the team define the areas of need for each theme, which then represents what they wanted to help the users to achieve.
Scenarios of the Near Future
As mentioned before, the scenarios include a persona, a context and the interaction between them. So, after defining the persona, the lab team conducted further research into the near future for each societal dimension, considering how the persona might relate to each one of the contexts. They collected insights from articles and reports about ‘Gen Z’ and their behaviours. Then, they then synthesised the key elements that greatly influenced the persona. With those in mind, they created short narratives about how the persona acts and used all this to create scenarios.
Near future design challenges
For each of the six societal dimensions, the lab team wanted to create a broad design challenge, looking at how they could support the user in the contexts they might face. For each of the scenarios, they brainstormed questions using the formula starting with “how might we.” These questions considered how they could help young people feel more in control over their choices in the different contexts of identity, spirituality, work, body, relationships, and money.
Expanding the ‘Far Future’
Following the work done with the extreme users’ research, the lab team developed extreme scenarios. They called them “extreme” because, in these scenarios, they tried to push the contexts farther into the future, using the research on trends synthesised in the future trends toolkit. At this stage, they focused on exploring future possibilities looking at ways to inspire and provoke the client’s thinking in order to expand the scope of potential futures that were considered ‘plausible’.
The creation of the scenarios for each societal dimension of change started by integrating what they learned from the client, the trends analysis and the research on the extreme users. Followed by envisioning how the contexts and people would interact to demonstrate potential issues and opportunities.
Following the collection of insights from the user interviews, the next step was to synthesise the extreme users’ profiles into future personas. It was mainly a process of combining information from the different extreme users with the insight from their trend analysis.
The lab team decided to create three future personas for each of the six societal dimensions to capture any extremes of people within each dimension or any other distinct traits. For example, with the ‘spirituality’ dimension, simple distinctions could be drawn between atheistic and monotheistic people and people following alternative spiritual practices. The team used the profiles of users they had met for whom these topics were important and extrapolated their profiles into the future.
They created a narrative for each future persona, highlighting what happiness might mean to the persona and their main goals are. The lab team completed 17 future personas — three personas for each of the six societal dimensions, in most cases.
Extreme scenarios of the far future
The process of building extreme scenarios was based on taking the future personas and combining them with the signals and trends they collected in the future trend cards. This way, they imagined how future contexts would impact the users and how their needs might change as a consequence. They followed a creative process, similar to the exercise the lab team did with the client during the Envision Sprint. For each future persona, they used some of the signals and trends to identify possible events that could affect them.
Then, they imagined how the future persona would behave in that context, how they would interact in the transformed future and what needs or opportunities may emerge.
Extreme design challenges
The lab team’s last activity for the extreme scenarios was to define the design challenges, which would frame their intervention in the next phases.
The design challenges format was a series of questions related to each scenario, starting with the formula “how might we.” To create the questions, they considered the future persona and the extreme scenario, and they brainstormed opportunities to consider in those future contexts. In particular, they focused on the client’s strategy and where they could see themselves creating impact
Envision Future Scenarios
Unit 1: Defining the scope for the Exploration
Exploring the strategy of the organisation to define the scope of potential future contexts.