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4619 N. Ravenswood Ave., Ste 305
Chicago, IL 60640
USA

773.271.1990

We are a multidisciplinary innovation studio working with diverse partners to understand sustainability challenges and identify holistic, resilient solutions, and we are committed to training the next generation of leaders.

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Methodology

 

Innovation Methodology

We continue to take the same first step up the ladder. Without being more intentional about how we’re innovating, we’ll never start the very necessary climb.
— Peter Nicholson, Executive Director

Bigger. Better. Faster.

Addressing increasingly complex challenges requires evolving the scale, method, and rate at which we innovate. Foresight has been codifying a flexible methodology that could be applied to the many different types of projects since its inception in 2003. The approach incorporates traditional design processes along with other elements that distinguish it, such as systems thinking, visual sensemaking, and stakeholder facilitation. By employing a common yet nimble process, Foresight has grown more adept at applying this in different contexts and at varying scales. Implementation, however, requires skilled practitioners. The organization seeks staff members who are open-minded, multidisciplinary, self-aware, collaborative, disciplined, and humble, among other qualities. A permanent work-in-progress, the methodology is informed by each new project and the staff’s ongoing learning. Its purpose, however, remains constant: bolder, more holistic and enduring approaches.

The following provides a condensed overview of a process that is modified for each undertaking. 

Phase .5—Go Blank: Unacknowledged bias can limit innovation, steering outcomes toward directions that are presumed at the outset, however subtly and unintentionally. Asserting a blank canvas and resisting the urge to jump ahead requires discipline and fortitude. It should be undertaken before anything else, hence “.5”.

Phase 1—Context: The urge to solve a problem can be irresistible. Designers, in particular, are inclined to start prototyping as promptly as possible. However, stepping back, not forward, can be the most powerful initial step. Mapping the context, including stakeholders, elements, and relevant relationships, in which a particular challenge exists can surface important insights, reveal overlooked opportunities, help create a common understanding, and facilitate superior interventions.

Phase 2—Envision: Achieving greater sustainability requires closely considering an initiatives’ outcomes and associated impacts. Having identified and analyzed key dynamics related to a particular challenge, detailing a vision for its optimal state can create alignment among stakeholders, clarify goals, and surface leverage points. Defining holistic success is not intended to set a broadly amorphous and perhaps unachievable agenda, but to provide direction around which stakeholders can collaborate, set priorities, and track progress.

Phase 3—Formulate: Designing exactly how solutions will be structured, timed, and executed is as important as determining what to do. This requires priority setting, project planning and management, scenario drafting, and recruiting and consulting with potential stakeholders, among other capabilities. The initial objective is not to necessarily get the plan right—variables always shift and evolve—as determine the direction and more deeply understand the desired outcomes and related impacts. A balance must be struck, and healthy tension managed, between flexibility and focus in order to achieve the most desirable output.

Phase 4—Implement: No matter how comprehensive a plan, lessons often emerge from implementation that could not have been surfaced any other way. Evaluating, iterating, and refining are critical components to ultimate success. This is not the end of the discovery phase, but rather another version of it. Leadership, responsiveness, and fortitude are some of the requisite elements for combating the many potential pitfalls of pursuing progress. Incorporating scaling into the scheme’s initial design is crucial if it is going to forge an impact beyond a singular initial effort. Such growth can take a variety of forms beyond simple replication, and is important to consider at the outset to avoid reconfiguring variables never intended to morph beyond their initial application.

Phase 5—Exit: The excitement of launching a new initiative can cloud the consideration of how it will evolve or end. It can feel unnatural to consider a project’s conclusion in the beginning, when all impulses are to relish the thrill of the new idea. Doing so, however, can pay dividends and invoke an important, form-shaping wisdom that, along with incorporating the intention to scale, can help create more holistic and resilient results.

Curious to learn more? We would be happy to share case studies and provide more details about our innovation methodology.