Posts filed under ‘future’

The future of golf

Andrew Curry writes:

As The Open Championship hits its stride in Lytham St Annes, I thought I should mention that we’ve just written for HSBC a report on the future of golf. HSBC’s a patron of The Open, and sponsors a number of tournaments – including women’s tournaments – in various parts of the world, as well as supporting junior golf programmes in both the UK and China. Hence their interest in how the game could evolve.

Golf’s 2020 Vision: The HSBC Report looks at the big trends that will shape the game over the next decade, including the rise of Asia, more women (and young people) coming into the game, the emergence of shorter forms, the impact of digital technology, and the rise of sustainability issues. Working with Hill+Knowlton’s sports team, we also secured a range of interviews with leading golfers, including Gary Player, one of the game’s greats.

For the moment, the report can be downloaded from The Futures Company website (opens pdf) and from Scribd.

As a taster, here’s the ’12-hole guide’ to golf in 2020, taken from the report:

  1. Golf clubs and golf courses will become more family friendly. There will be family rooms instead of bars, holes set up for younger players, and certified womenfriendly facilities.
  2. Six and nine hole formats, and othershort-forms, complement the 18-hole tradition. A pay-TV sports channel accelerates this trend by promoting a professional short-form competition.
  3. Golf will benefit from its association with younger fitter players—driving more fashion and more word on the street.
  4. The ‘next’ Tiger Woods—the hot sponsorship and TV property of 2020—will be a young Asian player.
  5. Asian golf brands will be making major inroads into the golf equipment and clothing market.
  6. Golf becomes more unisex. As more women come into the game, golf becomes the way for men and women to share leisure time—as cycling has done in richer markets.
  7. Golf simulation games—using motion sensors and gestural interfaces—become mainstream.
  8. Gamers become golfers. Social gaming environments and family-oriented golf video games encourage people to move into the sport, not the other way around.
  9. The app as caddy: smartphone and tablet software helps golfers make the right choices, while sensors in equipmentand on courses—the smart coach—help players learn from their mistakes.
  10. Golf becomes a centre of expertise in water management, conservation and biodiversity.
  11. The first carbon positive courses are opened—in a hail of publicity.
  12. The authorities change the rules about equipment to reduce the distances achieved by professionals and bring course lengths back under control.

The photograph at the top of the post, included in the Golf’s 2020 Vision  shows American golfers Natalie Gulbis and Paula Creamer of the USA giving advice to young golfers from Singapore and China during an HSBC Junior Clinic held in Singapore. It was supplied by HSBC and it is used with thanks.

20 July 2012 at 4:24 pm 4 comments

Megachange? Megamistake!

Ian Christie and Andrew Curry write:

Reading the Economist’s book Megachange:The World in 2050, edited by Dan Franklin and John Andrews, brings an increasingly heavy heart. If you’ve missed it, it is a collection of twenty essays by assorted contributors, and I suppose one can’t fault them for their ambition, since the Franklin-Andrews duo, as editors of the Economist’s annual World In … prognosis series, normally look just the one year ahead. But the lens they turn on 2050 is a surprisingly narrow one.

In case you’re wondering if you need to spend the thirteen pounds ($20) on the hardback, here’s a quick ten-point guide:

  1. Capitalism is supremely innovative, efficient, adaptive, empowering and enriching.
  2. It always has been and therefore always will be.
  3. Inequalities are good, or at least inevitable.
  4. Liberated wealth creators will always generate new value and everyone will benefit as it trickles down.
  5. Global environmental risks don’t exist.
  6. Or if they do, they are exaggerated.
  7. Or if they aren’t, we can adapt anyway.
  8. At any rate, we can be confident that they don’t matter to the upward sweep of capitalism and technical ingenuity.
  9. More tax cuts, privatisation and de-regulation are essential.
  10. I teach you the Super-Man (Nietzsche).

It’s not just us. Will Self was unimpressed too. .

But it’s one of the sad facts about futures work that there’s always a ready market, not to mention lucrative speaking opportunities, for those who say that everything’s going to turn out fine: think of Peter Schwartz’s ill-advised ‘Long Boom’ scenarios in 1999, or George Friedman’s more recent Next 100 Years. And think, in sharp contrast, of the way in which The Limits to Growth scenarios were pilloried for being pessimistic and unrealistic when they were published in 1972. Look again with the benefit of 30 years hindsight (opens pdf) and their model turns out to have been almost completely on the money in terms of industrial production and environmental harm since then. And that should make us afraid, because their particular ‘business as usual model leads to industrial collapse sometime in the 2020s.

Of course, this view of the possible future is notable for its absence in the pages of Megachange. But by discounting the alternatives, such mega-myopia reduces our chances of preparing for some of the more dismal futures which could lie ahead – or even taking action now to try to avert them.

If you feel your book collection needs a work on futures with the term ‘Mega’ in the title, you’d be a lot better off with Stephen Schnaars’s Megamistakes, a thoughtful, provocative and sobering analysis of all the ways we can get long range socio-economic forecasting badly wrong. Schnaars has plenty of warnings for the likes of the contributors to Megachange – including, ‘Avoid Technological Wonder’.

Ian Christie used to work at The Henley Centre. He is now Research Fellow, Centre for Environmental Strategy, at the University of Surrey.

11 April 2012 at 8:46 am 1 comment

Library futures

Andrew Curry and Victoria Ward write:

Last week Francine Houben of Mecanoo Architecten talked about their design of Birmingham’s future library as a “living room for the city”. More than just storage, a dynamic space for movement, openness and exchange. In a blog she calls libraries “the cathedrals of our millennia”, which seemed a useful precursor to Saturday’s National Libraries Day

The future of the library is, in some ways, a paradox. So many long term trends are running against it that it is easy to assume that is an anachronism of the 19th and 20th centuries. Such trends include the rise of digital technologies, and the accompanying rise of audio-visual culture; the long wave of individualism since the late 1960s; the shift from public provision to personal provision; the pressures on public expenditure; the emergence of the e-book and the digitisation of books generally. It seems only a matter of time before the library withers away.

But look again, and some other, emerging, trends come into focus. Rising oil prices and greater work flexibility increase the value of the local; the rise of digital rights management fuels campaigns around openness; the number of books published every year continues to rise; issues of access and equity – and affordability – come into sharper focus as one austere year rolls into another; the relationship between the tangible and the digital object becomes increasingly complex; new attitudes to ownership (using, not having) make the library appear as a pioneer.

Look again, and you can start to think that if libraries did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. But what sort of library would we invent?


8 February 2012 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

From Chaos to Collaboration

Andy Stubbings writes:

Have you ever asked yourself what the travel guidebook of the future might look like, or why when it is arguably easier than ever to visit anywhere you like, it’s also more hassle to actually get there?

Andrew Curry and myself spent Wednesday this week with the global travel distribution company Amadeus, talking to journalists about the report, “From chaos to collaboration” we’d written for the company on the future of travel, and specifically how technology will change travel in the years to 2020.

In a nutshell: the report argues that over the next decade, thanks to a range of technologies as well as changes in social and economic contexts, there is great potential for travel to be enhanced at every stage of the journey by greater and more fluid interaction with other travellers and travel providers. The main benefits for travellers will be making the experience of getting to and from their destination less chaotic and stressful, and once they get somewhere else, they will be able to have a deeper experience of the place  by accessing other people’s collective experience. Most of the data that’s needed to do this already exists; the challenge is putting it together.

Sounds intriguing? The full report can be downloaded for free from here (opens pdf), and our friends at Kwittken, Amadeus’s international PR agency who worked with us on the report, have put together this infographic with some stats taken from the quantitative research done for the report.

A shareable version can be found here.

The picture is published here by The Futures Company under a Creative Commons licence: some rights reserved.

13 January 2012 at 11:20 am 2 comments

Doing Strategic Futures

Andrew Curry writes:

Just before Christmas, The Futures Company re-published a report which it wrote (as The Henley Centre) a decade ago, for the British government’s Cabinet Office, on understanding best practice in strategic futures work. It’s stood up well over the last ten years, because it focusses on organisational context and culture and on principles, rather than on methods. We were able to republish the work, which has been in the public domain, because of the generous copyright provisions of the UK’s Open Government Licence, which makes most Creative Commons licences look positively restrictive.

The report was based on an extensive benchmarking study, together with a literature review and a range of expert interviews. Without trying to summarise the whole thing here, one section has a set of methodological guidelines which are worth capturing:

  • Ensure there is clarity about the resource requirements of the work
  • Ensure that the process is inclusive
  • Ensure that people understand and trust the processes being used
  • Understand the limitations as well as the opportunities afforded by strategic futures thinking (there is no magic bullet)
  • Understand that the process will take time to deliver benefits to the organisation

The full report, published as part of our Future Perspectives thought leadership series, can be downloaded from the website (free, but registration required).

6 January 2012 at 6:48 pm Leave a comment

Customers of the future

Alex Oliver writes: At the Marketforce conference I spoke at last week, I may have unwittingly cast a further cloud over my audience on a gloomy Wimbledon June day.  The conference was on Operational Efficiency in Financial Services, and my topic was Customers of the Future. I chose to focus on the behaviours and attitudes of two distinct generation cohorts – the 45-54 younger boomers and their 16-24 year old children. Both groups are facing significant challenges in terms of personal finance and long term financial security. But their responses are very different.

The older cohort is savvy and technologically competent, easily able to navigate their way through a range of online tools to find the best products and deals. But they face an uncertain future with huge financial pressures resulting from changing family structures as well as the economic context. The prospect of higher tuition fees and levels of youth unemployment at 20% mean that their children will struggle to repay debts and start to buy housing, often enforcing a longer term dependency which neither they nor their children want.  And with the spending cuts only just starting to bite, they are well aware that they cannot rely on the state to support their own future pension, health and social care needs – nor those of their aging parents.

So, what of the kids? Interestingly, our research shows that the 16-24 cohort is one of the last still to be financially optimistic, even insouciant, which may be more driven by ignorance and naivety than realism. Despite some anxiety about finding a job (half of them say they are worried), a staggering 62% of them believe things are going well or fairly well with their financial situation. And unlike other groups across the population who are actively seeking out ways to save money, this group still wants to spend, with almost half of them saying they like to ‘splash out’. But when it comes to financial management, their interest is very low indeed. They prefer to delegate decision making and reveal a worrying confidence in their friends and family to provide answers.

The conversations I later had with the conference delegates revealed the extent to which these findings rang true from personal experience. Could it be that we are raising a generation of young people which assumes that we can ‘bail them out’? If so, with their parents under financial pressure, we could be staring at an inter-generational flashpoint.

27 June 2011 at 12:47 pm 1 comment

The new normal is still here, and here to stay

Eleanor Cooksey writes:

“I’ve found the cost of living has gone up substantially and it has had a huge impact on my life. I am not buying luxuries as often and I will change the way I deal with my finances.”

This sobering quote comes from a Scottish man we spoke to as part of our fifth in-depth review of how UK consumers are responding to the current economic situation. In our breakfast briefing held in London last week to launch this review, we highlighted four themes which describe the current environment:

  1. The New Normal is firmly embedded: Reflecting the broader economic uncertainty, individuals feel the outlook is gloomy: 25% feel the UK economy is going very badly these days, an increase of 10% compared to when the survey was last carried out six months ago. People are even less optimistic about their personal financial situation with almost half thinking they will be worse off over the next 12 months. The message is clear: no one expects things to go back to how they were and we are learning how to cope.
  2. Rising prices are hurting:Though inflation has recently dropped a fraction, our data showed levels of anxiety about rising prices similar to those seen in 2008. Many of the people we spoke to were highly sensitive to these changes, whether this was about an increase in the cost of petrol or bell peppers.
  3. Savvy shopping matters to consumers: 43% of consumers have had to dip into savings to make ends meet and they are trying hard to make their money going further. Deals and special offers are still very much part of this, but consumers are doing more than that: they are giving serious thought to what they really need and what they really don’t. One lady in Staines realised she didn’t have to spend £70 every six weeks at the hairdresser and could use a £3.50 home dye kit instead. However, she wasn’t going to cut back on her expensive make-up and perfume.
  4. It’s a constant struggle to stay on top of things: In our last survey, we identified three groups who represent the various responses to the current financial downturn, and this time round, ‘All Hands on Deck’ were the only group which had increased in size. Though people in this group feel the struggle to make ends meet most acutely, making the most of your budget is relevant to everyone, even for the relatively unaffected ‘Plain Sailing’ group. All want to feel they can loosen their belt without losing it.

I’ll finish with a quote from a young woman in Sheffield which sums up the dilemma the New Normal presents for some:
“I could lose my job tomorrow, so I should plan to protect myself against that – but then again, I could lose my job tomorrow…so why not live for the moment?”.

There are limited places available for a repeat of this breakfast briefing on 12th May. To find out more please contact Karen Kidson.

20 April 2011 at 2:09 pm 1 comment

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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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