Future Ideal Retrospective: Collaboratively generate a practical vision for future developments

Collaboratively contribute to each participant generating a practical vision for future developments based on evaluations or on statements, questions, and/or reservations concerning a certain challenge, such as learning from what has happened before (e.g., in a course, at a conference, etc.). This approach is based on Strategic Personal Planning as developed by the Institute for Cultural Affairs in Canada.

1. Either a. assemble written evaluations from, say, a conference, or b. ask a defined group (e.g., students in a course) to compose five statements, questions, and/or reservations that are important to them concerning a defined challenge (e.g., supporting each other to complete the course project by the end of the semester).
Session Proper (which may only include a subset of those who composed the evaluations or statements, Qs, etc.)
2. Circulate the sheets. Digest them one by one and make notes on what you read with a view to representing not only your own views but also those of others (who may or may not be present at the session).
3. Future ideal retrospective:

  • Imagine yourself some time in the FUTURE looking back with a sense of accomplishment on how far the group (e.g., conference organizing group, the students in the course) have come in response to the challenge (e.g., the issues raised the evaluation) = the IDEAL. Construe accomplishment broadly so it can include your own reflection and growth. RETROSPECTIVE: What happened to make this so?–What different kinds of things do you envisage having gone into or contributed to the positive developments?
  • These things can span the mundane and inspiring; tangible and intangible; process, as well as product; relationships as well as individual skills. Record these things on Post-its (3-5 WORDS IN BLOCK LETTERS)
    3a. Discussion in pairs of each other’s post-its while waiting for others to finish.
    4. Photocopy assembled post-its (so each participant has a copy).
    5. Grouping, naming, and synthesis done separately by each participant:
    Once you have about 30 post-its

  • Move the post-its around into groups of items that have something in common in the way they address the challenge.
  • Describe the groups using a phrase that has a verb in it or, at least, indicates some action. For example, instead of “Holistic Artistic Survival Project,” an active name would be “Moving holistically from surviving to thriving as artists.”
  • Group the groups in pairs or threes and give these larger groups descriptive active names.
  • Group these groups and name them, until you arrive at a descriptive active name for the practical vision post-its as a whole.
  • After the session
    6. Complete stage 5 and distribute them to others (example)


  • Collaboratively contribute to each of us generating a practical vision of future steps
  • Use post-it brainstorming (incl. clustering & naming) to rapidly assess a complex situation in a way that creates an experience of creativity
  • Experience post-it clustering as a fruitful way to clarify your future and thus go on to complete the activity after the session is over.
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    About Peter J. Taylor
    Peter Taylor teaches and directs programs on critical thinking, reflective practice, and science-in-society at the University of Massachusetts Boston. He studies the complexity of environmental and health sciences in their social context as well as innovation in teaching, group process, and interdisciplinary collaboration (see bit.ly/pjtaylor). He is especially interested in conversations with others who are, in diverse ways, "troubled by heterogeneity" (bit.ly/tbhblog)

    3 Responses to Future Ideal Retrospective: Collaboratively generate a practical vision for future developments

    1. Keatha says:

      Thanks for sharing the information – it is helpful to me in that although a lot has been written about the value of group reflective practice, I haven’t found much practical information showing the ‘nuts and bolts’ of how to move from individual reflective practice to group reflective practice

    2. Pingback: Future Ideal Retrospective, a new variant « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

    3. Pingback: ThinkTank, a day-and-half model (updated) | Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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