100 User Experience (UX) Design and Evaluation Methods for Your Toolkit
This is the 6th in a series of 100 short articles about UX design and evaluation methods. Today’s method is the future workshop. The future workshop is an approach that was originally proposed as a way to involve stakeholders in democratic decisions about public projects or social problems (Jungk & Müllert, 1987). In this context, “stakeholders” include anyone who is affected by a project, policy, product, or process – users, designers, developers, owners, neighbors, business partners, suppliers, lawyers, government officials, etc.
The future workshop method has been used in software design to develop visions of the future. For example, you could envision the “smart home of the future” or “home entertainment in the year 2020 or “the future of the UX field”. In the commercial setting, product team members can use the future workshop to develop 3, 5, and 10-year plans that take into account existing constraints and innovative ideas.
Method 6 of 100: Future Workshop
The basic steps of a future workshop are:
- Identify the common problems or issues with a particular product, process, or system.
- Generate visions about how a future might be realized. This is called the fantasy phase.
- Discuss and analyze the feasibility of the ideas and solutions that emerged during the fantasy phase.
- Develop a future strategy based on various future visions, barriers, and constraints.
When to Use:
The future workshop is useful when:
- You are asked to develop a long-term strategy or vision of the future.
- You need to involve a large number of stakeholders in decisions.
- You want your immediate team and other stakeholders to recognize the constraints and barriers for implementing solutions.
There are four general phases in a future workshop:
- Preparatory Phase
- Critique Phase
- Fantasy Phase
- Implementation Phase
Here are the general procedures for each step. In a future workshop, facilitators will apply a wide variety of ideation and evaluation methods depending on the makeup of the group, the emotion that is associated with the problem, and the complexity of the problem.
Preparatory Phase – Planning, ground rules, and schedule
- Define the goal of the workshop and a clear statement of the problem or issue.
- Develop a list of stakeholders who will be affected by the topic of the future workshop.
- Develop the ground rules and schedule for the future workshop and invite the stakeholders.
- Require some preparation on the part of the participants. An important requirement is that your participants must engage in some preparation to develop a common understanding of the topic and ideas for the workshop. For example, if you were asked to create a future vision for architectural design software, you might ask people to read journal articles, look at some vision videos from innovative companies, or sketch out “science fiction” ideas before the meeting.
Critique Phase – Critique of the current system
- State the goal of the workshop and the ground rules and schedule for the day.
- Introduce all the stakeholders and consider some short warm-up exercises to develop rapport.
- Critique the stated problem using brainstorming techniques. You could, for example, ask your participants to write problems on Post-It® notes and then stick them on the wall (good if you have quiet people who may not feel comfortable shouting out problems).
- Organize the items from the critique into groups or piles based on similarity.
- Create small groups of 3-5 people and ask them to take sets of problems and reformulate them into concise critiques of the current system.
Fantasy Phase – Unconstrained visions of the future
- Conduct a fantasy session where each small group of participants verbalizes their desires, dreams, and fantasies to generate ideas about the future. You can many approaches here. For example you could take the negative statements from the Critique Phase and turn those into positive statements (see my blog on reverse brainstorming). You could also ask groups to write “science fiction” scenarios, use metaphor brainstorming, or draw pictures to envision unconstrained futures.
- Have the small groups present outlines of the future systems to the entire group.
- Conduct an analysis of the ideas from the fantasy session to determine their feasibility and to suggest ways to overcome any barriers that might hinder implementation of those ideas.
- Outline a strategy about how you can overcome barriers and constraints.
- Create an implementation plan that includes the tasks, people, and schedules you need to get to your vision of the future.
Strengths and Weaknesses:
+ Good for getting diverse stakeholders knowledgeable about key issues and involved in the decision-making process.
+ Uses a variety of common methods like brainstorming, affinity diagramming, and scenarios.
- Requires strong facilitation.
- Scheduling a diverse and large set of stakeholders can be expensive.
- Hard to do with remote audiences (you have to break it up some)
Jungk, R, & Müllert, N. (1987). Future workshops: How to create desirable futures. London: Institute for Social Inventions.
What’s Next in the Series?
The next UX method posting will describe “Claims Analysis”, a technique for evaluating the negative and positive consequences of design decisions.