28 Sep 2023

Elisabet Roselló, founder of Postfuturear, at the Innovators Club from Girbau LAB

On September 28, a new session of the Innovators Club took place with Elisabet Roselló, founder of Postfuturear, as guest speaker.

Under the title “New possible ways of framing paths of transformation”, Elisabet emphasized that the changes we call “Revolutions” and the moments of impasse are anything but predictable and are often accompanied by a change of glasses. With Elisabet, we reflect on these and other issues through the Postfuturear® approach, which combines different tools to incorporate these new glasses in the design of effective innovation strategies that fit each organization and its environment.

Elisabet Roselló has a degree in History from the University of Barcelona. She has previously worked as a research assistant on new emerging economic models, FLOSSD innovation communities at the IGOP of the UAB, and later at the IN3 of the UOC, in the Public Affairs department, as Project Lead of a public innovation project at Kreab. She has also been a freelance trend analyst and workshop facilitator in different creative agencies, a contributor to media and books on technology and techno-social processes, and emerging philosophy, as well as an exhibition curator.

She has been mentioned in the Forbes lists of the 100 Creators in Business Spain 2023; and the 40 Futurists of Spain (in the 2021 list, and then in the 2022 list).

1.-Why Postfuturear?

In some areas of our societies, a few years ago, the future looked (and still looks) darker, more difficult, dystopian… Even though other groups and types of people may see it with optimism. Historically, it is said that faith in Progress, or at least in bright and promising futures, was shattered during the post-World War II economic recovery. More dystopian and apocalyptic themes were seen in sci-fi blockbusters (such as, for example, 2001, A Space Odissey), or imaginary worlds that had been conceived in the Second Industrial Revolution or in the 19th century, with robots, intelligent cities full of skyscrapers and impossible roads, flying cars, etc., were being remade —but with far fewer new imaginaries to match new needs and realities. This moment of cultural inflection and the breaking of old promises is sometimes referred to as “post-future”. (¡Yes, another post-whatever!)

So, the practical question I posed when I began to develop it is: if the diagnosis has been made for some time, if it is difficult for us to generate new models and imaginaries of possible, realistic and exciting futures (without necessarily insisting on those old modernity scenarios), if we are at the intersection of a climate emergency, with profound transformations in the economy and society…, then, what now? Without searching for more names, the approach is to delve deeper and apply new approaches to achieve that. And the answer came in the form of an active verb: to post-future —but without the hyphen.

After building or designing futures scenarios, forecasts, trend analysis and diagnostics, how do we translate all that into action? How do we plan, even for volatile contexts with high uncertainty (hence, with weaker trend analysis)?

After years of studying, researching and practicing with the best (researching at university, also at the Centre for Postnormal Policy and Futures Studies, or in consultancies and agencies…) in areas such as foresight, emerging business models, applied social sciences, Systems Thinking and innovation, when “Futures Design” was not yet even spoken of (around 2016), I started to shape Postfuturear, until mid 2019, when it derived into an agency or office to serve other companies, public sector, clusters…

2.-Many scenarios and… how many roads?

Normally, when developing the analysis from which the foresight futures scenarios are to be drawn, it is performed based on data and information from the present, and from a more or less recent past. There are different methods and types of scenarios, and depending on what is needed, one or the other is applied. All of them must have in common a reasonable connection with the present, a “path” or “how to get there”.

If you are simply looking for inspiration, more agile and fast-paced normative methods such as Design Thinking may do the trick. But what is sought is to understand different material or realistic possibilities, including the probable ones, or the plausible ones (those that we expect to happen, or that we believe do make sense and are not “hallucinations”), but also the most unlikely but possible ones. With these scenarios we can gain a better understanding of what is happening in the present, and make sense of our position in both the market and in society…

If, on the other hand, we seek to shape a Vision that is not just a nice slogan, but a guide or reference for long-range strategic action, then we are talking about “North Star” scenarios, which is also something that is being worked on a lot in social innovation.

In general, there is no scientific evidence that the future is predetermined towards a single possible future, but rather that there are different possible developments. For this reason, and since at least the 1950s, we have been working with a varied minimum of scenarios, which are hypotheses of the possible in the form of narratives, physical objects, but “imaginary” or conceptual prototypes, including short films… Creativity goes hand in hand with data and the emotional.

3.-What subjects are you most interested in exploring? And which are the most common?

Myself and my team tend to be interested in issues that are precisely generating major transformations, even if we do not see or perceive them on a day-to-day basis, but that can be significant in a short period of time, or at least some time. For example, energy and the energy transition are a “big thing” —as I like to call significant issues. Water has lately been another aspect that has come up in projects and collaborations over the last year —for obvious reasons, I guess. In general, I am interested not only in emerging trends —with less interest in hypes— but especially in what I call “structural” trends, or those that act as pillars of society, the economy and life. And they are not often paid attention to, even though they are changing.

In a cross-disciplinary way, when I can and when we can, we work on our own frameworks based on important issues in social sciences, philosophy and innovation, such as the differences in perspectives and ways of “seeing” or “reading” the world, and the deep and daily implications they can have on processes such as decision making, negotiating frameworks for transformation projects, etc…

Depending on the phase or projects we are working on, we are interested in trends and deep processes, as well as in improving the impact of our work and methodologies. Or even innovate in the ways we see how to act.

4.-How do you understand innovation?

Without further complication, the moments in which we generate a sufficiently significant human change. That is to say, whether it is a technical innovation, an organizational innovation, or a cultural innovation…

The reality is that innovations are usually rather systemic: for example, Heron of Alexandria invented such exciting and technological things as the steam engine (Eolipila) or the mechanical doors (for a temple), but they were not understood and applied because they did not have the function that 200 years ago or today, we systemically give them.

In contrast, the Internet began to scale in a world that was already highly mediatized and globalized; immediate teleconnection was felt as a necessity; and little by little it was adopted by research communities and very pioneering people, as if it were new layers of technology, protocols and other concepts other concepts that opened up more and more their possibilities. Then came the business models of the 1990s, the 2000s, the dot-com crisis, and new socialization habits and behaviors, which all together fed back into new ideas and possibilities (and limitations and adapted legislation, of course), until what it is today. Innovation is never a single flavor, it is systemic, and it requires not a genius, but a “Stage” or group of people.

5.-What is a possible scenario for the laundry industry in 5 years?

Now we are and I am attentive to profound, less obvious, and sometimes uncomfortable changes. They may be seemingly sudden (or, rather, we observe their manifestations out of the blue, and suddenly they “exist”), but they have been mutating or changing for years or even decades.

5 years for the current economy is quite a long time, and for our day-to-day life, it is a long time (isn’t it hard to imagine how we will be in a year?). But for these slower and more structural processes (which can be environmental, technological, economic…), perhaps it is not so long.

In the laundromat arena I’ve only entered once in the past, so I’m not very knowledgeable – even though I’m obviously a user.

Now perhaps the mind is on AIs, especially generative text and image or video AIs, but the advances of other types of AI technology in the industry are slower and, for good reason, more contained. So, if there are major changes, they may not be seen as much in the final product.

Undoubtedly, the “big things” that certainly intersect with laundry and hygiene are above all energy (both for production and consumption uses, the bi-monthly bill, etc.), raw materials, and water.

Water is a good example of the mindset changes that could come. We see that the water regime could change in the medium and long term, apart from the more circumstantial droughts, and assuming that there have always been areas on the planet with less access to water, such as in arid areas like the Arabian Peninsula.

Thus, we could see temporary droughts, but they could activate in different governments an attitude of greater adaptability and flexibility, occasionally providing measures, restrictions, and technologies (such as desalination plants). But in other areas that could become “aridized” in the long term, the relationship and uses of water could become “default” restrictions and change in the longer term.

In this sense, we would be talking about a more varied map of uses, where, combined with other factors, perhaps there would be more preference for collective services (for energy saving and water efficiency) such as self-service Laundromats; commitment to possible new anti-stain, anti-microbial or anti-other-situations fabrics (if they appear), etc.

It will be 5 years transitioning to new perspectives