Futures Playbook - Aurecon

Navigate Uncertainty. Anticipate. Act.

Futures Wheel

futures-wheelThe Futures Wheel play helps you dig deeper into the possible impacts, insights and implications of change and explore how the future may unfold.

It is a structured brainstorming tool used to explore a specific change and to identify consequences and potential impacts, which introduces systems thinking skills and is useful in identifying and mapping connections and causalities.

The Futures Wheel play was developed by Jerome C Glenn in his paper called ‘Futures Wheel’ as part of The Millennium Project, and used by futurists around the world as a tool to understand and explore change.

Implications + Insights

Why run this play?

This is an Implications + Insights play that helps you anticipate and explore the consequences of disruptive change.

You can use this play to help you:

  • Explore and identify the range of implications and impacts of change
  • Explore what new innovation could occur as a result of change
  • Uncover unintended consequences you might need to mitigate going forward

How do I run this play?

Play Overview

6–8 1.5–2 minutes Moderate

As a group, select a topic or area of investigation. Have a brief discussion about the issue and clarify the objectives of the workshop.

When you have decided on your topic, identify and describe which aspect of change to explore, and the timeframe in which it would occur. Using Post-It notes and the Futures Wheel canvas, write out the change as if it has already happened and place it in the centre circle.

The next step is to consider the sequential order of impacts.

First order impacts

As a group ask yourselves:

  • If this change is true, what are the immediate impacts?
  • What are the first impacts you would expect to see?

Remember to be specific and detailed when describing the changes you would expect to see. Think about both the positive and negative impacts of what has become different.

Write these insights on the Post-It notes and place them in the first set of circles around the focus issue.

Second order impacts

Now look at the next ring of circles. Based on the first order of impacts, in your group discuss the following question, and be specific and detailed in describing the second order impacts.

  • What are the impacts and implications of this change?

Continue this process as you work your way around each of the first order impacts.

Third order impacts

For the final set of impacts and implications, look at the second order impacts you have detailed and identify what change they would generate if they were to be true.

As with the previous sections, consider the positive and negative consequences of change.

Finally, as a group discuss the patterns, ideas and opportunities that have emerged. Some questions to discuss include:

  • How do different impacts connect to each other?
  • Have you identified more positive or negative impacts of change? Does this actively reflect what we think about this change? What might that mean?
  • Are there any impacts that contradict each other?
  • These patterns can be used to develop forecasts, what narratives and shifts have emerged?


The Futures Wheel Canvas and Facilitation Guide by Aurecon is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Do your research!
You may have a group that comes from different backgrounds and might not be aware of the issue. Bring them up to speed by inviting speakers, create some pre-reading, ask participants to do some homework beforehand.

Stay in the moment!
When doing this exercise, it can be tempting to explore the next order of impacts as you go, but it is best to focus on the first order impacts first.

When discussing the impacts, you may consider:

  • Negative and positive impacts
  • Social impacts
  • Technical impacts
  • Economic impacts

The Play: in action

Identifying the knock-on impacts from future technologies is key to understanding what opportunities they might provide for innovation, and new services or products.

Aurecon has used this play to help clients within the aviation industry identify how new digital technologies can create business improvements, new service offerings and the changes required to their current operations.

It also helped to identify any unintended consequences for their workforce and processes.

By understanding the causal chains as part of the adoption of a new technology, our clients have been able to use the opportunity to facilitate the change to their operations and take steps to adjust their business model for longevity.

Ready to find your future?

While this page gives you everything you need to run the Play yourself, you might prefer to work with the people who know the frameworks and theories best. Aurecon can help guide you through your Futures Playbook experience and help you navigate your digital future.

Contact us for an initial conversation

Next steps?

You can use this Strategy Play to identify what actions you need to take now to achieve your vision of the future.

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