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Futures Thinking and Design Thinking Simply Explained!

In this article, I have tried to share my knowledge related to Design Thinking and Future Thinking in a simplified way for Students, Researchers, Strategists and Designers who want to implement these approaches in their work process.

What is Future Thinking and Design Thinking?

Future thinking is a future-centred approach to Long-term strategy — anchored in understanding the driving factors and context of different possible scenarios that could happen in future, creating future artefacts and generating creative ideas — that will enhance the way you do strategy for products, services, processes, and organizations. By using Futures thinking, you will have a forward view to avoid future shocks and to create disruptive innovations.

Examples of situations where Future Thinking will be highly useful:

  1. A CEO looking to lead their company into the future and to avoid being disrupted by new technologies or competitors. What should the company start doing differently, to survive shifts and disruptions in the marketplace?

  2. An entrepreneur inventing a new service for a changing world. What kinds of help will people need in the future, that no one else has created a way to provide yet?

Future thinking foresight multiple scenarios in which, what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable in the future.

  • Desirability in Future: What makes sense to people and for people in future?

  • Technological Feasibility in Future: What could be technically possible in the future?

  • Economic Viability in Future: What is could be likely become part of a sustainable business model in future?

Based on analyzing this foresight, a long-term strategy will be created for growth and innovation.

Design thinking is a human-centred approach to design— anchored in understanding customer’s needs, rapid prototyping, and generating creative ideas — that will transform the way you develop products, services, processes, and organizations. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.

Design thinking brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable.

  • Desirability: What makes sense to people and for people?

  • Feasibility: What is technically possible within the foreseeable future?

  • Viability: What is likely to become part of a sustainable business model?

Examples from movies that are loosely based on these concepts

Movie Example for Futures Thinking:

In the Marvel movie series, Ironman understood the context of one of the possible scenarios where he dies, so he wanted to safeguard his teenage mentee spiderman.

So he created E.D.I.T.H (AR glasses that has access to arsenals & drones) that will help spiderman in very adverse situations. E.D.I.T.H is the result of futures thinking done by ironman.

Movie Example for Design Thinking:

In the same Marvel movie series, Ironman close superhero friend Warmachine was paralyzed by falling from the sky. And once I ironman had to make a fire to make him warm after he falling into the deep sea.

Understanding these pain points from past & present experiences, Ironman designed a comfortable superhero suit for spiderman with a parachute to avoid falling from the sky and with a heater to get warmer after falling into the sea.

Steps Involved in these processes!

Futures Thinking

  1. Choose a specific Future: Inspire your team to choose a specific future which is directly related to your product ,service, process and organization.

  2. Gather Future Signals: Identify the events (Inventions, Discovery, Policies, Startup etc) in the recent past that has greater probability to affect your chosen future.

  3. LookBack History: Identify the events in history that directly affected the field of your choosen future and signal.

  4. Find Driving Factors: Identify the factors that shaping the future by understanding the factors that shaped past events of your choosen field.

  5. Create Future Scenarios: Based on the driving factors, Simulate multiple possible scenarios that could happen in future which explores Insights how different conditions might support or constrain your choosen field.

  6. Generate Ideas: Use the scenarios which you simulated to help to come up with fresh longterm strategy, vision and future artefacts.

  7. Share the Story: Once you’ve arrived at the right strategy, vision, future artefact then share the story to introduce it to your colleagues, clients, and customers.

Future thinking is subject to iteration. So If necessary Iterate Scenarios according to new gathered signals.

Design Thinking

  1. Frame a Question: Inspire your team to think about your customers (who you’re designing a solution for) and what they actually need.

  2. Gather Inspiration: Go out into the world and seek inspiration by observing and discovering what people really need.

  3. Generate Ideas: Use the inspiration you gather to help push past the obvious to come up with fresh solutions to your problem.

  4. Make Ideas Tangible: Build rough prototypes and find what’s working and what’s not.

  5. Test to Learn: Test your prototypes, gather feedback, and iterate.

  6. Share the Story: Once you’ve arrived at the right solution, craft and share the story to introduce it to your colleagues, clients, and customers.

Future Thinking Vs Design Thinking

Along with this information in table, Future thinking focuses more on macro forces, Design Thinking focus less on macro forces.

Why do we need Futures Thinking?

The future is becoming more important to the present than it has ever been. We have now entered an era in which the pace of change is accelerating rapidly. At the same time, the scale of impending change is increasing. Therefore, the risks and opportunities that confront us justify expanded efforts to lead, rather than be led by, the course of events.

Conventional strategies may not be able to prevent this disparity or to contain its consequences, without first acquiring a better understanding of its complex causes.

So there is a need for a systematic effort

  1. To explore important future alternatives for your organization, product, services and process.

  2. To ascertain which among these possible futures appear to be more desirable than others, and why.

  3. To seek means by which the probability of their the occurrence could be enhanced through appropriate decisions and actions.


In my perspective, Design Thinking and Futures Thinking are complementary to each other. Futures Thinking paves the way for quality longterm strategy. Design Thinking paves the way for user centric products and services. Insights from Future thinking can be employed in Design Thinking. Same way Insights from Design Thinking can be employed in Futures Thinking. As an Industry researcher, I see both these approaches will be helpful for strategists and designers to create a successful valuable product & services.

Feel Free to connect with me on Linkedin!



  1. Institute for the Future (

  2. The Fourth Way: Design Thinking Meets Futures Thinking (

  3. IDEOUDesign Thinking Process (


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