the next wave

Andrew Curry's blog on futures, trends, emerging issues and scenarios

Selected futures articles

This page is a resource for my articles on futures. The most recent articles are at the top.

2022 (pre-print): The future of cities and the future of work

This is a chapter in the forthcoming book, Planetary Cities, edited by Jose Ramos and Bharat Dahiya. It sets out to think about the shape of the post-pandemic city and the implications of this for work. It tries to built a systems-model for thinking about the city–and raises the question of whether the current model of the high-proximity services-rich model of our leading global cities is a sign of a system that is functioning at peak complexity. It can be read as an argument with some of the thinking in my 2017 paper (below) on the politics of populism. With the permission of the editors, here’s a pre-print.

Download a pdf:

curry-cities and work chapter Planetary Cities preprint-1221

2021: A critical history of scenario planning

I revisited the history of scenario planning for the Routledge Handbook of Social Futures, edited by Carlos Galviz-Lopez and Emily Spiers. I was trying to answer the question of why particular ideas about scenarios (especially the idea of ‘scenario planning’) had become so dominant in futures practice. This can be thought of as a development of my 2012 article ‘The scenarios question’ (scroll down). The answer to the question is… well, complicated. But also revealing.

You can download a version of the typescript which is a close version of the published paper here:

Critical History of Scenarios Typescript as published in Handbook of Social Futures 2021 Curry

2021: Locating ‘Making The Future Visible’: a commentary on Hardin Tibbs’ paper

One of the things I did in 2021, with help from John Sweeney, was to edit a special edition of the World Futures Review that explored Hardin Tibbs’ 1999 paper ‘Making The Future Visible‘. The paper–a bit of a ‘cult classic’ in some futures circles–has held up well, and I’ve long thought it was ahead of its time, in its attempt to integrate structure and action in futures work. The special edition also includes pieces by practitioners, an interview with Sohail Inayatullah, who adapted the underlying model in his work, and a new article by Hardin where he reflects on the original paper with the benefit of twenty years hindsight.

My short introductory piece can be downloaded here in a typescript version–please go to the WFR for citation purposes:

Curry-Locating Making The Future Visible-Tibbs-WFR-13.1

2020:The original Three Horizons paper, refreshed and revised

A revised and shortened version of the 2008 Three Horizons paper (written with Tony Hodgson), for the Knowledge Base of Futures Studies (2020), edited by Andy Hines and Richard Slaughter and published by the Association of Professional Futurists.

A pdf can be downloaded here.

KBFS-2020.APF-3H paper

2020: The empty promise of Future Shock

A chapter for the book After Shock, edited by John Schroeter, which collected a whole range of contributions from futurists and others on the 50-year legacy of Alvin Toffler’s influential book Future Shock. I was one of the few sceptics. In this chapter, I develop a theory that good futures work needs to be able to articulate a theory of change–because doing this makes it falsifiable.

A pdf can be downloaded here:

Curry-Toffler-FutureShock-2020-for website

2017: The Country, The City and the New Politics of Place

This paper was published in the Journal of Futures Studies as part of a symposium on populist and post-populist politics. It locates these in an understanding of the economic geography and the labour economics of the services-driven city that has emerged since the 1980s, and since. This paper won an APF award as a Most Significant Futures Work.

Curry_CityCountryNewPoliticsOfPlace_JFS0417

October 2017: Uncharted waters and shooting the rapids

A short article for the Association of Professional Futurists’ Compass newsletter on the lessons from re-reading Pierre Wack’s two Harvard Business Review articles on scenarios practice.

Curry-PierreWack-2017-10-APFCompass_reprint

January 2015: Searching for systems; understanding Three Horizons

An article for the APF newsletter, Compass, trying to explain the systems aspects of the Three Horizons method. An extract: “One of the important characteristics of Three Horizons, therefore, is that the horizons are not just lines; they are each a system. And a little more: they are systems with varying degrees of fitness for the existing landscape.”

The pdf can be downloaded here:

Curry-3HSystems-Compass-01-15.

October 2014: Dreaming of Electric Friends

“The future arrives with a carapace of technology, but it is driven by culture. The idea of the future arrives long before the fact, made by people who are at odds with the present. And their future imagination, in turn, shapes the way the future turns out.” An article for the APF newsletter Compass that uses the rise of electronic music, from the ’60s through to the ’80s, as a model of how change happens.

Curry-Electronic-Compass-1014-Proof3

April 2014: Postcards as Doorways

An essay on using postcards in workshops as a facilitation technique, co-written with Victoria Ward, published in  the Journal of Futures Studies. A short blog post can be found here. Or the pdf can be downloaded below.

Curry-Ward-JFS-Postcards as Doorways-2014

January 2014: Anticipating the next wave

Regular readers of the next wave will know that I am a fan of the work of the economic and technology historian Carlota Perez, who developed a model that explains the processes by which new technology platforms first emerge, then become dominant, and then become superseded. There have been five of these “technology surges” since 1771; the present ICT surge is the fifth.

Her model is a historical one. This isn’t a complaint: she is a historian, and she did the analysis of the historical data to propose the pattern she describes in her book. But when I was asked to contribute to an Association of Professional Futurists workshop that used the Three Horizons method to explore candidates for the Sixth surge, I wondered if it was possible to identify future-facing characteristics in her model.

The article was written for the APF’s newsletter Compass. It can be downloaded below.

Curry-Compass-Jan2014-Final

2013: The 21st Century Business

I co-wrote this report with Jules Peck for The Futures Company. The task we set ourselves was to imagine what businesses would look like once the idea of ‘sustainability’ and ‘corporate social sustainability’ were normalised as part of day-to-day business thinking. This won a Strategy award in WPP’s annual Atticus award for thought leadership within the group. When I read where the business literature is (I’m adding this at the end of 2021) some of it still seems to be ahead of its time.

21st Century Business-Curry-Peck-The Futures Company 2014

July 2012: Golf’s 2020 Vision: The HSBC Report

I wrote/edited this report for HSBC on the future of golf; HSBC is a big tournament sponsor in the UK, the Middle East, and Asia, and also invests in the junior game in China and UK. We used a classic futures approach to build the stories, scanning for change both within the sport and also for drivers which would influence the context of the sport, and identifying the themes by looking for patterns and connections. The PDF of the final report is below; my colleague Gus Newsam did a terrific job on the design.

The_Future_of_Golf

June 2012: The scenarios question

An article for the APF’s Future of Futures collection, which I also edited, on the history of scenarios, and perhaps their future – and on why the 2×2 “double uncertainty” matrix model became so dominant. An ebook of the The Future of Futures is available though the APF.

The-Scenarios-Question

December 2011: Understanding Best Practice in Strategic Futures Work

The Futures Company has re-published a report I co-wrote 10 years ago for the UK Government. From the Preface: “Our client was Geoff Mulgan, then running the Performance and Innovation Unit in the British Government’s Cabinet Office, and charged with improving the ability of the government to address complex strategic issues. Mulgan was concerned that the government did not think well about the longer-term, and wanted to understand if strategic futures methods would help”. There is also a blog post here.

Understanding_Best_Practice_in_Strategic_Futures_work

2011: Unlocking New Sources of Growth

This was a piece of thought leadership for The Futures Company that set out to understand where to look for business growth in flat-lining markets. It built a futures framework to understand where growth came from (there are four basic sources) and a model to help businesses assess whether markets were primed for growth or not. This paper won the WPP Atticus Grand Prix Award for the best piece of thought leadership across WPP in 2011.

Unlocking new sources of growth_The_Futures_Company_May_2011

March 2010: What Kind of Crisis Is It? (with Hardin Tibbs)

An article which tries to explore the nature of the financial crisis by looking at it through a number of different long cycles, and by drawing on systemic models such as panarchy. There is also a blog post here.

WhatKindOfCrisisIsIt_CurryTibbs_JFS

June 2009: Roads Less Travelled (with Wendy Schultz)

Another article in the Journal of Futures Studies, this time co-written with Wendy Schultz, which reports on a small research project to find out whether different scenarios methods generate significantly different outcomes. The twist was that we used the same base data – from the project we worked on for the Carnegie UK Trust on the future of civil society – and applied four different scenarios methods to it. As far as we can tell – and Wendy Schultz is immersed in this literature – it is the first time anyone’s used a common feedstock to test this hypothesis. The paper is below (opens in pdf); the answer to the question is ‘yes’.

Curry-Schultz-RoadsLessTravelled-jfs0609

April 2009: Using Scenarios Well

The Journal of Futures Studies published a ‘Scenario Symposium” on why and how scenarios were used, in response to a sceptical article by the veteran futurist Gragam Molitor. My contribution, which is available below, argues that scenarios are a way of managing uncertainty, in a way that makes it comprehensible and possible to act on. The whole Symposium is in the February 2009 edition of the Journal.

curry_usingscenarioswell_jfs0209

December 2008: Learning from longer-term futures

A short article which reviews some learning from a series of longer term (30+ years) scenarios projects, on a common sustainability theme, in terms of methods and questions emerging. A version was first published in Henleymail in December.

Longer Term Futures, Curry

August 2008: Seeing in Multiple Horizons.

A long article written with Tony Hodgson laying out the ‘Three Horizons‘ approach to strategic futures work. Published in the Journal of Futures Studies.

Seeing in Multiple Horizons, Journal of Futures Studies

November 2007: Foresight FAN Club

The UK Foresight Programme’s futures networking programme, the ‘FAN’ club, asked me to talk about the relationship between futures and organisational decision-making processes. A PDF of the presentation can be downloaded here{

Curry_FuturesPerspectives_ForesightFANClub1107Final 

‘Britain 2025’, in The House magazine, 2005

I wrote something at the end of 2005 which I thought was brief on the trends which could affect Britain over the next 20 years for the House of Commons magazine The House. They cut it; good for attention span, bad for comprehension. This is the longer version.

housemagazine_2005_curry.pdf

2004, Scenarios about the future of obesity

In 2004, I wrote with my colleague Rachel Kelnar a set of scenarios on the future of obesity, and how it would affect the food production and retail companies. It took some time to get them right, and we thought we’d missed the boat, because the public health agenda on obesity was already advancing quite fast. It turned out that the commercial companies were still catching up with this sharp shift in their external environment. The scenarios have stood the test of time over the past three years. PDF, 784KB.

Curry-Kelnar, Obesity Scenarios, Henley Centre 2004

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