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Mod. 5.2 - Clustering Signals & Exploring Unexpected Possibilities

You may have noticed the urge to group signals as you were building your gallery. This is our natural tendency towards storytelling seeking expression. Well, this is your chance to indulge in that tendency.

One thing to note, is that there is no right way to cluster signals (it's more a form of imaginative art than a predictive science). That said, there are several tools and techniques that can help prod and push our collective sense-making abilities. In this (and the next) activity, you are encouraged to explore a sampling of signals in order to build narrative elements (storylines/threads) that will feed into a scenario you will create in Week 6.

Whatever tools and techniques you choose to use, attempt multiple rounds to get a sense of how different patterns might emerge from the same set of signals.

On Your Own... Create a "Clusters" section in your team's Signals Gallery in order to have your various clustering activities saved. Be sure to label and annotate your clusters as these notes about emerging storylines will come in handy later.

Basic Clustering Techniques

  • Each team member introduces a signal (title, quick 'what' & 'so what') while the others call out signals from the gallery they find similar.

  • The team then briefly discusses the reasoning behind each of the added signal's perceived similarities.

  • Put the signals together into a cluster with a name and label that points to the developing 'story' of that grouping.

  • Move on to next team member and repeat until the entire gallery has been grouped.

  • As a team, collectively but silently cluster signals for 5-10 minutes and then discuss how the clusters make sense.

  • Name each cluster with a label that points to the developing 'story' of that grouping.

  • Use the (Big Shifts, Iceberg Model) from Week 2 as possible lenses to look at the signals gallery and form a relevant cluster.

  • Name each cluster with a label that points to the developing 'story' of that grouping.

Clustering by Story-Heuristics (short-cuts)

The common underlying assumption within these techniques is analogous to a sculptor seeing their fully-formed sculpture in the stone before they even start chiseling. With these techniques, you start with a pattern or story that you already have in mind and comb through your gallery looking for signals that support/fill in that story.

Try the CIPHER tool from Amy Webb that was introduced during Activity 4.4 (Collecting Signals 2) to help you find patterns among your signals and also to push your imagination in the direction of 'what might emerge' (to be developed further in the next activity).

Interesting and unexpected possibilities sometimes lurk in plain sight, obscured only by our own preconceptions and biases about how things ought to be. You can use 'random' juxtaposition and combination exercises like the ones detailed in Exercise 2.3: Revealing Unexpected Possibilities (p. 29-31 of the IFTF Foresight Toolkit) to try and jolt your imagination free of the limitations of past conditioning.


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