Season 3 Episode 5 with Sinem Erdemli and Callum Goodwilliam is now available. Listen now.
March 2, 2023

Using the future to design the present with Lena Tünkers

#031 - The future can seem like a figment of our imagination and devoid of reality. Our mind naturally creates multiple scenarios of how the future might unfold but we either ignore them or get worried about them.

In this episode, I speak with designer, facilitator and futures literacy educator Lena Tünkers on futures literacy and how we can use the future to shape the present. Lena mentions how analysing alternate versions of the future can be a powerful exercise in making them a reality. Lena also shares simple techniques you can use to reframe your imagined futures.

In this episode:

  • What is futures literacy and how you can get better at it
  • Probably, desirable and alternative futures
  • Reframing assumptions of the future
  • Creating future personas
  • Getting buy-in for future scenarios in organisations
  • and much more!


Lena Tünkers

Sign up to Lena’s course ‘Using Futures in Practice’ starting in March 2023

Stefan Bergheim

Causal Layered Analysis Framework


Show credits

Illustrations by Isa Vicente

Music by Brad Porter

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[00:00:00] Lena Tünkers: It's the ability to imagine a multitude of futures and it's the ability to go beyond, your normal frames that you may set in by society, by your family, by your friends, and so on. So it is an ability that we can learn and that we can train just like reading and writing. 

[00:00:17] Nirish Shakya: How often do you think of the future? Well, if you're like me, I would say every day. But do you have structured methods to imagine the future and do so in a way that helps you in the present? In this episode I speak with Lena Tinkers. Lena is a designer and facilitator who teaches futures literacy, a collection of mindsets and methods that help people use the future to inform their work in the present, we talk about futures literacy and how analyzing alternate versions of the future can be a powerful exercise in making them a. Lena also shares simple techniques that he can use to reframe imagined futures, whether they're positive or negative. 

[00:01:05] Shivaun: This is the Design Feeling Podcast with your host Nirish Shakya. 

[00:01:14] Nirish Shakya: Hello. My name is Nirish Shakya and I'm a human-centered designer, educator and coach. And this is a podcast for well, human-centered designers and innovators and problem solvers who tend to forget the human within the. The conversations you'll hear will help you increase your self-awareness and creative confidence so that you can make the impact that gives you the joy and meaning that you seek.

[00:01:47] Let's get started. 

[00:01:51] Lena Tinker. Thank you so much for joining me on Design Field today.

[00:01:55] Lena Tünkers: Hi, I'm, uh, it's a pleasure being here. I'm looking forward having a, a chat with

[00:02:01] you. 

[00:02:01] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. I'm really excited to speak to you today about futures literacy, uh, because I saw a LinkedIn post that you made about a training that you're offering soon on how you can use the different methods and tools in futures literacy, uh, on your daily, in your daily practice. But before we go there, I wanted to know more about how you got into this whole field of futures literacy.

[00:02:31] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, good question. Um, I think it has been like three or four years now since I started diving into this, into this universe of futures. And I first came across someone who called, so I was part, um, Of a conference, of an online conference, um, which was, yeah, helped during the Covid time and I think it was the first year. Um, and I remember I took part and I told the people, the audience, um, a very short story about future that never will probably exist. I told the random story and I told them, it's true.

[00:03:18] This is actually happening right now. And it was amazing cause they believed it. Like, ah, this is so cool. Where is that happening? And at the end of this whole, um, yeah, of this, of this presentation actually probably exist. Um, and that was the moment when I met Devin Beckham and he is very much connected to the UNESCO and future service a few years.

[00:03:44] So heed me almost into, into this. And yeah, that's how it all started.

[00:03:51] Nirish Shakya: Cool. The futures

[00:03:52] Lena Tünkers: And since 

[00:03:53] Nirish Shakya: that never existed, um, I guess that's like most futures we imagine, right? Because there's so many possibilities that most of them will never end up happening.

[00:04:05] Lena Tünkers: For sure. Yes. Most likely. Yeah. Yeah. Everything that we imagine is kind of, it's rooted in us, it's rooted in our beliefs and our experiences from the past. But then what will actually happen is either a mix of what we can imagine or something completely different. Something that we could never imagined, something like, um, old actually people, us actually imagined that before.

[00:04:39] Nirish Shakya: I am gonna ask a very stupid question. How do you define.

[00:04:47] Lena Tünkers: That's a tough one. Um. For me, the future is something that is not here yet. I think there's probably a proper definition somewhere out there.

[00:05:03] Nirish Shakya: Hey, this is 

[00:05:04] Lena Tünkers: So, 

[00:05:05] Nirish Shakya: now.

[00:05:11] Lena Tünkers: um, yes, I think so. For me, it's something that doesn't exist yet. Something that might never exist, as you just said before. Um, it's something, it's an idea, it's an, um, it's a, that only exists and our imagination. Yeah. That is for me, the future or as I like to speak. I always like to use futures because it's, there's not.

[00:05:46] Nirish Shakya: and h how's that linked to literacy then? Because when I think of literacy, um, I think of skills like, you know, reading and writing and so on. Um, what is future's literacy?

[00:06:01] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, it is actually, in my opinion, like reading and writing, it's just a different skill, um, that is connected again to our imagination. It's the ability to imagine a multitude of futures and it's the ability to go beyond, your normal frames that you may set in by society, by your family, by your friends, and so on. So it is an ability that we can learn and that we can train just like reading and writing. And in many of my workshops I can see that some people are really good at that.

[00:06:34] It's really easy for them. Crazy stuff. It's very easy reflect, I'm thinking. And for other people it's impossible. And they say that as well. Yeah. I had a, a workshop two days ago and there was a woman and she said, at some stage, I can't go there. It's impossible for me to go there right now to this topic with my imagination. And that's exactly when we see that. Ah, okay. There's, there are different degrees of literacy. You know, you can, some people can do it better, some.

[00:07:13] Nirish Shakya: And why do you think that's the case? Why are some people better than others at that?

[00:07:22] Lena Tünkers: I think it's very much, um, due to our society, the way that we grow up, um, when we're kids. Maybe you imagine when you were a kid and I bet you were full of creativity and play maybe. Um, that's where we normally see in kids. They're, they have a super vi, wide stretched imagination muscle, if you wanna call it that word.

[00:07:48] And then we go to school, we go to university and there're the grading systems. People tell us this is right and is wrong and everything is not accepted. So I think we shrink our imagination, um, doing our upbringing and then we're adults. And um, also there we adhere to social norms, um, yeah, other rules, stigmas and so on.

[00:08:14] So I think we're shrinking and shrinking and drinking more and more, and, yeah. Slowly losing our imagination.

[00:08:23] Nirish Shakya: Wasn't that Einstein who said, um, imagination is more important than knowledge. Hmm. But what you're saying is that most of us lose our ability to imagine as we grow older. So we are losing a very important skill.

[00:08:41] Lena Tünkers: I believe so. Yeah. Yeah. And I think was definitely right. And that's why he was so brilliant. Um, because he had such a vivid imagination. He could imagine things that nobody ever thought or talked before about invented formula.

[00:09:02] Nirish Shakya: mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm. . And how can we then improve our capability to make use of the.

[00:09:17] Lena Tünkers: Uh, I think there are many different ways. Um, And fus. Literacy in itself is an approach, it's a mindset. Um, and within, there are so many different methods that you can use, and I think that's the beauty, for example, through laboratory, which is one common method of you. So it's a very set process, four phases.

[00:09:46] You explore different types of futures, like the probable futures, the desirable futures. You question yourself, um, down into your assumptions, those ares that frames that . Um, and then you dive into alternative futures. Yeah. So you, you, you try to actively imagine different features. Um, that's one way, but I think also other things like art, Music.

[00:10:18] Um, I don't know, maybe you have a, when was the last time that you were inspired by something?

[00:10:24] Nirish Shakya: when was the last time I was inspired? Um, you know what, Alex? I was actually, um, watching, uh, a movie on the plane when I was coming back from, uh, Nepal on the weekend. Um, and it was back to the future . Um, I finally managed to finish the, the, the series of three movies, um, and my mind was. Blown by just watching how the time moves in that movie from like the, you know, going into the future and then back into the, further into the past, and then into the present and then back into the future.

[00:10:57] And I was like really inspired by, I mean, that's a, that's pretty old movie, right? It's like, I don't know, from the eighties or something, but how they're able to kind of think of those concepts of time travel, um, and also up towards the end of the movie, The doctor, um, says to, I think it's Marty, right? The, the guy where, who gets, who gets fired in the future.

[00:11:20] And he receives this, uh, facts from, from his boss saying, you're fired. But then he takes it back to the present. And in the present, the, the, the, the words you fired, disappears, and the girlfriend are, so, you know, what, what happened to the words here, right? Because in the future he gets fired, but then the doc, as he, the doctor, as he's about to leave back into the future, says, the future is not written yet.

[00:11:42] You, it's up to you to write the future . Um, and I found that really inspiring in a way that, oh yeah, you know, we all have, uh, agency over, you know, what might or might not happen in the future. Um, yeah, that's, that's when I felt kind of inspired.

[00:12:01] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, I think two very good examples that I hear from your story is the first one are movies and I think the same can do music or artworks. I was at, um, as a really big exhibition over the weekend and some of the contemporary artworks just blew my mind and I'm like, wow, that's so interesting. They're looking at this topic from a totally different angle that I've never seen before.

[00:12:26] Yeah. So this is kinda stretching you or as you said, um, the notion of time, how this in a different, how fluid it was. So that's another way of stretching our ability to mention, or what I also heard is that you were traveling, you were in a different culture, so there was probably something in, uh, you were.

[00:12:48] Nirish Shakya: Nepal.

[00:12:51] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, there was probably something that was, I will just use the term reframed yourself or your assumptions, because people are doing things differently there.

[00:13:04] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I, I was born in Nepal, but you know, a lot of, you know, a lot of that country is now so foreign to me because I've been living outside of Nepal for such a long time, and going back does help me see things differently. Um, even, you know, small things like, you know, not having, uh, tap water, you can drink , uh, having to like, you know, treat the water and whatnot.

[00:13:29] Uh, things that we take for granted here, uh, does make you see things, you know, with a diff in a dis different perspective when you come back in terms of the things that we have, you know, um, so readily available.

[00:13:42] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. For example, I'm in, um, based in, uh, Mexico right now. And before I was living in Denmark, Denmark or Copenhagen, one of the cities with the air, I think. And now I'm here in Mexico and the air is just horrible. And every day my mo, my nose is hurting. And I could have never imagined how, uh, such polluted air feels like and what effect it has on your daily life.

[00:14:09] So in that sense, its almost like I'm diving into a, into a future that I could imagined, but now I'm feeling it on own skin and now I'm imagination is wider than before.

[00:14:23] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. And how does that, uh, contextual, um, experience help you with your work in future literacy then?

[00:14:35] Lena Tünkers: Hmm. With contextual experience? You mean like

[00:14:39] Nirish Shakya: Yeah, like being, for example, being in Mexico City, experiencing, for example, the, the pollution and so on. Uh, not just, you know, for example, reading about it or watching about on tv. You, you are there experiencing it in the context.

[00:14:52] Lena Tünkers: Hmm. Yeah. Um, so I think you can, you can use the future in many different ways. Of course, this is what features they about. So using the future, um, for different purposes with different methods, and you decide as a facilitator, process designer, user, when to use what type of method for which purpose. So this is biggest skills we teach in teacher services.

[00:15:23] Um, I think there's some methods that are. Easy to use. Like you can write, you can read, you can watch something, you can work with post-its, and so on. I think that works well and it's very accessible to most people. Um, but I believe, and what I'm experiencing also, um, in my work is that if you go, if you wanna go deeper, if you really wanna stretch your imagination, if you really wanna dive into different futures, if you really wanna understand, um, and challenge yourself and reframe yourself, then it's, it's helpful to, to touch your senses.

[00:16:06] Yeah. So to feel the future, to smell the future, to, um, to build the future. So build maybe models of the future, um, to act in the future, to behave in the future. So now I'm about role or Right. Embody it. So I think this is much more powerful. Um, and this is what I'm playing with as well. How can we build rooms or how can we build spaces where people actually

[00:16:41] inam as above the future?

[00:16:46] Nirish Shakya: Could you give me an example of, you know, that happening in, in practice, let's say in a, in a corporate or an organization or in a team?

[00:16:56] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. So, um, speculative design, for example, or design fiction, um, is working with that. Um, so they're really much working on the, on the edge of design and features, which I find extremely interesting. For example, building, um, objects. Yes. So speculative design is building sometimes objects or even rooms entirely entire rooms that represent a certain future scenario. And then you as a observer, visitor, however you wanna call it, you can interact with this object, you can touch it, you can look at it, you can turn it, maybe you can even use it. Maybe you can even enter the, that would be one example. Um, I did a few, uh, little projects on that as well in Copenhagen, where we redecorated shoe, for example.

[00:17:50] Um, we created feature and then we invited join.

[00:18:00] Nirish Shakya: Uh, and earlier you mentioned, uh, some different types of futures, uh, probable futures and desirable futures and different alternatives of futures. Um, could you give us an example of what those could be?

[00:18:16] Lena Tünkers: Um, can I do a little exercise with.

[00:18:21] Nirish Shakya: I love exercises. Let's do it.

[00:18:24] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. Cool. Um, ok. What do you think is, like,

[00:18:34] I'm questioning now.

[00:18:38] Nirish Shakya: Let's go for it.

[00:18:41] Lena Tünkers: Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. Um, what do you predict your life to look like in, in two years? Where do you think you gonna live? How are you gonna

[00:18:52] live? Whatcha gonna do so in two years, superly, would you,

[00:19:02] is this gonna happen? 

[00:19:03] Nirish Shakya: In two years. Um, I think I'll still be in London. Um, I'll probably have, um, applied for my citizenship in the uk. Um, but I think I'll probably be traveling a bit. Um, both for work and pleasure. Um, hopefully giving a lot, bit more, more talks around the world. Um, you know, by then hopefully there'll be more in-person, uh, conferences and events and activities, uh, and retreats.

[00:19:33] Uh, and hopefully I'll be able to either participate in a lot of those or either run, uh, some of those as well.

[00:19:42] Lena Tünkers: Very so that.

[00:19:45] Nirish Shakya: I think I probably mixed a bit of desire there as well.

[00:19:50] Lena Tünkers: and that is really, and that is really common. Yeah. And this is one thing that is the first step in future to differentiate from desirable future different we would into desirable futures. Anything happen, it doesn't, like money is not important. Laws, regulations are not important. Anything do your life.

[00:20:19] Nirish Shakya: Oh, live by a beach in Bali or somewhere, you know, , but still be able to kind of travel around the world and meeting people and exchanging ideas and energies.

[00:20:32] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. Yeah. So it was a bit mixed, but there, there is kinda a difference. Yeah. And that's kinda the

[00:20:39] Nirish Shakya: I think that there was more

[00:20:40] Lena Tünkers: And then,

[00:20:41] Nirish Shakya: in the first version, uh, whereas the second version was a bit.

[00:20:46] Lena Tünkers: yeah. Yeah, so the, so those are the very easy ones. Everybody's working with desires and predictions, right? We open the weather forecast app in the morning. We look at that, that's kinda a future that is very likely to happen. So we, we act according to it. And same for the wishes. Um, the alternative features, that's, uh, something completely different and as I think the most interesting place to go.

[00:21:18] So what we would now do normally is we would try to see what are the assumptions, what is the frame that you are looking through, if you imagine your life. So maybe London as a place, as a desire, desirable place to, to live, um, as a goal. And maybe also the beach. Living at the beach is something positive. Um, you assume that we can move around really. You talked about traveling. You assumed that we can easily meet other people. Um, you assumed I'm going, you assumed that communication is still there, you, that the internet is probably still there cause you online meetings. Yeah. So those are all assumptions that I detect now in you, in your futures, and that we could now reframe with an alternative future.

[00:22:19] Nirish Shakya: How would you do that?

[00:22:22] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. So that is the, the really tricky part. Um, you would build an alternative, you would build a reframe or an alternative future. We would either do that or you would do that for yourself or,

[00:22:39] and spontaneous on the spot. Let's what I can up with, um,

[00:22:44] Nirish Shakya: pressure. Lena

[00:22:46] Lena Tünkers: no, no, no

[00:22:47] Nirish Shakya: No one's right now. It's just you and me.

[00:22:55] Lena Tünkers: reframe.

[00:23:00] Maybe the, the whole island of England, Scotland, and Island disappeared. this just doesn't, the, the, the. There just doesn't exist anymore. Okay. So that could be one part of reframe. And then on top of that, um, internet is a thing from the past. So we connecting, we still connecting to

[00:23:31] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. So the internet is like, um, I don't know the facts of the fu of the, of, in the, in the future, like there's no such thing as internet anymore. It's obsolete technology.

[00:23:43] Lena Tünkers: Exactly. So I give you a few facts now about this future, but I leave many things open for you to imagine. So the whole island of England, Scotland doesn't exist anymore. This piece of land doesn't exist anymore and internet neither. We're still connecting as humans, but differently dots. So now I would ask you again, how do you imagine in this reality, how do you imagine. Look in two, don't, or.

[00:24:20] Nirish Shakya: Oh, wow. Now you're making me think of, um, a, a new show that I've started watching on, um, um, on tv. It's called The Last of Us, which is based on a PlayStation game. Uh, one of my favorite games where it's like an apocalyptic world where this, um, new fungus has taken over people, people's brains, and turn them into these walking zombies.

[00:24:42] Uh, and the way they communicate is through like fungal network. On, on Underground, which control all these, like, pretty much like the Walking Dead zombies. Uh, and now I'm kinda like thinking of that in terms of all the boundaries between countries are blurred, there's no boundaries anymore, political boundaries.

[00:25:00] Uh, and then we basically communicate through these fungal networks that connect us, underground, we all, we all turned zombies, maybe

[00:25:12] Lena Tünkers: Wow. Yeah. So that's, that's the start, right? Um, your, maybe you felt that, I dunno, lemme know, maybe your mind went somewhere else, opened a bit more of what is possible. That's the idea.

[00:25:27] Nirish Shakya: I think what helped was you giving me those, um, guided prompts. Right? And if it was just me doing it, I, I don't think I would be able, I would've been able to come up with those prompts as, um, clearly as.

[00:25:46] Lena Tünkers: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. Um, and this is why we normally say is a collective intelligence practice. So meaning, People should do it together. And we were now just two people and I was kinda guiding you, but in the best case, um, you would be with other people together in a group who are very different from you culturally, I dunno.

[00:26:16] Any, any kind differences. So you can reframe each other. Yeah. And you can detect assumptions in each other more easily. And you can do that practice by yourself.

[00:26:30] Nirish Shakya: Wow. I mean, that seems pretty powerful to me, especially doing this collectively. Um, cuz I think, you know, one thing that, um, I was thinking before conversation in terms of, um, futures is we all have our own different versions or multiple different versions of our imagined futures in our head, right? But just having those individual versions of future, it's not very helpful.

[00:26:56] It's only when we bring them together then, then we start to make it into a collective reality. And it seems like something like this would help us do that more effectively.

[00:27:12] Lena Tünkers: For sure. And what I love about it so much is that we deconstruct our senses, or the meaning, sorry, not our senses, but the meanings that were built up in society, that were taught to us in school by our parents. And we do that collectively, so we deconstruct them. That's what we did with the assumptions.

[00:27:31] Yeah. I told you. Oh, but it's an assumption that internet is still there. Yeah. So I deconstructed your meaning of it. And then if you do it as group, you can con construct a new meaning together. I think this is really much, uh, in line with what you just said, we can make meaning together. That's alternative.

[00:27:51] That's different. Yeah. So we can also influence, um, and create new cultures to this new values new set. If you think team now that's established or we also like sometimes if two companies are merging, if you have a merger, then a method like this is super helpful because you to discover what values, what assumption are there and can create something, create meaning.

[00:28:22] Nirish Shakya: So what, what do you mean? Like, look at, um, values that are there.

[00:28:28] Lena Tünkers: It's basically so now we went to the assumptions. Yeah. So assumptions are normally the building blocks of what we imagine. Um, they're the building blocks of our behavior as well. And to some extent, of course, they're also connected to our values that we have. Yeah. Values are also just, um, not assumptions, but it's something different, but it's maybe on the same level.

[00:28:51] It's steering us as well. So we can also go down there. There's a method called layout analysis. It's one of the methods that we're teaching as well. Um, in, in a training on methods, a analysis that's using the iceberg that we have methods as well, but it's basically we start on top, on the surface, um, uh, pictures or our images of the future.

[00:29:22] So what you just told me before, right? That would be on top you on the,

[00:29:31] sorry. Your images on top, and then we would dig down and see what are, what are the actors, what are layers that are

[00:29:50] Nirish Shakya: So essentially you are connecting who we are right now and what we value, what we consider important to where we wanna be, uh, in the future

[00:30:05] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, of course. Because that's normally the only thing that we know. We're so limited, um, by what we know and what we heard in our lives normally, and that obviously steers what we are able to imagine. So now you've watched this or started watching this series, so that's why maybe you were able to imagine a a fungi network. Helping us to communicate. But what if you wouldn't have watched this? What if it wasn't part of your experiences?

[00:30:36] Nirish Shakya: Mm. See, I wouldn't have that prompt or that trigger to imagine that particular scenario. Mm. And and hence therein, I think, lies the importance of exposing yourself to, you know, different kinds of stimuli through either travel or art or books, um, or podcasts like this.

[00:31:00] Lena Tünkers: Yeah.

[00:31:01] Nirish Shakya: um,

[00:31:02] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. Or sorry, or, um, or small methods, right. Small training methods that you can use in your daily life to, to access your imagination Method.

[00:31:16] Nirish Shakya: is, is there any methods that you use on a regular basis for.

[00:31:22] Lena Tünkers: I like to dream. Um, And I, maybe that's really German. Um, every three months I feel the need to do a cut, um, in everything that I do, like hobbies, work and so on

[00:31:45] big and create this image in my head. Wow. What do, yeah. Also just to reframe myself all time. That thing that I can do or can I do something?

[00:31:58] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. So it's sort of like a, a, uh, a quarterly review that you're doing to put in a more boring way,

[00:32:09] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. Yeah. Nothing special really. Yeah.

[00:32:12] Nirish Shakya: And when, when, what's the role of the past in all this? We talked about the future and we talked about our values in the present. Uh, what about the past? How can we use the past?

[00:32:27] Lena Tünkers: We're using the past, um, by imagining the future, and that's similar to our values or I think that's where I wanted to get the values, um, as well. So everything that you experienced in your life so far, um, building this frame for you that you look through and because I have different experiences than you have in your life, um, I imagine slightly different things that you imagine, but we both, I'm from Germany, you living in London, so I would assume that we have quite similar imaginations to some extent because we're living in a, in a similar society setting.

[00:33:14] So that's also influencing us, right? Politics, all of that. Will we read in the newspapers? Um, yeah. So the past is something that we use all the time. I think the question is more how can we not use the past? How can we stop using the past foresight's? What people do they at, extrapolate that into the future.

[00:33:35] But that's normally not what's helping us. Um, and now I'm doing a little, um, cause the word is more complex and it's getting more complex. Uncertainty, um, is around us and we all feel that, right? Um, so doing like using the past in order to imagine the future is something that we should do less, I think, uh, in order to, yeah, be more there with the uncertainty and um, play with the complexity.

[00:34:11] And thinking knew every time. Yeah.

[00:34:14] Nirish Shakya: Hmm. And what, what's the risk of using the past?

[00:34:22] Lena Tünkers: Um, I was talking to a, um, a manager, I dunno what his title was exactly, but, and he talked to me, uh, just shortly after the pandemic and he said, it's crazy. Um, in all my career, I've always used the numbers from the past in order to predict, um, the, the future here and then I could build my strategy. And it always worked out more or less. It was very good. And now I cannot do that anymore because we had two years, three years of covid. So I dunno which numbers to take. There's no information from the past that will help me now to define my future strategy. I'm like, yeah, this is, this is our situation and um, that's why we should stop using.

[00:35:11] So much I'm

[00:35:13] Nirish Shakya: Mm-hmm. . But is that due to like the lack of data then?

[00:35:19] Lena Tünkers: no, I think it's, I think we can have much data as we want. So we technology this, um, exponential curve of new technologies arising and it gets quicker and quicker and quicker. And, um, tomorrow there might be technology that we could never imagined two days ago. And so all of this is happening so much faster.

[00:35:46] So data from the past will not help us. I think what will help us is, um, having a different, um, dealing differently with uncertainty and complexity and being more comfortable in. Yeah, so I'm talking very much about the present, like being in the present in a different way and dealing with that better, like talking about improvisation.

[00:36:07] Yeah. I think we need to learn to improvise better. We need to learn, imagine better. Yeah. That's also helping us, um, dealing with chaos, complexity and all of that. So imagine, for example, tomorrow is something extremely shocking is coming your way, like an information that's extremely shocking for you. And now imagine you have a really wide imagination and maybe you have that and then you able to deal with that quicker.

[00:36:36] I think that's my belief because you can imagine different things that you can do now and you can maybe imagine hundred different things, how you can react to this. And so you're not, um, this information doesn't freeze you in the prison, but it's just there and you use it and you play.

[00:36:55] Nirish Shakya: Kind of like raising your awareness for those potential, you know, future scenarios to better prepare yourself.

[00:37:01] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. I think it's a lot about potential. Yeah. Seeing the potential.

[00:37:07] Nirish Shakya: mm-hmm. Yeah, it's, I guess it's sort of like, um, doing a fire drill. Um, you know, you don't know if the fire's gonna happen, but you are ready for it if it happens.

[00:37:21] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. Yeah. And maybe the fire might occur in a totally different place where you would've expected it, but because you're so flexible in your preparation and all your materials are very, can be flexible assembled and your team is very flexible as well. They can go wherever, then it doesn't matter you.

[00:37:47] Nirish Shakya: Yeah. But I guess, you know, some, some features can be scary, right? Uh, not just for an individual. Uh, for example, I don't know, let's say I lose all my clients and my job and, you know, I become, Homeless next week. That is a very scary scenario for me that I wouldn't want to entertain in my head. . Right?

[00:38:08] That's a tough of nightmares. And similarly in, in organizational context, you know, even organizations have, um, I guess scary scenarios of what could happen to the organization, you know, next year or in two years time. For example, let's say, you know, going bankrupt or being eaten, eaten up by competition and so on.

[00:38:29] Um, and a lot of times we don't think of the scenarios in an organization because we're always thinking of, you know, what's the, what, what positive things might happen and work towards that. Um, what, what are some of your suggestions around helping people, uh, manage their fears around, uh, analyzing all these different possible, you know, futures, whether it's positive or.

[00:38:54] Lena Tünkers: Uh, I think one thing that first comes to mind is I read somewhere, I dunno, which book that only as humans, we have this, um, this it's ability, but the, the characteristic of defining that something is negative or positive, planet Earth in itself doesn't have that. So climate change, for example, is not a negative thing per planet.

[00:39:22] Earth doesn't tell us this is negative for animals don't necessarily, I guess think that we humans, we, we um, we put like the negative dangers

[00:39:36] Nirish Shakya: we put everything into like a litmus test,

[00:39:40] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I think that is always helping me to, again, I will use the word rethink, reframe myself even for scary scenario.

[00:39:52] So there are many scary scenarios, like beloved people dying or, breaking up with my boyfriend or, um, losing my job and all my clients, all these things. That's super scary. But I think, again, there's potential in all of this. if we can train ourselves to see the positive side and in these super negative scenarios as well, for negative futures, I think that's a skill that we need.

[00:40:18] Embrace more. Um, yeah, because only we decide if this is negative or positive and we can see everything from multiple angles, right? So you losing all your clients can be a huge opportunity to do something completely different, something that you always wanted to do, and maybe your current job is just holding you back from doing that. So I think this is, this is what we should

[00:40:43] Nirish Shakya: I love that. What are some of your favorite, um, reframing techniques that you use on a regular basis?

[00:40:52] Lena Tünkers: Um, I like to flip things around. So there, I think there are three main reframing techniques that you can use. Um, so flipping around your assumption, so assuming the opposite, um, is extremely healthy for everyone. Super interesting. Um, yeah, so that's one technique. Uh, another technique is to make an assumption bigger than it's, um, so blowing it up, um, yeah, coffee's quite good. I mean, not good, not bad. There are different studies about it. Um, many people are drinking it. There's a huge hype about it. Ok. That's the assumption.

[00:41:42] What if I blow it up and say coffee is the best thing in the world. Everybody should coffee's best. This is all our, are longevity, you knows. Another's up assumption. Yeah. And then, uh, third one is, um, connecting to assumptions that don't fit together. Maybe you can help me on that. No, my imagination is shrinking.

[00:42:13] Nirish Shakya: So is there something not related to coffee or still related to coffee?

[00:42:19] Lena Tünkers: No, it doesn't need to be related, but the, if you combine them, it's weird

[00:42:24] Mix 

[00:42:27] Nirish Shakya: So maybe in the future,

[00:42:28] Lena Tünkers: be

[00:42:28] Nirish Shakya: you know, you drink coffee instead of water and coffee. Quenches your thirst. there is no water. You only, you only get coffee when you like. Open the tab in the kitchen.

[00:42:41] Lena Tünkers: cool. So there's no water anymore and coffee is the best thing on. So

[00:42:54] Nirish Shakya: This is actually fun,

[00:42:57] Lena Tünkers: yeah.

[00:42:59] Nirish Shakya: And, um, how do you think, um, designers can, you know, use future literacy more in their day-to-day practice? Um, as designers in the design process?

[00:43:14] Lena Tünkers: Hmm. we're, um, we're doing these trainings on FU methods, which I find really interesting cause um, it's, I think the first time that FUS literacy is being put into models, small models, small bites. And what I find so interesting about it is that you can take these bites and you can use them in your daily practice if you're a designer, if you're a strategist, if youre, I dunno, in your daily life as well, um, in your private life service. So you can use these little methods and you can apply them to whatever situation you have at. Um, so maybe to give an example for designers, um, you could, for example, use this reframing exercise that we just. Either you flip something or you make something bigger in order to, before or at the beginning of a design process, just to widen your imagination of what is possible. Or if you are a writer, for example, you stuck in, in your writing, you can again, use some exercises just to lose your mind and play with other people. Uh, imagine different features or you can again, um, try to detect your assumptions and, um, try to go into this alternative future and see, ok. Where does, does that unlock something?

[00:44:44] Yeah. Or as a strategist. And creating a strategy, I think they should dream more so desirable. Future as a model. Yeah. Could be used more. Um, can we dream bigger? Can we dream outside of what our resources and where does that take us? And can we then use another model, which is called backing, casting, backing is a very traditional method from

[00:45:07] Nirish Shakya: Hmm.

[00:45:09] Lena Tünkers: to bring us from the future back to the present. foresight's. A nice connector to back from the future

[00:45:16] Nirish Shakya: Mm-hmm. . Some of, um, My experience with, for example, you know, future literacy, uh, in my work as a designer is writing like future scenarios based on how users behave in their current world. So, for example, um, I dunno, let's say people, uh, are afraid to open doors, you know, coming up a really random example because they're, they're afraid to touch the doorknob because they're afraid to, I dunno, catch the virus on the doorknob or something.

[00:45:49] Then how can we use that current behavior to then help them, uh, you know, behave differently and open doors more easily without touching the door handle, uh, in the future. So I guess that's similar to how we work in, in design world, where we look at existing or past behaviors of users and humans and. And then, uh, come up with, you know, future scenarios of how in the future, if our product were to exist, then how would these humans and users behavior or act, you know, uh, using our products.

[00:46:21] Um, what I find, um, difficult in that process is to, um, I guess get shared, buy-in, into that vision of the future, um, collectively in an organization. Because a lot of times, either people don't buy into it, they don't believe in the future, or they don't think it's realistic, or they just wanna do or tick off the boxes that are ne needed today, then worry about something that might or might not happen in the future.

[00:46:48] Cause, you know, we have, you know, crisis to solve and fires to put off for today, not think about the future. Uh, what can I do to make people care about these futures and not just, you know, the, the, the fires to, you know, put out today.

[00:47:08] Lena Tünkers: Oh yeah, really good question. Um, and I'm working in a few change processes, um, like long-term change processes where. Encounter the same prob or the same situations that people don't necessarily need, uh, see the need for change and yeah. But I have enough to do right now. I always do a little exercise at the, with them. Um, and that's a workshop setting, so it might look different in, I dunno, company context, but I always do a little exercise with them. Imagining the s only the s maybe I show them a little video there. Many videos on YouTube showing some mega trends. So that sometimes helps simulating people's mind.

[00:48:02] And then I just ask them, where do you think we're gonna, the word is gonna look like in five years. Just five years from now. How do you think? And then they come up with all these crazy things because they know that things are changing and they feel it. Yeah, I just don't wanna deal with it maybe. So then they put all these post-its up there and then I'm asking them, ok, so are we ready for this future?

[00:48:26] Are we changing in order to accommodate this future's one feature that you imagine? Yeah. So it's very basic

[00:48:35] wearing, not even close to being totally digitalized where we're not even close to, um, talking to an AI system in the car. No, obviously not. We're still on the ours. Okay, Ben, I think we need this. We need your case. Need to look into this future persona and we need to look into this scenario, um, in order to get a better feeling of what we can need to do.

[00:49:05] So I think that helps that they themselves come up with this future and they themselves realize, okay. It's quite a big difference of what we predict only, right. We're only predicting. Yeah. I dunno. Does that make sense? Would that 

[00:49:22] help? 

[00:49:23] Nirish Shakya: kind of like getting them to come up with the, the, the different scenarios themselves.

[00:49:31] Lena Tünkers: Always helps, yeah. To get buy. Yeah. And similarly, you talked about a persona that you created,

[00:49:39] Nirish Shakya: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. We, we do create personas as 

[00:49:41] Lena Tünkers: Um, Yeah.

[00:49:43] exactly. So we are working with futures personas, which is super similar. Um, what I find, uh, where maybe the difference is that we can be think a bit broader. Like we can use, um, my water bottle can be a future persona.

[00:49:59] Nirish Shakya: Your water bottle.

[00:50:00] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. Or my water bottle. Yeah. Or an animal can be a future persona or. Um, or maybe it's not a persona, but futures b , it sounds better. Yeah, so our imagination, again is a bit wider, so we can, um, try to empathize with objects as well, systems, or with, and that again, wider at,

[00:50:27] Nirish Shakya: So are you treating these objects and animals as future stakeholders of your system? The wider system. Yeah, that's, That's, that's something that I, I hadn't actually considered in terms of going beyond the bounds of the current user base. Because we're in, in design, we're pretty much dis, you know, um, constrained by who, who is our target market and who uses our product now and who might use in the future.

[00:50:53] And we don't really think beyond those kind of constraints. Um, in terms of, I don't know, uh, the impact that we have on plants or animals or the environment.

[00:51:05] So, uh, Lena, you, um, are offering training on future literacy and how people can use different methods, uh, in their daily work. Um, what can people expect from your training sessions?

[00:51:22] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, so the training is extremely interesting. I think, um, it's puts a lot of methods and very little time squeezes them kinda. Um, but yeah, you can expect to learn a variety of methods. The small modules or nuggets, bites that I talked about before, um, they're all based on the approach or mindset of, but it's not one big process that you'll learn.

[00:51:50] You'll use learn small methods that you can use together, combine, use however you want. So you first always experience the method. So we'll do it with you, um, we'll facilitate you through it and then you'll. What the method is all about. What's the concept behind it? And thirdly, we'll reflect together how you can apply this method to your own context. And this is so important. I think this part of the training is very special. Cause we don't tell you this is the method, um, this is the structure and this is how you should apply it. We, we'd rather tell you, this is the idea of the ME method. This is how it should feel like now you experienced it yourself.

[00:52:42] Now we need to see what is your context and how we need to this method order to fit. Yeah. And we always do that together. Again, we using collective

[00:53:01] method, module, module.

[00:53:09] Nirish Shakya: Cool. Sounds very interesting. We'll, uh, put links to the course, uh, on our show notes. So if you are listening to this on your podcasting app, um, be sure to check out. Um, Lena's courses on futures literacy. Um, so Lena, I'm gonna basically flip the question back to you now. In terms of, um, the different kinds of futures, the desirable, probable, and alternative futures, what does a, a probable future look like for Lena?

[00:53:44] Lena Tünkers: A very probable teacher in my life or the planet, earth or

[00:53:52] Nirish Shakya: Let's, let's keep it personal in your, in your personal life.

[00:53:57] Lena Tünkers: Okay. Um, yeah, very probably. I'm gonna, in the very near future, I'm gonna travel the next two weeks. Across Mexico.

[00:54:14] Nirish Shakya: I'm not jealous,

[00:54:15] Lena Tünkers: that's very likely to happen. Yeah. I'm gonna drinks, well, yeah, this is probably gonna happen,

[00:54:32] Nirish Shakya: And what about your desirable future? I mean, that seems pretty desirable to me.

[00:54:39] Lena Tünkers: also, yeah, I'm mixing it a little bit here. Maybe a lot desirable is that, um, that no buses will have delays, which I don't think is probable, but I would hope for it. So there's a different, um, no buses have delays, um, that we don't get sick. And, um, I also hope that difficult. I guess I'm very bad at the desirable feature and I hope I discover

[00:55:19] Nirish Shakya: That sounds very probable Also, what I noticed with your desirable future scenario was that you were, um, using, uh, existing, uh, dissatisfactions with your life. Maybe for example, the traffic. Um, or maybe you've had past experience of, you know, getting, being sick, doing your travels, and you're kind of like, turn that around and saying, hopefully that wouldn't.

[00:55:50] Lena Tünkers: Exactly, so I used to pass.

[00:55:52] Nirish Shakya: So I guess that's one of the techniques you can actually do that in terms of, uh, pinpointing existing dissatisfactions in the world.

[00:56:00] Lena Tünkers: Yep. Yep.

[00:56:01] Nirish Shakya: Cool. Now let's go crazy. What about some alternative futures for Lena Toka?

[00:56:08] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, so maybe a huge job comes in tomorrow and I can't travel. And I won't travel and,

[00:56:17] um, neither. Yeah.

[00:56:22] Alternatives is neither desirable. It's an alternative and that's very, um, characteristic about an alternative

[00:56:30] Nirish Shakya: hmm

[00:56:31] Lena Tünkers: that's desirable or

[00:56:35] Nirish Shakya: hmm. And again, they. And therein lies your reframing technique of bringing more neutrality into these different, um, you aversions, rather than seeing them as positive or negative.

[00:56:48] Lena Tünkers: Exactly, yeah. Yeah, or something happens at home and I have tomorrow.

[00:57:02] Nirish Shakya: Cool. Now let's cast our mind right into the future where imagine that it is your last day on Earth and you are on your deathbed and someone comes up to you with a post-it, a tiny post-it and a Sharpie, and asks you, Lena Tokas, write your last Words for humanity. What would you write on that tiny piece of paper?

[00:57:38] Lena Tünkers: I think I would write what if question.

[00:57:41] Nirish Shakya: What if could you elaborate?

[00:57:48] Lena Tünkers: What if I think a nice start or imagine something completely crazy? And I think that would be an invitation to everyone out there to, to do it more, to ask themselves more often in daily life, in any situation that might be very frustrating or, um, but they feel stuck to say, okay, what if. What if everything is different?

[00:58:16] What if I'm just not seeing it in multiple ways? What if I can find different angle?

[00:58:29] Nirish Shakya: I love that. Love that. Lena, I'm going to do a, a quickly recap of, uh, some of my key learnings from this. And, um, I, I loved how you, you know, we, we started off with these different variations of the future in terms of probable and desirable and alternative. And it's something that we don't really think about, um, on a, on a, on a daily basis.

[00:58:51] We just think of future at the, as this one big amorphous thing, this amorphous cloud, but we never, you know, sit down to break it down into these different, you know, variants. Um, and it feels like doing that itself is a very powerful exercise to be able to, like I said, bring more neutrality into what could happen and be more proactive about how to create, uh, one of those, you know, versions and turn into reality. And I think there's definitely power in, in, in being able to do this collectively in a, either in a team or an organization where you mentioned how you can create that collective intelligence to turn that into this collective reality for, for a lot of us. Um, and, and you know, we talked about a lot of these different tools and techniques to be able to do that, uh, and how we can also use that to ground ourself into the present in terms of what is driving a lot of these, uh, imaginary scenarios for us.

[00:59:52] And a lot of that, a lot of those are driven by, you know, our existing values of what we, you know, consider to be important, which is then driven by what, what is, what has happened to us in the past as well. So you're pretty much connecting these different dots, right? Like from the past into the present and into these different, uh, strands of, you know, future possib.

[01:00:11] Which I found really flat, fascinating. Um, you know, we talked about different techniques such as flipping our emotions, uh, not emotions, flipping our assumptions, um, blowing up our assumption, uh, assumptions. Um, and, um, also, um, really, uh, feeling or experiencing the, the, the scenarios in the, in the context that we're in.

[01:00:35] Uh, for example, you know, a lot of what you are experiencing currently in, in Mexico City is driving a lot of your, I guess, you know, desires into what the future should look like or could look like. Uh, and I think there's definitely power in being be able, being able to, uh, experience that contextually.

[01:00:53] And I loved, um, how you concluded, um, your final few words for humanity. What. I think that's a question that will, I would, I would certainly, um, try to ask myself on a daily basis and then within my, you know, work as well in terms of, you know, what, what are the different possibilities that either we're not seeing or we could be seeing, uh, through our work.

[01:01:16] So thank you so much for sharing all the insights and your learnings, uh, with me today, Lena. Um, I hope you've enjoyed the chat with us, with me today. Um, so lastly, how would you like people to either find you or follow you online after this chat?

[01:01:37] Lena Tünkers: I think, um, LinkedIn would be best, can find me on LinkedIn. Um, you should also find my website on LinkedIn if you wanna know more. So just send me a message. Um, yeah, and I'll be happy to.

[01:01:51] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. And what's the next most exciting thing you're looking forward to in your. Probable or a desirable or alternative future

[01:02:04] Lena Tünkers: Probably some, sorry I'm really boring, but probably some really good tacos

[01:02:08] Nirish Shakya: tacos. That sounds pretty exciting.

[01:02:11] Lena Tünkers: Yeah.

[01:02:12] Nirish Shakya: Hey, you are in Mexico, right? You gotta have tacos.

[01:02:16] Lena Tünkers: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Grounding myself back into the present, I think. Yeah. A little exercise. I loved how you say that. Grounding is back into the mm-hmm.

[01:02:28] Nirish Shakya: man. Um, you make me hungry now. Um, are, are tacos any different in Mexico?

[01:02:35] Lena Tünkers: They're better, they're better. 

[01:02:38] Nirish Shakya: Oh, 

[01:02:38] Lena Tünkers: the plural, just like the future is more.

[01:02:41] Nirish Shakya: What, what's the most diverse target you've seen there?

[01:02:47] Lena Tünkers: Um. Yeah. Okay. Maybe it's not the tacos, but they're, sorry, I'm drifting now. It's, I think it's the beer that is more diverse. So they have, yeah. But they're having this called, which is a mix of juice and then beer and around and powder. But that's, that's just a classic version. Um, they have all kinds of version, but ice cream inside.

[01:03:16] Yesterday I saw something with raw fish inside. So inside the beer. Yeah. Fish, uh, ice chocolate veggies inside the beer. It's absolutely crazy. Like this is as, as a German, I'm shocked. Yeah.

[01:03:37] Nirish Shakya: looks like they're definitely very, very experimental when it comes to the.

[01:03:42] Lena Tünkers: Yeah. They're reframing me big times. Yeah. With their drinking culture.

[01:03:48] Nirish Shakya: Awesome. I'll definitely have to check that out when next time I'm in Mexico. Uh, but no, thank you so much, Lena. Thanks for joining us today and hopefully I'll see you again soon, 

[01:03:58] thank you so much for listening in. If you have any suggestions or topics or people that you'd like to have on the show, please email me at I respond to every email. And see if you can share this podcast with one friend who wants to increase their self-awareness, creative confidence and meaning. See you next time.