Association of Professional Futurists

Most Significant Futures Works (MSFW)

Current MSFW Nominations

Nominations for 2017 Most Significant Futures Works for works completed from 2015 to 2017 are now open until February 28, 2017. “How to nominate” and the rules for nominations can be found here.

Works are nominated in three categories: Category 1 Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Category 2 Analyze a significant future issue; and Category 3 Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works.

A new 2017 jury will be selected. Many thanks to the 2016 MSFW Judges: Bob Treadway, Paul Tero, Oliver Markley, Elizabeth Rudd, Peter Bishop, Bob Frame, Josh Calder, Sam Miller, Kristin Alford, Terry Grim, Natalie Ambrose, Peter Padbury, and Devin Fidler.

Winners for 2016 were announced at the APF Annual Reception in Washington D.C., Saturday evening, July 23, 2016.

If you have any questions, please contact Andy Hines, MSFW Chair. Nominated works will be listed here.

2017 Nominations

NaturePod, by Situation Lab. Team: Bergur Ebbi Benediktsson, Nourhan Hegazy, Jennifer McDougall, Prateeksha Singh. Director: Stuart Candy. Project supported by Interface. December 2015, Guerrilla Futures Installation [video; project overview] Category 2: Analyzes a significant future issue; Nominating member: Stuart Candy

NaturePod was an experiential foresight project created for a corporate client and context, but with a public outcome. It highlights a critical challenge for humanity: with over half of the world’s population now urbanised, how can we remain connected to nature? There is lively conversation underway in the built environment industry about “biophilia” and design. (See the report Human Spaces: The Global Impact of Biophilic Design in the Workplace, 2015.) Biophilia refers to the “instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems”; something variously accommodated or cheerfully ignored by present urban and building designs. NaturePod aimed to both broaden and deepen that important conversation, performing its analysis to ask: What are the implications for our wellbeing of trying to close the nature gap using increasingly sophisticated imitations? Where might that lead? This product from the year 2021 was brought to life, presented and demonstrated interactively as if it were a real commercial offering today, at one of the largest design trade shows in North America. Though hypothetical, NaturePod is deeply informed by real research: recent studies of nature simulation and related themes provide much material for further investigation (de Kort et al, 2006Kahn et al, 2008Kahn et al, 2009Kjellgren and Buhrkall, 2010Valtchanov, 2010Valtchanov et al, 2010Valtchanov and Ellard, 2015). The project was to our knowledge unprecedented in its deployment of an experiential scenario for public consideration in this live commercial setting. It received international media attention.

What the Foresight: Your Personal Futures Explored. Defy the Expected and Define the Preferred, by Alida Draudt & Julia Rose West, April 2016, Book, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Joe Murphy

What the Foresight is a personal futures workbook that addresses the question: “how often do we think about foresight for ourselves? What about our personal futures?” Written and designed by graduates of the Design MBA in Strategic Foresight program at the California College of the Arts, What the Foresight “aims to give more people access to their futures.” This uniquely accessible and extraordinarily well designed 120-page book combines the foresight framework with design thinking as a structure to guide readers through personal futures.

The subtitle, “Your personal futures explored. Defy the expected and define the preferred” reveals how well the book’s structure is woven into the foresight model. The first sections introduce the why and the what of foresight, applying the field’s methodologies to the personal sphere much the same way we do through domain futures: with intention, divergent possibilities, and with clarity of desired futures. This work with its exceptional design has advanced the practice of foresight through rich visual representations of major concepts. Each section of the workbook provides tools to think about our futures through functionality aesthetic foresight exercises for: values discovery, surfacing assumptions, other futures, backcasting, and implications. You are going to love the futures wheel for example. The reader-doer is served by the clarity with which these exercises present the ideas and open our minds to divergent futures. The realm and the cone of possibilities graphics, each multicolored and multi-shaped, leverage blank space in sparking creative thinking. What the Foresight deserves a Most Important Futures Works award because it educates and informs by empowering readers to leverage foresight in their lives – it has succeeded in mine.

Disruptive Futures: Nuclear Weapons Summit, (principals: Creative Santa Fe (Cyndi Conn, Executive Director), N Square Collaborative (Erika Gregory, Managing Director), Nuclear Threat Initiative (Deborah G. Rosenblum, Executive Vice President) Santa Fe, New Mexico, December 4-7, 2016, Conference [links: Video Summation Scenario presentation video, Conversation with William Perry video, supporting docs]  Category 2: Analyzes a significant future issue; Nominating member: Eric Kingsbury

Disruptive Futures: Nuclear Weapons Summit was a three-day event that brought together a diverse set of stakeholders, both within the “nuclear” space and outside. The intent of the sponsoring organizations was to take these participants through a diverse set of learning and ideation exercises intended to result in the production of multiple future scenarios regarding the existential threat of nuclear weapons. The informational and ideational exercises included speakers such as former Secretary of Defense William Perry, site tours such as an insider tour of the Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory, thinking exercises such as QiGong and Native American singing, and formal linked foresight exercises intended to facilitate groups in imagining multiple future scenarios. Participants projected forward to 2045, the 100-year anniversary of the first detonation of the atomic bomb in New Mexico. One of the unique, and innovative, concerns of this Disruptive Futures was the engagement of the local public, and the final output of the event was the free, live presentation, in the form of performances, to a live audience of the public at a theatre in Santa Fe.

Hyper-reality, by Keiichi Matsuda, May 16, 2016, Video; [link] Category 3: Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works; Nominating member: Bo Roe

HYPER-REALITY was funded through Kickstarter with 188 Backers pledging £29k. Through Vimeo, the film has generated 2.7M views 14.8k likes. As a piece of design fiction, Hyper-reality demonstrates some of the interaction vignettes of a commercialized engagements in a mixed reality built environment. As Matsuda intertwines the physical and augmented worlds, he provokes instances of social behaviors in purchasing, browsing, navigating public transit and streets, working with customer service, religion, a social credits system, gaming, etc.  The piece sits within a highly plausible 10 year future. The highly stimulating piece demonstrates with overwhelming input, the potential for a world where technology envelops nearly every aspect of our senses.  Hyper-reality presents the viewer with a barrage of small interactions as individual signals of this trajectory for mixed reality. In totality, these signals paint a strong picture of how this technology may intersect consumer and social behavior.

Keiichi Matsuda (BSc. MArch) is a designer and film-maker exploring the relational implications of emerging technologies for human perception and the built environment. He has exhibited his work internationally, from London’s V&A Museum to the Art Institute of Chicago, the New York MoMA, and Shanghai EXPO. Matsuda has received press in Wired, Fast Company, Dezeen, Wallpaper and Creative Review among others – making him a recognized voice in the design community. This piece is the most recent culmination interest AR/VR/MR in the built environment spans several years of masters level research and exploration including his dissertation.

Corporate Foresight, by Guest editors: Rene Rohrbeck, Eelko Huizingh and Cinzia Battistella; Technological Forecasting & Social Change, Vol. 101, December 2015, pp. 1-181; special section of journal [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Andy Hines

It is with great pleasure that I take this opportunity to recognize the great work of Professor Rene Rohrbeck at Aarhus University in the area of corporate foresight. He has done much to bring to light the foresight work that has been taking place in corporations. This particular work is a collection of articles from insiders (and their collaborators) that provides an outstanding account of the state of corporate foresight. The articles are organized into four  sections (1) Organizing corporate foresight (2) Individual and collective cognition for corporate foresight (3) Corporate foresight in networked organizations (4) Quantitative evidence of value contribution from corporate foresight. [In the spirit of full disclosure, I contributed a piece for section 2].

As I’ve said many times, I believe it is vital for the future of our field to have a stronger presence “inside.” While I certainly include government, NGOs, non-profits etc. as well, it is quite useful to have a dedicated focus on a particular sector. Rohrbeck and his colleagues have done us a great service in this area and it is high time that we recognize this great contribution.

Designing an Experiential Scenario: The People Who Vanished by Stuart Candy and Jake Dunagan Futures, 86, Feb 2017, pp. 136-153, journal article [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Jake Dunagan

This article is the most comprehensive description of an experiential futures project that Candy and Dunagan have done. It integrates their theoretical insights that they have gained in 10+ years of practice with specific examples and detailed decriptions of how those insights become “real” experiences. The article introduced the experiential futures ladder–a process they prototyped at Emerge in 2012, and have used successfully in subsequent experiences and futures teaching. It includes a “how to be a good experiential futurist” section that also makes a fine contribution to the discourse.

Science Fiction Futures; Marine Corps Security Environment Forecast: Futures 2030-2045, by Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, November 2016, Science Fiction Futures; [link] Category 3: Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works; Nominating member: Andy Hines

The 2015 Marine Corps Security Environment Forecast: Futures 2030-2045 (MCSEF) provides a high level snapshot of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory/Futures Directorate’s continual examination of the deep future. The MCSEF was produced through modern foresight methodology, disciplined research, and a thorough international survey of background data and similar deep futures efforts. It augmented the Marine Corps Intelligence Activity’s Future Operating Environment 2015-2025: Implications for Marines and sought to improve understanding of the challenge spectrum Marines will face beyond the next decade.

It is interesting to see the increased use of science fiction as a deliberate tool for forecasting the future. As noted above, this effort is complementary to a more “standard” forecasting effort. This makes a whole bunch of sense. It is refreshing to see a traditional bureaucratic institution embracing a creative approach to exploring its future. In addition, the contest to attract contributions helps to build excitement about the future as well as helping to build a network and community.

The Critical Role of History in Scenario Thinking: Augmenting Causal Analysis within the Intuitive Logics Scenario Development Methodology by Ronald Bradfield, James Derbyshire, and George Wright, March 2016, Futures, Vol. 77, pp. 56-66; [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Craig Perry

This work advances the foresight profession by proposing an innovative way of incorporating historical analysis into futures scenarios. While history has repeatedly proven to be an unreliable predictor of future events, the authors contend its usefulness lies in orienting us to the present and contemplating how future changes may be similar to but different from those of the past. They note the methods historians utilize for analyzing historical causes are highly relevant to those who consider the future, as the very openness of history to interpretation provides a useful means to uncover different perspectives on the future. The historical search for explanations as to why unexpected events occurred also generates important insights that can inform scenario planning, which explicitly seeks to consider the potential causes of surprise futures. The authors suggest adapting scenario planning to take better account of how the present has come to be as it is, so as to allow a better, more historically informed, consideration of how the future may differ from the present and past. They consider history to be a theoretical underpinning for scenario planning, and propose incorporating historical lessons into the predominant “Intuitive Logics” scenario development process. This work breaks new ground by explicitly linking well-established historical research methodologies to futures studies in a way that avoids the facile presumption that “history repeats itself,” and offers an original and reproducible modification to a prevailing scenario planning model.

Let’s Talk about Success: A Proposed Foresight Outcomes Framework for Organizational Futurists by Andy Hines, Journal of Futures Studies, June 2016, 20(4):1-20. [link] Category 1 (advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies).  Nominated by Oliver Markley.

This peer-reviewed paper introduces a detailed framework to help organizational futurists and their clients get clear on intended outcomes and the achievement of success involving the integration of foresight into the organization.  In so doing, it significantly advances the foresight profession by helping to resolve one of the most vexing problems facing the professional futurist: “How to define and measure success at four inter-related levels (Practitioner, Project, Organizational, and Field), in each of three principal phases of futures work (Learning, Deciding and Acting).

In addition to providing practical examples of the framework’s use, the paper reviews the literature on prior and related efforts, thereby deeply grounding its methodological advance on currently leading conceptions and practices, with an appended list of citations for some “Forty Sources of Outcomes”, and a concluding section that details specific research questions designed to carry forward the thrust of this important type of methodological futures research.

Although not an easy read due to the weighty questions it explores, this paper is quite well written, such that understanding comes quite readily if enough time is spent to get one’s head around what it is talking about.  All told, a significant methodological contribution to the field.

Wildcards – Natural and Artificial: The Combinations of a Panel of Experts and Fuzzy TOPSIS, by Mohsen Mohammadi, Mohammad Rahim Eivazi, & Jafar Sajjadi; Foresight, 19 (1) January 2017 [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Bo Roe

In this article, Mohammadi et al. explore the quantified value of wildcards, leveraging expert opinion and MCDA methods (primarily fuzzy TOPSIS). They argue that weak signals are by their nature contextually defined (contingent upon the view of the observer), and that by leveraging computation of words (CW) and comparison to ideal positive and negative values, it becomes possible to quantitatively analyze weak signals for their influence and strategic value. Mohammadi et al. outline in detail the flow of categorizing weak signal characteristics, applying CW values, creating and computing the fuzzy sets, and arriving at weighted indices for signals. This method could easily then be slotted into existing futures framework process flow. The application of this kind of mathematical rigor to weak signal processing is unique and offers a distinctly new value to signal analysis.

The authors in this case are all in the scenario and strategic development field in Political Science in Iranian universities. While well outside the US and European centric futures communities, their credentials in adjacent fields, citation of respected futurists, publication in the journal Foresight, and handle of the topic make them qualified as practicing theorists in this space. The authors build from generally accepted principles of weak signals and wildcards, adding continual layers of complexity and rigor as they make their points. They explore this process through the lens of a hypothetical case study to demonstrate applicability.

Epiphany Z: Eight Radical Visions for Transforming your Future, by Thomas Frey, 2017, Book, Morgan James Publishing, Link, Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating member: Michael Ivicak

Thomas Frey’s new book, Epiphany Z: Eight Radical Visions for Transforming your Future, presents a new and dynamic approach to transforming ideas to implementable actions.  Frey central concept is that the future is a definable force and humans have the ability to develop ideas…Eureka moments…to solve almost any problems that we face.  The problem has always been that the ideas have been difficult to translate into solutions and slow to implement.  What is different in the present time, however, is that the digital age allows for accelerated advancement.  Based on this, Frey hypothesizes that Moore’s Law can apply to any sort of transformation from the analog to the digital, such as the transition from a traditional home to a smart home.  Using an estimated traditional rate of doubling (2X) of improvements over 10 years, Frey theorizes that, based on Moore’s Law, the digital age will see 32X the normal advances over that same period.

The importance of the book is in the manner in which Frey defines a framework, based on learning, observation, reflection and the exchange of information, which will allow humanity to prepare for and thrive in this future.  The book covers 8 major epiphanies with strategies and critical skills needed for optimizing each one.  The ideas are thought-provoking and practical in how they approach challenges, both on an individual and global level.  Frey puts forth a “prime directive” for humanity that encapsulates his motive for the book: “Preparing humanity for worlds unknown, preparing our minds for thoughts unthinkable, and preparing our resolve for struggles unimaginable.”

Everything Change: An Anthology of Climate Fiction, by Arizona State University’s Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative (anthology editors:  Milkoreit, Manjana; Martinez, Meredith; and Eschrich, Joey) October 2016; Futures-oriented science fiction; [link] Category 3: Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works; Nominating member: Eric Kingsbury

Everything Change is a digital anthology featuring contributions from renowned science fiction authors Kim Stanley Robinson and Paolo Bacigalupi, along with 12 stories from the ASU Imagination and Climate Futures Initiative’s 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest. The anthology explores a variety of possible futures for Earth and humanity transformed by climate change. The anthology features twelve stories from our 2016 Climate Fiction Short Story Contest along with along with a foreword by science fiction legend and contest judge Kim Stanley Robinson and an interview with renowned climate fiction author Paolo Bacigalupi. The anthology includes fiction from Adam Flynn and Andrew Dana Hudson, Kelly Cowley, Matthew S. Henry, Ashley Bevilacqua Anglin, Daniel Thron, Kathryn Blume, Stirling Davenport, Diana Rose Harper, Henrietta Hartl, Shauna O’Meara, Lindsay Redifer and Yakos Spiliotopoulos.

Newport Mayors Office 2061, by Jake Dunagan, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, and Newport Local Action Team, June 2016 [link] Category 3: Illuminate the future through literary or artistic works; Nominating member: Jake Dunagan

In 2014, the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities launched an initiative called Catalyzing Newport. It was designed as “a visiting scholars program that draws on extensive experience, national and international networks, and the creative excellence of established experts (known as “catalysts”) to engage local communities in meaningful exchanges.” As an experiential futurist, the goal of Dunagan’s time as a Catalyst was to introduce Newport citizens to civic-oriented futures thinking, and to collaborate with Newport designers, artists, and “local action team” on-the-ground in Newport to create a unique and locally-relevant immersive futures experience. The event successfully “catalyzed” a vibrant conversation amongst the hundreds that visited the exhibit and in the workshops and lectures that accompanied the event. It was a truly collaboratively designed and executed event as well, with 15-20 directly contributing participants in Newport and Austin (my base of operations for the majority of the time) who spanned age demographics, class and status, domain expertise, and technical skill sets.

What is the Future? by John Urry, 2016, Book, Polity Press [link] Category 1: Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies; Nominating members: Andrew Curry and Tanja Hichert

In his final book, the distinguished sociologist John Urry turned his attention fully to futures, an area he had touched on in earlier work. One of the reasons for this was his appointment as Co-Director of Lancaster University’s newly created Institute for Social Futures. In some ways the book can be thought of as a platform for the Institute. The result is a book that looks at futures work through a new lens, and makes different connections. It also brings a fresh look at futures through emerging questions such as time, “catastrophism”, and complexity. The sections on innovating futures and methods benefit from Urry’s sociological expertise, and bring a new eye to these. The chapters on content (cities, manufacturing, climate change) also have a strong systemic perspective. Finally, a declaration of interest: Andrew Curry has become a member of the Advisory Board of the Institute of Social Futures since the book was completed.