Saturday, 30 June 2012

Defending future efficiency.

There has been a recent spate of new terminology that has sprung up around product design and sustainability, but how new is it really and what does it define?

I've picked two terms to delve into 'futurescapes and disruptive innovation' as being established theories or concepts, but which have recently found a wider audience and application within existing markets. So what are they, what could theyachieve and how might they deliver?

Futurescaps appears to represent quite a wide collaboration of writers, thinkers and designers who are trying to map out the future of products or landscapes, for example, in order to evaluate them in a future context. This could include more sustaianable product design, gaining recognition for adaptation in terms of planning and investment perceptions or how products and services can evolve to improve and change our future prospects for the better.

Disruptive innovation would seem to be a parallel concept that focuses on the value chain of a product or service and being able to evolve it in a way that creates new values or markets that will eventually cause displacementg of the old market or value chain.

Taken together these concepts could prove a major driver for change towards increased future proofing (or flexibility towards adaptation) and greater sustainability (mainly through improved resource efficiency). It could be a lot about reducing consumerism without reducing living standards, this will create winners and losers, as markets could evolve where growth is not implicit.

I do think however, that there are some challenges and questions yet to be answered and that they are quite significant. These concepts are not merely about marketing new technologies, they are about embracing change both in the perception of techno;ogy and how it helps us and also behaviours around purchasing and use.

The same is true for services, where it is highly likely that there will be off sets and compromises between biodiversity and recreation for example. This perhaps could be an area where an aging population can be a part of the solution as much as the problem.

The concerns are that as with all things, there will be leaders, who will stand to gain the most from alternative market models and value systems. The question remains as to whether or not they will have the critical mass to overcome the system inertia (this despite the pressures that are building) in time for it to be relevant. Some of this could be discounted also as an extension conventional corporate strategy to gain a market advantage in the shorter to medium term.

Another problem is with valuation itself, here you are having to enter the current system and metrics, in order to to evaluate, for example, ecosystem services that can then be forecast or projected to a new future with enhanced value. There are many circumstances whereby doing this might make a product or service more vulnerable, this might be particularly true in terms of protecting landscapes and biodiversity. certainly this could be a contradiction within the futurescapes concept, where some thinkers would like to abstain from current market valuation processes in favour of an index of wellbeing say.

If we can move to system that values resource and wellbeing properly (i.e. the measurement and costing of off-shore impacts and social justice), then I for one, would be in favour of hearing quite a lot more about these concepts.

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