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A Future Map is a conceptual approach to constructing and visualizing a picture of anticipated future. It allows integrating different types of information coming from a variety of sources on a shared “Big Picture” of the future composed of diverse facts and opinions. A Future Map contains the events that are likely to occur in both near- and long-term future. It can be built for any domain, organization or country, and is usually a result of a collaborative effort of a group of people.
Concept and Methodology
The core of the Future Map concept is the methodology of building a structured future space. The methodology establishes the rules for mapping the future environment, both in terms of the common denominator of the future-related information and of the structure of the future space.
The Future Map methodology constructs a field of anticipated events with which an organization will have to deal in the future. The two (or three) dimensions of the Event Field are defined by time and the sets of factors that are likely to impact the future of the entity for which the Map is constructed. Those factors, either highly uncertain or fairly predetermined, can be split into several levels of specific driving forces using the principles of Morphological Analysis.
An anticipated event is defined as “Who will do What to Whom/with Whom, When and Why.” Using this common social science definition of an event, all elements of a future environment - scenarios, trigger points, objectives, decisions and milestones - can be expressed as the events or combinations of events that are anticipated in the future.
The methodology defines a step-by step, continuous process of constructing and assessing the anticipated future space. Using an anticipated event as the “common denominator,” the methodology can recreate anticipated future environments incorporating the information from multiple sources produced by a variety of future-related methodologies and techniques: Scenarios Method, Environmental Scanning, Delphi Method, Trend Analysis, Monitoring, Backcasting, Visioning, Morphological Analysis, Futures Wheel, Cross-Impact Analysis, Simulation and Modeling and others.
The Future Map concept lies at the intersection of several areas of knowledge - Future Studies, Strategy, and Organizational Learning. It was first presented at the Oxford Futures Forum at Oxford University in 2005. It was further developed in articles and presentations at the 6th conference on Complexity at the New England Complex Systems Institute (2006) and at the 2006 Conference of the World Future Society in Toronto.
The Future Map concept bridges the methodological gap between short-term trend extrapolations and long-term scenarios, helping to deal more effectively with the time period within which the majority of public of corporate decisions need to deliver results – from a few months to a few years.
Future Map Software
In practice, the work of constructing the anticipated future space is facilitated by the Future Map software - a highly structured Internet database environment that creates a live, continuous interaction within a secure network of global contributors.
A practical contribution of the Future Map concept in organizations lies in its capacity to establish a conceptual bridge between strategy development and strategy implementation. It connects scenarios, strategy and performance measurement via a common future space, linking future related activities to organizational core processes and systems such as strategic planning and the Balanced Scorecard.
The Future Map creates a holistic and continuously updated picture of the future environment. It enables real-time global networked collaboration around a single global repository of future-related information in a common virtual space for analysis and discussions. It allows organizations to build comprehensive future management systems that integrate scenario thinking, tracking of performance, early warning, global communication and continuous learning.
Future Map concept contributes to a number of areas of application such as: Preparedness, Scenario Thinking, Risk Management, Management of Complexity, Intelligence, Forecasting, Balanced Scorecard, Strategic Planning, Networked Decision Making, Forward Engagement, Learning Organization, Knowledge Management.
1. Donald Heathfield, Improving decision making in the area of national and international security – the future map methodology. Abstract. Presentation at the 6th International Conference on Complex Systems (ICCS), June 25-30, 2006, Boston, MA. Hosted by the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI)
2. Ben Gilad, Early Warning, AMACOM, 2004
3. Kees van der Heijden, Scenarios: the Art of Strategic Conversation, 2nd Edition, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., 2005.
4. Donald Heathfield, The Future Map - Building a Comprehensive Strategic Future Preparedness System, Oxford Futures Forum 2005, University of Oxford, UK.