Co-creating insights on the far future

Exploring hopes and fears about the future

STBY is keen on doing research that enables positive change, by generating deep insights into human behaviour and motivations. Projects may start with: What do people think about the future of X?’ Where the ‘X’ in these briefs can be the future of mobility, health care, humanitarian work, team collaboration, etc.

We recently worked with a consortium from industry and design who were interested in the future perspectives of people on mobility services. The challenge here was to explore the hopes and fears of people about mobility services in the far future (in this case 2050).

If you would just ask people about their thoughts on this, their answers might be quite general and superficial. The expectations from the client team about what people might say about the far future were very high. In order to meet these expectations, we used a research approach consisting of multiple interaction moments with the participants over a couple of weeks. This method guided them through different stages of exploration and reflection. In this way we gave them the time and opportunity to have progressive conversations with us, resulting in cumulative expression and understanding of their personal future perspectives.

Multiple interactions to understand and reflect

The method we used for the research consisted of three different stages, and covered 3 countries (US, China and South Korea). The first two stages allowed people to collect their initial thoughts and ideas around mobility.

We started with an online group session to warm up and motivate them to engage with the study. We had fun sessions in each of the three countries. The main goal of these sessions was to map the current travel behaviour and experiences of the participants. In these journey accounts the participants stayed close to their own individual experiences with mobility services.

Stage two consisted of a probe study. The participants responded to future trend cards on mobility and technology. These cards served as visual prompts to trigger them to consider specific questions and respond with a series of personal notes. We gained insights in their thoughts and considerations as they shared their stories, photos and videos with the research team.

In the third and final stage of the data collection, we did individual online in-depth interviews with all the research participants. By this time they had been ‘warmed’ up to the topic, and they had some time and encouragement to progress their thoughts and ideas on the future of mobility. In these conversations, we guided them, via a series of steps, into speculating about their vision for the future of mobility in 2050. In the course of this process the key themes emerging from the conversations with participants became increasingly clear for the research team.

Inspiring insights to inform strategic future concepts

The key themes coming up from our evolving conversations with the participants were specified and illustrated in a final report for the client team. We also had several work sessions with this team throughout the project, where we shared and discussed the evolving documentation from the multi-staged interactions.

Because we gave the participants the time in this research project to really reflect on how their routines, needs and expectations regarding mobility might change between now and  the far future, we gained deep and valid insights, rather than imaginary ‘pink clouds’— big dreams about sci-fi mobility services that are not rooted in actual daily needs of real people is not what our client needed.

We now have a better understanding of what future mobility services could really benefit people, and how. This enables a meaningful contribution to better mobility services in the future. And a solid base for the strategy and the design team to develop strategic future concepts.