Newsletter 2015

Newsletter - Foresight and Strategy 2015

Past copies of Foresight and Strategy (formerly eSAMI) our monthly e-newsletter, are available.

For other years please click below :

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December 2015

As we head into Christmas and the New year, much of the news seems so gloomy. But I was surprised to find myself being optimistic recently – the reason – the amazing leaps being made in biotech and the implications for people’s lives. Some of the “10 big advances that will improve life” highlighted in the recent Scientific American are:

  • Eye-controlled machines: software that translates eye movement into commands to control devices could be a boon for motion impaired people
  • Trawling for viruses: a new method identifies every virus in a given sample with near-perfect accuracy
  • Kill switches for GMOs: a genetic kill switch could prevent industrial espionage and environmental contamination

And we have talked in our blog series about the effect of Machine Intelligence– deep learning technology is helping AI meet some of its promise – the challenge to the professions will be widespread.

Our 25th Anniversary

Our year-long blog series to celebrate our 25th Anniversary has just drawn to a close We spent the first six months of the year looking back over the past 25 years and the last six months looking forward to 2040. The final three posts of the series covered the topics of the future of government, the future of corporate culture and, finally, to round off the series we have a summary of the year and the blogs along with our best wishes for the holiday season. Early next year we plan to create a collection of all the blogs and make this available for downloading – more on this in 2016!

Future Issues Roundup


With the Fitbit reported to be the number one selling “must-have” tech product this Christmas, we thought we’d look at what else is happening in the wearable world. Fitness trackers are near ubiquitous and are doing far more than counting the number of steps you take. The markets for continuous heart rate monitoring , sleep trackers , and monitors for the air quality in your bedroom are all growing fast. What happens when these get networked and linked to your health insurance? Outdoor pollution monitors can’t be far behind – how polluted is your child’s school? There are important medical applications too: PulseGuard , a Nominet Trust 100 award winner, monitors heart rate changes, alerting carers to the onset of epileptic seizures

The other main wearable application is contactless payment. Apple Watch and Apple Pay are the stand-out contactless payment applications, but why bother with getting your phone out? Visa is working with Central Saint Martin’s College students and graduates to design contactless payment rings , brooches and even a contactless jacket and to consider how a wearable payment device would look in 2020.

Or if you want to get in the mood, try a Halo . This lets you bathe yourself in light, with the colour and pattern changing depending on your mood, movement and even the weather.

Further ahead, embedded chips might be the way to go – we do it for dogs, so why not people? What price privacy then?

November 2015

This is the time of year when predictions – particularly technology – are made for 2016 and further ahead.

Artificial Intelligence is often mentioned as one of the biggest trends for the coming year. WIRED has published a preview article of The WIRED World in 2016 by Alain de Botton, “Six areas that artificial emotional intelligence will revolutionise”.

Gartner revealed its yearly Top Predictions for IT Organisations and Users for 2016 and Beyond. The company’s top predictions for 2016 look at the digital future, at an algorithmic and smart machine-driven world where people and machines must define harmonious relationships. “The ‘robo’ trend, the emerging practicality of artificial intelligence, and the fact that enterprises and consumers are now embracing the advancement of these technologies is driving change,” said Daryl Plummer, vice president, distinguished analyst and Gartner Fellow.

On another matter entirely, SAMI Associate Tricia Lustig has a blog in Business Life, the BA magazine based on her book on Strategic Foresight.

SAMI and Z/Yen held a workshop on the relationship between analytics and foresight – the slides are available from , and Ian Harris of Z/Yen or I would be happy to talk about further work around this topic.

Our 25th Anniversary

Our series of forward-looking blogs being written to celebrate our 25th Anniversary is entering the final phase. During October we published blogs looking towards 2040 in a variety of industries. These included the impact that machine learning may have on professional work; what might happen in the world of biotechnology ; the impact that nanotechnology could have on the aircraft industry; some possible futures for the pharmaceutical industry and what could happen toEurope as we travel towards 2040.

Future Issues Roundup

Gene editing

We have seen a remarkable number of developments in the area of gene editing over recent months. Experts are predicting “an ‘explosion’ in the use of such genetic engineering in the next 10 years”. Much of this is down to a new tool called CRISPR-Cas9 which enables scientists to “snip” bits out of DNA and re-insert then into other creatures. This technique is much more precise than previous attempts at genetic engineering.

The most dramatic example recently was the case of Layla Richards , who was cured of leukaemia using the technique. Previously we have seen examples in animals and plants:

  • Gene editing with the CRISPR-Cas9 technique shows great promise to allow human genomes to be modified, eg. to reverse some genetic diseases.
  • Research has started on gene editing on human embryos . This inevitably raised the public profile of these techniques and may be very controversial.
  • Dairy cattle have been gene edited to grow without horns, but without changing any other characteristics of the breed. This change will improve animal welfare as the horns do not have to be removed. Semen from hornless bulls could be made available for cattle breeders.
  • Similar techniques can be used to grow pigs that do not develop testes and therefore do not need castration.
  • Mosquitoes are just one example of a non-human species that might be modified (in this case to prevent disease).
  • Gene editing techniques can be used to create bacterial biosensors, by combining genes that confer a sensitivity to an environmental factor (like arsenic in water), with a detectable metabolic response.
  • It seems inevitable that gene editing will increase the economic pressure for GM crops for biofuel, pharma, and animal feed, and for GM crops and livestock for human consumption.

There remain many regulatory and technical questions, but there could be many wider implications of its widespread application – eg. for food security, disease control – which themselves could impact on geo-politics.

October 2015

A series of brilliant autumn days have made it hard to concentrate – – but we have been planning some new initiatives. The first of these came out of our SAMI 25 event in June, when Ian Harris of Z/yen suggested that the life of professionals is about to be revolutionised by ICT in many forms. As one outcome of that we have designed a joint event on “Future-proofing data analytics for Membership Associations” on 5th November 2015. You can find the flyer here

The same day, 5th November 2015, in the afternoon, we are holding an event on “The Future of Publishing” – this will be workshop style and allow the participants to discuss with their peers. Both events are free but space is limited so please email us for more information and an invitation

We were delighted to see that Philip Tetlock has written up his experience of improving prediction (in the geo-political sphere) in his new book “Superforecasting: the Art & Science of Prediction”. Using his simple evidence-based techniques, an online tournament of volunteers beat an official American intelligence agency by 78% in the second year. We are planning to organise some training events based on these methods – to register an interest please

Our 25th Anniversary

The series of forward-looking blogs being written to celebrate our 25th Anniversary continues to provide some thought provoking commentaries. Early last month we took a look at how technology is impacting the arts and media world, ranging from increased interactivity with theatre and art to the use of virtual reality in games. We then moved to consider whether, with the continuing break up of larger states, we are seeing the development of a world with 1000 countries as predicted by John Naisbitt in 1995. And, most recently, some thoughts about what the next ‘sunrise industries’ will be – biotech, hydrogen fuel, space tourism, augmented humans?

Future Issues Roundup

“Biomimicry” is becoming a more wide-reaching theme. Rather than trying to engineer our way out of specific problems (eg floods, sea defences), if industrial processes could mimic the way the natural world manages resources, we could make significant advances.

Increasingly, scientists are creating new materials, new tools, and new processes based on the study of natural organisms and processes, trying to mimic nature’s efficiencies. The core “design rules” of this approach include:

  • Nature runs on sunlight
  • Nature uses only the energy it needs
  • Nature fits form to function
  • Nature recycles everything
  • Nature rewards cooperation
  • Nature banks on diversity
  • Nature demands local expertise
  • Nature curbs excesses from within

Organisms create structures and materials within their own bodies, at ambient pressures and temperatures, without the need for fossil fuel energy sources, the heat of a forge, high pressure extruders, or toxic chemical baths: spiders create silk – stronger than steel or Kevlar. If a majority of industrial processes were improved based on biomimicry innovations, the overall impact of human industry on the environment might be considerably lessened.

How could such a concept apply to your industry or organisation? How could you benefit from the economic and reputational benefits that would follow from a switch to this philosophy?

September 2015

As we get back to our desks we are promised an Indian summer — and first a book recently published by SAMI Associate Tricia Lustig “Strategic Foresight” – which uses case studies to explore futures thinking and its relevance to “real people” making decisions. I found the chapter discussing how to use Causal Layered Analysis to understand what is happening to the publishing industry to be particularly insightful.

Martin Thomas of call4change has an interesting book in manuscript – The MultiCapital Scorecard – rethinking organisational performance. This extends the thinking around sustainability into measurement in a thorough and thoughtful way which integrates with financial performance measurement. For more details, contact him on

McKinsey have published scenarios for global growth to 2025 – a shorter timeframe than our current focus on 2040 – but they are based on assessment of the longer term forces at work. They point out that “the world’s major economies have increasingly diverged in the last few years. In the past, global integration has driven convergence. The prospects for further integration have become less certain. The global financial shock was followed by years of weak growth and concerns over rising inequality. The path to renewed and stronger growth remains elusive.”

Our 25th Anniversary

Our series of forward-looking blogs for our 25th Anniversary is now well underway. After our first couple of context setting pieces previously mentioned in eSAMI, we have now covered topics ranging from the future of food to that of IT as well as the evolution of play.

We began by looking at the future of democracy – how this might be ever more diverse and turbulent. Then we moved to looking at the future of Africa and what might happen there in the next half century. That led us to think about biodiversity and whether the next mass extinction is already underway.

Following that we considered the scarcity of water and what the impacts of water stress might be. Moving away from futures concerning resources, we looked at technology and what prospects and ideas might arise out to 2040. With this in mind we then looked at the impact of technology on the countryside and how this is leading to the ‘smart countryside’.

This led us back to the issues of resources and to the consideration of what the future of foodmight be and also possible futures for energy.

The digital age then made its reappearance as we looked at Big Data and the machine learning revolution and how play and creativity may evolve as technology becomes more ubiquitous.

Interspersed between our 25th Anniversary sequence we also published some blogs on topics in the health and insurance areas. These included thoughts on the NHS 5-year plan and impact of the care cap on health insurance.

July 2015

A lot has happened in the last month – some highlights –

We held the “mid-term” event of our SAMI 25 celebration at the IT Livery Hall, with standing room only. The slides, SAMI 25th Anniversary seminar, are on Slideshare . They are also available with videos and audio of the session on SAMI’s website.

Blogs since our last eSAMI have been on possible ‘cataclysmic events’ in the future) and have looked at some new tools for futures thinking as we start our series of blogs looking forward to the next 25 years.

The World Economic Forum has published a report on the Future of Financial Services . We note that the discussion of niche affinity markets for insurance is pretty close to our description in “In Safe Hands?”.

We are delighted that SAMI Principal Dr Wendy Schultz has been honoured by being appointed Vice-President, Operations, of the World Future Studies Federation. WFSF is a UNESCO and UN consultative partner and global NGO with members in over 60 countries.

We will not be circulating an eSAMI in August, and look forward to being in touch again in September.

Future Issues Roundup

The world may be entering an era of global energy price deflation.

Solar photovoltaic cell costs continue to fall substantially, and economies of scale are driving down the cost of onshore wind turbines. Already, the cost of renewable energy has reached grid parity in some parts of the world, and this trend is expected to continue in the long term. The Economist magazine foresees an era of “global energy deflation” . With zero marginal cost of production, increased deployment of renewables will have two distinct effects: average prices of electricity will fall, and become much more variable. This day-to-day variation in prices will put a premium on energy storage technologies. These may have environmental impacts (e.g. old battery packs from electric vehicles being kept in or near people’s homes)

The technology road-map of energy production is still very open:

There will be profound implications for energy supply, and the power grid will need to be restructured.

  • What impact would lower energy prices have on the long-term trends in your industry?
  • How much are your current plans based on an assumption of high energy prices in the future?
  • What impacts would highly variable prices for electricity have for you?

Time to review your base case scenario maybe?

June 2015

We have now completed our first marathon of 26 blogs in 26 weeks, on “what works and what does not” based on 25 years of experience at the front line of “strategy with a view of the future”. We will be launching this at a small event on June 17th 2015; for an invitation please email us at

The final set of blogs have:

How much does climate change feature in your long-term planning? Opportunities as well as threats are out there. Ask SAMI to help you think through where these trends may go and how to respond to them.

May 2015

This is a great time of year – and a number of people have remarked that it seems to be a peak time for birthdays as well as public holidays —- so if you have had a recent birthday, many happy returns! And in the UK we have also been entertained by a General Election which, against all predictions, returned a Conservative Government.

Our SAMI 25 blog series has continued, with for 2006, a post, written by Malcolm Cooper, which looks at scenarios for India and China in 2015 developed for the City of London in 2006 and reflects on how far these have come to pass since then; Nick Jackson looks at the scenario planning work done for Sovereign Housing Group in 2007 and how it helped them reinvigorate their strategy; the blog on 2008 by David Lye looks at the financial crash of 2008 and considers whether we could have been better at predicting what happened; and a review of a study published in 2009 on the City of London’s ICT infrastructure.

Additionally, we re-post blogs by Richard Walsh originating from his Cover magazine column: most recently on welfare reform and what might happen post the 2015 election. Our blogs can be reached via the web site or direct to You can also find the blogs by SAMI Associate Dr Chris Yapp on

As advised in the last eSAMI, we are planning a small symposium to summarise what we have learnt about “what works and what does not” in using futures work, as we finish this series in June. The symposium will be at The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, 39a Bartholomew Close, London, EC1A 7JN ) from 4pm – 7pm on 17th June 2015: please email to reserve a place if you would like to come and have not yet let us know.

Future Issues Roundup

3D printing is becoming ever more mainstream. Here are just a few recent examples:

What innovative uses are there for 3D printing in your industry? Have you thought about how your current business models could be disrupted?

April 2015

It seems to be summer already! It’s a joy —–

And our SAMI 25 celebrations continue – since the last eSAMI we have blogged on why 9/11 happened, highlighting the number of visible signals of the attacks but the inability of the “system” to “see” the signals; scenarios for the future of diabetes, written in 2002 and standing the test of time well; a case study of Napier University using some scenario thinking in 2003 to set and deliver a vision of a transformed University; an account of how futures thinking across the silos of local government, police, and business reached and delivered a wider action plan than the council alone could have done; and for 2005, covering again (with no apologies for the repeat) the thinking that Philip Tetlock has done and continues to do on how to improve the quality of forecasting the future. Our blogs can be reached via the web site or direct to

SAMI Fellow Dr Adam Scott and I held a SAMI 25 event with the St Andrews Alumni. Looking forward to St Andrews in 2040 – what will students value – what will be the mix of face to face and virtual experiences? The group saw “green” as a way of life by 2040, set in the context of mass migrations and international access to learning. They wondered how far down the path to cognitive augmentation we would be – remembering the quote from the BP CTO “nobody will be able to work for a Fortune 500 company without augmentation by 2057”

We are planning a small symposium to summarise what we have learnt about “what works and what does not” in using futures work, as we finish this series in June. The symposium will be at at The Worshipful Company of Information Technologists, 39a Bartholomew Close, London, EC1A 7JN ( from 4pm – 7pm on 17th June 2015: please email to reserve a place.

Future Issues Roundup

The Internet of Things is starting to really take off, with a Wireless IoT Forum looking to drive standards and IBM planning to invest $3bn over 4 years. Among the fun new ideas, we have:

And while we’re talking about sheep, take a look at the video of SHEP, the drone sheepdog! andPushi the chimp who doesn’t like drones.

What novel IoT-based ideas will change your world? We’ll be looking into “smart countryside” over the coming months.

March 2015

One of my roles is to lead the SIG at the Strategic Planning society on “Futures and Strategy”. The mission of the SIG is to integrate futures thinking into strategy. The need for this is clear globally, and one really good example came from a member in Uganda, “The current policy in urban areas is to provide a water point every 200m – fine but in 2030 Uganda wants to be a middle income country and in middle income countries people do not carry water 200m. Current focus is therefore at complete odds to the target and as a result operators are not looking beyond government and donor grant financing, when what is required is a complete tariff restructuring to include project finance.” Please email to for details of the SIG.

I recently came across a very useful publication from MoD DCDC on Global Strategic Trends to 2045, Global Strategic Trends which takes a very wide look at trends under thematic and geographic headings. There is also a 60 second introduction on Youtube.

IBM produces a technology forward look every year and this year the theme is a smarter planet – focused around the capability of systems to learn. This is driven by a new era of cognitive systems where machines will learn, reason and engage with us in a more natural and personalized way. These innovations are beginning to emerge enabled by cloud computing, big data analytics and learning technologies all coming together.

Our SAMI 25 weekly blog series on has, over the last month, covered:

The European Environment Agency has just published its update of the Global Megatrends. These are:

They’re all cogently argued, with useful summaries – well worth a look, especially if you have an interest in the environment.

And Naomi Klein’s predictably challenging book “This changes everything: Capitalism vs Climate Change” is now out in paperback and is the subject of a week-long series of articles in the Observer and the Guardian.

February  2015

During the past month, our 25th anniversary series of blogs covering futures thought since 1989 has discussed scenario assignments and why some forecasts were not right.

  • On 19th January : Yes or No? for Scotland and the UK was the post, written by Gill Ringland, which reflects on a previous SAMI project involving a Scottish financial services organisation and the use of brainstorming techniques to develop new strategies.
  • The 26th January post, written by James Blackmore-Wright, reflects on changes and similarities between 1993 and now and how scenarios helped with an organisational strategy, at a time when the two scenarios differed only in how fast they would evolve – “Evolution” or “Revolution” in the insurance industry. 1993 – Rethinking the company.
  • The next post is an extract from “Scenario Planning”, a piece written by an employee of a major white goods company, who found that strategies developed for one scenario made business sense in all scenarios. 1994 – Developing new business streams.
  • The blog posted on 4th February: 1995 – Industries changed by IT – role of infrastructure written by Gill Ringland, looks at some of the ideas current in 1995 about how IT might change industries, and why they were only partly right.

Putting Passion into Governance – Just theory or real world benefit? – the inaugural address by Professor Paul Moxey, Visiting Professor of Corporate Governance, School of Business, London South Bank University, is taking place on 2 March 2015 from 5:30 to pm at London South Bank University, Borough Road, London SE1 0AA. To attend and for details of the venue go to for details click here. Paul is a SAMI fellow.

Future Issues Roundup

The World Economic Forum convening in Davos produced its 10th annual Global Risk Report. This rated global risks by likelihood and impact. The top 4 risks on both factors were:

  • Interstate conflict
  • Water crises
  • Failure of climate change adaptation
  • Unemployment or underemployment.

They also reflected on the changes over 10 years

  • “understanding the implications and raising awareness of the interconnection of risks are at the basis of the Global Risks report”
  • “ the importance of risk management and the need to build resilience has since become a top issue for decision-makers who are recognizing that risks are no longer isolated but inherently dynamic in nature and crossing many spheres of influence”

There is more on this on the SAMI blog

January 2015

—-and a Happy New Year to all.

Our SAMI 25 series of blogs on foresight and what happened next have so far covered: The Berlin Wall coming down; The role of foresight in formulating government policy – an example from the Pacific Islands; Peter Schwartz’s seminal “The Art of the Long View” and Shell scenarios. They can be found on our blog – and if you have good examples of foresight that influenced policy or actions, please send them to us and we will publicise!

The end of one year and the start of another always sees a number of predictions – for instance Nesta gives 10 predictions for 2015 and looks at the success of their predictions for 2014 – which included “delivery of the virtual reality experience we were promised two decades ago, the US would lose technological control of the Internet, communities would start crowd-sourcing their own political representatives and we would be introduced to the concept of extreme volunteering”. Shaping Tomorrow highlight among other trends “ 5 digital health trends you’ll see in 2015 – Digital health funding for the year is on track to double last year’s total. Some trends include a growing corporate interest in digital health, more global cross-pollination of ideas, as well as increasing health consumerism as people move into the driver’s seat when it comes to their care”.

McKinsey Quarterly celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a volume the future of management, including long-term capitalism, leadership in an era of machine learning, next frontiers for strategists, and global productivity.

A reminder that SAMI is placing two horizon scanning contracts on behalf of the Department for Transport. These are on ‘Noise abatement or mitigation technologies for aviation’ and ‘Novel materials, such as self-healing materials, for road surfaces’. Details of these can be found here for aviation and here for roads. (links no longer valid)

In a previous blog post we listed several cognitive biases that affect futures thinking. Now onRadio 4’s Today programme, Mervyn King ex-Governor of the Bank of England explained that the financial crash was down to the most common – groupthink: “I think the real problem was a shared intellectual view right across the entire political spectrum and shared across the financial markets that things were going pretty well”.

And in contrast to those who believe in the onward march of technology, David Boyle discusses how technological change may actually be slowing down.