Future Ideal Retrospective, a new variant incorporating silent clustering by the group

A future ideal retrospective  activity “collaboratively contributes to each participant generating a practical vision for future developments based on evaluations or on statements, questions, and/or reservations concerning a certain challenge.”  The following variant incorporates a) a silent group clustering process (thanks to elizaBeth Simpson of School for Designing a Society) and b) coaching the group in naming clusters in an active, direction-indicating way.  It was developed by Felicia Sullivan and me at a recent workshop in Portugal on collaborative production of knowledge (thus the specific wording in the steps to follow).

1. Imagine May 2014, you meet someone and you are telling them: “I am very pleased with my work as a researcher concerned with collaborative production of knowledge (in some area of) the life sciences and public engagement.” The person asks you to tell them what happened over that last three years to bring you to this state->Prepare 5 items (in large block letters on 11″ x 3″ sheets of paper).

2.  Silent Grouping of the items.  (Feel free to move any single item or group of items, even breaking up someone else’s group, but take time to notice the clusters that emerge—don’t rush.)  [While this is happening, an assistant types up the items so each participant can view their own copy of the items during step 6.]

3. Naming of the clusters (together as a group).  (Avoid nouns and categories.  Instead, invent a phrase that captures how the cluster moves us towards the future ideal, e.g., not “humor” or “scramble,” but “Kept humor about the scramble needed to keep things going.”)

4. Repeat 2 & 3

5. Review of a previous F.I.R. to provide guidance for step 6.

6. Individual grouping of items and naming (including discussion in pairs of initial attempts). [See my clusters for the specific case in step 1.]

7. Review of the different clusterings and namings.

Areas for more further development:

a.  Instructions for the naming process.

b. Distinguishing clusters (which may overlap) from classification (which involves dichotomies).

c. Extending beyond this first Future Ideal phase phase to identify the underlying obstacles and eventually strategic directions.


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)

One Response to Future Ideal Retrospective, a new variant incorporating silent clustering by the group

  1. Pingback: School for designing a society (Day 7 of Learning road trip) « Probe—Create Change—Reflect

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