Designing Relevance: How Open and Agile Research Methodologies Can Help Complex Organizations Respond to Change and Stay Relevant

Francesco D'Orazio, Esther Garland and Tom Crawford


As Arthur C. Clarke put it, "It is impossible to predict the future, and all attempts to do so in any detail appear ludicrous within a very few years." This is true for the futurist but even more so for the researcher whose challenge is innovation. We should be at once more realistic and more ambitious about it. Innovation is not about trying to describe the future, but about defining "the boundaries within which possible futures must lie". (Arthur C. Clarke, 1962)

This also means innovation should not be so much about ‘creation’, but more about ‘emergence’. Defining the boundaries of possible futures means creating the conditions for fostering the emergence of ideas that are already taking shape in the social space, but have not filtered up to the top or are not formed enough to bubble up yet. In a connected real-time ecosystem where the consumer can be as creative as the designer, the new model of innovation should be listening, reducing complexity, decoding the signal from the noise, collaborating with consumers and only then defining the boundaries of possible futures.