My dear colleague Paul Roberts introduced me to a powerful (and fun) tool to predict the future: Joel Barker’s Implication Wheel.
The Implication Wheel allows you to explore the spectrum of intended and unintended consequences of an invention/innovation — in effect showing you future opportunities and threats to your business.
The basic idea is simple — it’s mostly just a mind map. Put the topic you would like to explore in the middle of a big sheet of paper (or your preferred mind mapping software). Now branch off from here exploring possible consequences the invention could have. Each possible consequence goes on its branch. From here explore what the consequences of this consequence could be — both intentional and unintentional.
Confused? Let’s take the autonomous vehicle as an example. What could be consequences of more people driving autonomous vehicles? For one, car accidents will likely go down. This means, on the one hand, lower premiums for insurances (which could be an opportunity to create a new type of car insurance which only insures self-driving vehicles and thus is cheaper than other insurance offerings). On the other hand, we will see fewer people dying in car accidents — which will lead to fewer organ donors (think about it — it makes sense). Which could increase funding for alternate forms of creating organs — another opportunity if you are in that space. A full implication wheel will have dozens of these branches and subbranches.
You can get fancy and determine how likely and how desirable a particular implication can be — but even just mapping out implications (and implications of implications) is a powerful tool to spot opportunities and threats for your business in the future.
Give it a try!