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Mental time travel in foresight processes - cases and applications

: Cuhls, Kerstin


Futures 86 (2017), pp.118-135
ISSN: 0016-3287
Journal Article
Fraunhofer ISI ()
Mental time travel; Foresight; Mind opening; Future-oriented technology analysis

Mental time travel can be described as a method of guiding the participants of a workshop into a picture or a whole series of pictures of the future. This should be thought of as a movie rather than static images and includes emotions. Mental time travel is still a new method in foresight processes, in generating futures, futures research or future-oriented technology analysis (FTA) in general, and is only rarely used to open up the minds of participants at the beginning of workshops so that their thinking does not remain fixed in the past or the present. Time travelling can be applied to different cases and at different stages of a foresight process (phases of strategic intelligence gathering, sense-making or even implementation), e.g. participants are also able to think disruptively in new pictures instead of just extrapolating from the past. Clinical and psychological studies do not yet exist for this kind of time travel, but first experiences from very different foresight processes are available. This paper presents the experiences gained from six national and international foresight cases, in which time travel was applied. Different ways of performing it are reported and set in the context of the specific foresight process concepts. Experiences are shared by examining the lessons learned and the pros and cons of this new method, so that the organizers of foresight processes can better assess how the method could fit their specific context, objectives, method mix and participants.