Article , Infographics / Policy Innovation
Published: 02.03.2023

Due to the fast-changing and complex world, it is difficult to predict how changes will affect our future. More importantly, if we don’t know where to start, our prediction will likely be incomplete, superficial, and even digress from concrete solutions.  Then which tools should we use? Which questions should we ask to comprehensively predict all the changes? 

In this circumstance, a tool called “Futures Wheel” can help us! It can offer a more comprehensive and systemic lens and is also a strategic tool to help policymakers in a brainstorming process, unraveling both direct and indirect implications from any decisions, events, or new trends. 

How to use Futures Wheels? 

In 1972, Jerome Glenn devised Futures Wheels which consist of 5 analysis steps:

  1. Identify problems or changes you want to analyse
    The first step is to clearly identify which implications of which events you want to analyse. For instance, policy makers working on populations in Thailand might identify “a decline in childbirth in Thai society” as a main problem. 
  2. Identify first-order consequences
    The next step is to identify the first-order consequences, or direct consequences, which might ensue from the problem identified in the first step. For example, first-order consequences from “a decline in childbirth in Thai society” are a larger proportion of elders, a decline in the number of laborers, and a decline in the number of populations, etc. 
  3. Identify second-order consequences
    After identifying direct consequences, we need to identify second-order consequences which are further implications from the first-order consequences. To illustrate:
    The decline in the number of laborers (1) leads to the lesser state income from taxes (2);
    The larger proportion of elders (1) leads to an increasing rate of dependency (2), puts more economic pressure on the workforce (3), and thus prevents the younger workforce from thriving for stable lives (4).
    In other words, we should identify a chain of effects which might be the second, the third, the fourth or even the fifth consequences.
  4. Analyse and prioritise implications
    After identifying orders of changes, we need to analyse and prioritise implications of such consequences by writing down a list of implications we have identified previously and categorizing them for further analysis. We could categorize, for instance, whether these consequences belong to economic, societal, or cultural implications, etc.
  5. Identify actions
    After analysing and prioritising implications, it is time for policymakers to find solutions, decide which negative implications should be prevented and which positive implications should be enhanced.
Tips in using futures wheels

  • Use colours to help prioritize the implications! This will also help us see the holistic view of the issues and can easily categorize first-order and second-order consequences.
  • Don’t forget that implications can be both negative or positive!

When using futures wheels, don’t forget to ask these questions:

  • What is the greatest problem that society has been facing?
  • Which economic, societal, or cultural trends are you interested in? How will these trends affect our country?
  • Which implications have we overlooked?
  • How are these implications connected to each other?



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