Futuring & Innovation: Compelling Topics

  • There are forces that may help facilitate or reduce the likelihood of success of innovation, such as technological, cultural, economic, legal, ethical, temporal, social, societal, global, national, and local.
  • TED talks are videos that addresses innovations related to Technology, Education, and Design, and they can be found at this Web site,
  • Sociotechnical Systems: the interplay, impact, and mutual influence when technology is introduced into a social system, i.e. workplace, school, home, etc. (com, n.d.; Sociotechnical theory, n.d.) The social system comprises people at all levels of knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and needs (Sociotechnical theory, n.d.).
  • Think tanks are a group of people that review the literature, discuss the literature, think about ideas, do tons of research, write, provide ideas, legitimize ideas, advocate, lobby, and arguing just to address a problem(s) (Mendizabal, 2011; TBS, 2015; Whittenhauer, n.d.). In short, they are idea factories: creating, producing, and sharing (Whittenhauer, n.d.). The balance between research, consultancy, and advocacy and their source of their arguments/ideas: applied, empirical, synthesis, theoretical or academic research; help shape what type of think tank they are (Mendizabal, 2011). Finally, there are two types of think tank models, one roof model where everyone gathers in one physical place to meet face-to-face or the without walls model where members only communicate through technological means (Whittenhauer, n.d.).
  • Nominal Grouping Technique (NTG) is a tool for decision making, where it can be used to identify elements of a problem, identify and rank goals by priorities, identify experts, involve people from all levels to promote buy-in of the results (Deip, Thensen, Motiwalla, & Seshardi, 1997; Hashim et al., 2016; Pulat, 2014). Pulat (2014) describes the process as listing and prioritizing a list of options that is created through a normal brainstorming session, where the list of ideas is generated without criticism or evaluation.  Whereas Deip et al. (1977) describe the process as one that taps into the experiences of all people by asking them all to state their idea on a list, and no discussion is permitted until all ideas are listed, from which after a discussion on each item on the list can ranking each idea can begin. Finally, Hashim et al. (2016) stated that the method is best used to help a small team to reach consensus by gathering ideas from all and exciting buy-in of ideas.
  • Dalkey and Helmer (1963), described that the Delphi project as a way to use expert opinion, with the hopes of getting the strongest consensus of a group of experts. Pulat (2014) states that ideas are listed, and prioritized by a weighted point system to help reduce the number of possible solutions with no communication between the experts or of the results during the process until the very end.  However, Dalkey and Helmer (1963) described the process as repeated interviewing or questioning individual experts while avoiding confrontation of other experts.  Questions are centered on some central problem and between each round of questioning consists of available data requested by one expert to be shown to all experts, or new information that is considered potentially relevant by an expert (Dalkey & Helmer, 1963; Pulat, 2014).  The solution from this technique improves with soliciting experts with a range of experiences (Okoli & Pawlowski, 2004; Pulat, 2014).
  • Serendipitous innovations: discovering what makes one thing special and applying it elsewhere, like Velcro’s.
  • Exaptation innovations: Never giving up, finding secondary uses for the same product, and not being afraid to pivot when needed, like Play-Doh.
  • Erroneous innovations: Creating something by accident in the pursuit of something else, like Saccharin (C7H5NO3S) the artificial sweetener.
  • Kodak is a great example where a good plan but something went wrong because of circumstances beyond their control.
  • The traditional forecast is essentially extrapolating where you were and where are you are now into the future, and at the end of this extrapolated line this is “the most likely scenario” (Wade, 2012; Wade, 2014). Mathematical formulations and extrapolations is a mechanical basis for traditional forecasting (Wade, 2012). At one point, these forecasts make ±5-10% in their projections and call it the “the best and worst case scenario” (Wade, 2012; Wade, 2014).  This ± difference is a range of possibilities out of an actual 360o solution spherical space (Wade, 2014). There are both mathematical forms of extrapolation and mental forms of extrapolation and both are quite dangerous because they assume that the world doesn’t change much (Wade, 2012).
  • Scenario planning could be done with 9-30 participants (Wade, 2012). But, a key requirement of scenario planning is for everyone to understand that knowing the future is impossible and yet people want to know where the future could go (Wade, 2014).  However, it is important to note that scenarios are not predictions; scenarios only illuminate different ways the future may unfold (Wade, 2012)! Therefore, this tool to come up with an approach that is creative, yet methodological, that would help spell out some of the future scenarios that could happen has ten steps (Wade, 2012; Wade, 2014):
    1. Framing the challenge
    2. Gathering information
    3. Identifying driving forces
    4. Defining the future’s critical “either/or” uncertainties
    5. Generating the scenarios
    6. Fleshing them out and creating story lines
    7. Validating the scenarios and identifying future research needs
    8. Assessing their implications and defining possible responses
    9. Identifying signposts
    10. Monitoring and updating the scenarios as times goes on


  • Dalkey, N., & Helmer, O. (1963). An experimental application of the Delphi method to the use of experts.Management science9(3), 458-467.
  • Deip, P., Thesen, A., Motiwalla, J., & Seshardi, N. (1977). Nominal group technique.
  • com (n.d.) socio-technical system. A Dictionary of Sociology. Retrieved from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/socio-technical-system
  • Hashim, A. T., Ariffin, A., Razalli, A. R., Shukor, A. A., NizamNasrifan, M., Ariffin, A. K., … & Yusof, N. A. A. (2016). Nominal Group Technique: a Brainstorming Tool for Identifying Learning Activities Using Musical Instruments to Enhance Creativity and Imagination of Young Children.International Advisory Board,23, 80.
  • Mendizabal, E. (2011). Different ways to define and describe think tanks. On Think Tanks. Retrieved from https://onthinktanks.org/articles/different-ways-to-define-and-describe-think-tanks/
  • Okoli, C., & Pawlowski, S. D. (2004). The Delphi method as a research tool: an example, design considerations and applications.Information & management42(1), 15-29.
  • Pulat, B. (2014) Lean/six sigma black belt certification workshop: body of knowledge. Creative Insights, LLC.
  • Socio-Technical Theory (n.d.) Brigham Young University. Retrieved from http://istheory.byu.edu/wiki/Socio-technical_theory
  • Wade, W. (2012) Scenario Planning: A Field Guide to the Future. John Wiley & Sons P&T. VitalSource Bookshelf Online.
  • Wade, W. (2014). Scenario Planning – Thinking differently about future innovation. Globis Retrieved from http://e.globis.jp/article/343

Whittenhauer, K. (n.d.). Effective think tank methods. eHow. Retrieved from http://www.ehow.com/way_5728092_effective-think-tank-methods.html

Different Types of Innovation

Serendipitous innovations: discovering what makes one thing special and applying it elsewhere

Georges de Mestral in 1941 went out to walk his dog in the woods and noticed how the burrs clung to him and his dog (Bellis, 2016; Suddath, 2010). De Mestral was curious enough to study these burrs under a microscope and from that he wanted to recreate it (Bellis, 2016). It took eight years of trial and error to create a synthetic burr that had tiny hooks, that would grip to a cloth full of tiny loops and the names of those two cloths “velvet” and “crochet” were combined to form Velcro (Bellis, 2016; Suddath, 2010).  Velcro was made to rival the zipper (Bellis, 2016). Velcro had its big break when it was used by NASA in the 1960s Apollo mission, then hospitals began to use them, then the military, and now it’s used on planes, cars, shoes, home décor, etc. (Suddath, 2010).

Exaptation innovations: Never giving up, finding secondary uses for the same product, and not being afraid to pivot when needed

The mixture of flour, water, salt, boric acid and mineral oil was first originally used as a reusable soup product to help clean wallpaper as part of the Kutol company (Biddle, 2012; Hiskey, 2015; Wonderopolis, n.d.). Hiskey (2015), chronicles that in 1933 Noah McVicker and Cleo McVicker created the doughy substance because at that time wallpaper couldn’t get wet.  However, the lack of toxic chemicals made it an ideal to become the toy it is today (Hiskey, 2015; Wonderopolis, n.d.).  This pivot from wallpaper cleaner to toy occurred when teachers began to use this product for a molding compound to make art for craft projects in school (Hiskey, 2015; The Strong, n.d.; Wonderopolis, n.d.).  When, the inventor’s nephew, Joe McVicker, eventually came into the Kutol Company and noticed this secondary use of their product, and thought it would be good to rename the product “Play-Doh” and marketed it to schools (Biddle, 2012; The Strong, n.d.; Wonderopolis, n.d.).

Erroneous innovations: Creating something by accident in the pursuit of something else

Two chemists in 1879 were working in the Lab at John Hopkins University, where one of them got hungry and forgot to wash his hands (Hicks, 2010; Smallwood, 2014).  Constantin Fahlberg didn’t die from this, which could have happened, but noticed that the chemical saccharin (C7H5NO3S) which he and his peer created made his food taste sweet (Hicks, 2010).  He created the Artificial sweetener that is now used in the “Sweet’n Low” pink packets; that is 300x sweeter than cane sugar and cheaper to produce (Hicks, 2010; Smallwood, 2014).  In 1884, Constatin patented the chemical saccharin without his co-inventor and set up a production shop in New York City (Hicks, 2010). In the 1970s a saccharin scare was created stating it was empty calories and harmful to the health of the consumer, the first part of the claim was substantiated, but the second claim has never been vetted with evidence, and in 2000 it was removed from the U.S. National Toxicology Program list of carcinogenic chemicals (Smallwood, 2014).  From this erroneous innovation, aspartame in 1965 a chemical 200x sweeter than sugar and sucralose in 1976 that is 600x sweeter than sugar was created (Hicks, 2010).