Designing My Next Step with Fictional Headlines of the Future
How to apply Design Thinking to rehearse your future.
Why is making the next step so hard? Dan Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard University says “At every stage of our lives we make decisions that will profoundly influence the lives of the people we're going to become, and then when we become those people, we're not always thrilled with the decisions we made.” Why not design your next step?
Questions I want to explore, that make me curious:
Relevant facts and historical examples, that give me strength:
Discoveries I hope to find along the way:
Actions that I envision myself taking as a creative leader:
Several years ago I read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven R. Covey. His lesson to ‘Begin with the end in mind’ has influenced me as a designer and leader ever since. I often apply design thinking to my work & projects, but have also discovered how to apply design thinking to my own future.
There are a lot of ways to design a future state. You can imagine it, prototype it, visualize or write about it, but probably the most useful exercise I’ve found in recent years is designing fictional Headlines of the Future. I work with product leaders & executives from around the world and I’ve used this exercise to help them write their fictional headlines of the future. It helps them play (quickly) with hypothetical language that describes a future with a precise language that can be attributed to varying degrees of impact and influence. It’s an amazing tool to help build a product & build stronger business stories.
When I think about Designing my own next step, I often begin by designing fictional headlines of my future. It’s sometimes helpful to play with the outcome before having to worry about the details of getting there. Once you find a future with qualities that excite you, extend those into a deeper narrative and then a plan can emerge. They will most certainly bring up questions that invoke your curiosity.
How does this work? First of all, you have to look at yourself deeply, looking into your aspirations and then apply the components of a narrative headline.
It turns out that about 80% of people ONLY read headlines, and never read the full story. A headline about yourself about your achievements in the next version of yourself can be filled with aspirational, yet precise language. By incorporating the three components of a headline, they give context to the words and affect the content & perception of the material.
By rapidly prototyping the language in a fictional headline, you can put valuable insights into a hypothetical future that you can make reality. From there you can drill into the ones you like, study their characteristics and then work backwards towards a plan.
The exercise is simple and quick to execute. Here are a few repeatable steps that can be done by yourself or with trusted friend,family member or colleague.
STEPS TO BUILD HEADLINES OF YOUR FUTURE
1) START WITH EMPATHY - (see Fig 1. --> listen to & understand your Aspirations)
2) WRITE HEADLINE -(see fig. 2)
3) DATE & AUTHOR
4) PLAY & ITERATE (see fig. 3)
Once you have a few headlines you’re excited about, you can take a headline farther by drilling into the story and creating a deeper fictional story or press release about the context. This gives you more fidelity into your hypothetical future. As a visioning exercise, this can provide additional details that can inform a plan. This can take more time to author, but you’ll enjoy the freedom of inserting perfect pull quotes and an ideal story of your next step.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE
Once you have a series of headlines & potential stories, run them by the trusted advisors or mentors in your life. Use them as prototypes to create discussions about action and how you might pursue conversations that will give you momentum towards this goal.
Don’t worry if some of your aspirations seem ridiculous. That’s what a plan is for. Headlnes can help you with the ‘What, Who, Why, & When’
Timothy Goodman, who is a Designer and Illustrator says, “Don’t worry about what you want to do as much as who you want to work for.”
REFLECTIONS & QUESTIONS
I’m thankful for John Maeda’s challenge and assignment. There are some very thoughtful guidance and wisdom he uncovers for us in helping take this to the next level and taking the next step.
Most of all, I hope to make the journey as fun as the destination.
I'd love to get your thoughts, reflections & feedback about creating fictional headlines of the future. Reach me on Twitter @danemhoward