Imagining the future of technology with science fiction prototyping

Imagining the future of technology with science fiction prototyping

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August 18, 2016
CIO Big Data

The state of disruptive technology today can almost make you feel like you are living in a sci-fi movie. In fact, the futuristic, hand-gesture controlled computer from the 2002 movie Minority Report is already a real-world solution being used by IBM, Accenture, NASA, and Boeing. Drones are delivering packages, and a necklace can translate spoken words in three different languages.

It's no wonder that technologists and business leaders are paying close attention to the science fiction genre as an indicator of what's to come. Beyond watching the latest big screen movies, many are bringing the predictive power of sci-fi into their organizations with science fiction prototyping. We talked to Ari Popper, CEO of SciFutures, to learn more about how CIOs are using this strategy to gain a competitive edge.

CIO_Q and A

The Enterprisers Project (TEP): What is science fiction prototyping?

Popper: Science fiction prototyping is a powerful innovation and communications tool for executives to help organizations imagine bold and disruptive innovations and to build them. It uses the visionary power of science fiction to inspire belief in the impossible and to provide a practical means to build breakthrough innovation. Science fiction prototyping, grounded in science fact, helps accelerate innovation to create new sources of value that can provide organizations with a significant competitive advantage.

TEP: How are CIOs and IT organizations using it to determine the impact of emerging technology on their businesses?

Popper: Emerging technologies, by definition, are complex and opaque. Often, there is significant confusion in organizations about the potential impact of these technologies due to lack of clarity and difficulty in consistent and effective communication. Science fiction prototyping, through visionary storytelling, provides clarity and context for emerging technologies so that organizations can more readily understand their potential and speculate about the likely impact on their businesses.

TEP: Can you talk about the power of storytelling for CIOs and how science fiction prototyping can help them make a case for their emerging tech-driven and disruptive ideas?

Popper: Stories are powerful as they help humans integrate data and information in a meaningful and visceral manner. Emerging technologies and new forms of consumer behavior are often discussed in terms of functional and rational terminology. This is effective but only up to a point. We all know the feeling of being bored to death by “feeds and speeds” and pages of PowerPoint information. Effective storytelling converts this data into human truths and this results in inspiring, intuitive and motivating narratives about the future where humans and emerging technologies interact in a meaningful manner. It is in this interaction where meaningful insights are found that often leads to breakthrough innovation.

TEP: Are you seeing any trends or technologies that CIOs are particularly interested in exploring using science fiction prototyping?

Popper: What is exciting about the times that we live in is that there are so many interesting and disruptive emerging technologies that CIOs are seeking to understand. We have seen that CIOs are particularly interested in automation and new communication tools such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to increase efficiency and heightened collaboration. Cloud computing and network virtualization are two of many transformative technologies and CIOs are passionate about using them to reduce the friction of business to streamline organizational efficiency as well as creating a more responsive and dynamic business environment. Science Fiction Prototyping can help provide storified strategies to align the organization towards a more interesting and disruptive North Star.

TEP: What are some of the primary reasons IT organizations would use science fiction prototyping? 

Popper: Our IT clients understand the power of IT to transform businesses. In this digital world, the IT function has tremendous power to facilitate change. Our clients in the IT function use Science Fiction Prototyping to inspire belief in the new and bold and to create a way to make it happen. Prototyping gives the organization a way to experiment with new ideas and to begin to figure out how to turn them into a reality. A picture paints a thousand words but a prototype paints a thousand pictures. One prototype can create a series of powerful epiphanies that accelerates innovation and the belief in what is possible.

TEP: How can CIOs take what they learn via science fiction prototyping and use it for competitive advantage?

Popper: There are three key benefits of science fiction prototyping that result in a competitive advantage:

  • Clarity. Science fiction enables CIO to clarify difficult concepts and ideas so that everyone in the organization can understand their nature and potential.
  • Creativity. Science fiction prototyping is a creative process the generates richer and more disruptive innovation ideas and concepts.
  • Connection. Science fiction prototyping ensures that the innovations and ideas we generate are grounded in real human insights and truths resulting in more meaningful inventions.

TEP: Can you share an example of an interesting result that has come out of an IT organization engaging your science fiction prototyping services?

Popper: One of our clients in the CPG space used a science fiction video, grounded in their strategic research from R&D and technology to tell an inspiring story about the future of the organization. The video was shared across the organization and it resulted in an increased appreciation for the power of IT to facilitate change as well as to demonstrate thought leadership in terms of where the organization could and should evolve to ensure continued relevance and growth in the next 10-20 years.

We used science fiction prototyping to inspire and build futuristic environments to enable our payments client to have richer more meaningful conversations with key stakeholders about the future of payments. The goal of these physical spaces was to trigger product development and collaboration partnerships. The initial goal was for six projects in a 12-month period. The final result was over 30 individual collaboration projects.

Carla Rudder is a writer and content manager on The Enterprisers Project.

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