Team works at a whiteboard

Future Workshop

Future Workshops were a type of discussion originally developed in the 1980s as a way for ordinary people to be more involved in the democratic processes that would shape their social and technological futures. The idea was that the future could be built by the people who would be most affected by the changing world.

In User Experience, Future Workshops are applicable when innovation is needed. Readiness for the future requires envisioning possibilities based on industry and technology trends, then considering how emergent technologies (or feasible future tools) might satisfy user goals.

The classic structure of a Future Workshop is four phases: Preparatory, Fantasy, Critique, and Implementation.


Schedule Time & Gather Materials

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Schedule Time:

  • Time Needed: 4 Hours
Gather Materials

Gather Materials:

  • Post-it notes
  • Pens

Carry Out This Method

  1. Seat a group of participants, consisting of a combination of stakeholders and users, in an open circle with access to a wall on which notes and ideas will be posted.
  2. The first phase is the Preparatory phase, in which your group will discuss what product issue or user goal to investigate. Consider the product’s current strengths and weaknesses when facing this issue or goal.
  3. Phase two is the Fantasy phase. Ask participants to brainstorm unconstrained, perfect-world versions of the future state. Have the group imagine feasible future technologies or tools that currently exist but are not yet widely adopted.
  4. Write their ideas on post-it notes, and place them to the wall.
  5. Ask participants to collaboratively cluster their answers based on similarity or how likely they are to accompany one another in one future scenario.
  6. During phase three, Critique, discuss the feasibility of these ideas. Consider the likelihood of a given technology being available in the future, the ability of the design team to take action to prepare for these futures, and the real-world applicability to your products.
  7. Ask participants to prioritize the ideas by voting for the most useful ideas, taking the above discussion into account when they make their choices.
  8. Split participants into 3 or 4 groups. Assign them one of the top voted ideas and ask them to construct a role play that illustrates it.
  9. Ask participants to perform their role plays.
  10. Given this new demonstration of the future, participants may now have a better idea of the feasibility and applicability of these ideas. Therefore, have participants vote once again to choose which one or two ideas are best for implementation.
  11. Phase four is Implementation, which will vary from team to team. Recommend actionable steps the company can take based on the future or futures that your participants imagined to be feasible and valuable.

Try These Tips

You may want to build an action plan or place the ideas resulting from the workshop into your organization’s product pipeline for prioritization.

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