CONSULTING AND SUBJECT MATTER EXPERTISE
Our principals are considered among the world’s best at strategic forecasting and technology futures, including being described in The Wall Street Journal as the “premier” at the task. They are regularly engaged to help organizations develop fresh perspectives on emergent trends that can guide investment, policy, and growth. Renowned as public speakers, they have provided keynote lectures and briefings to audiences that range from heads of state and Fortune 100 CEO business retreats to 20,000-person tech industry conventions. They have spoken at venues as diverse as the White House and Nobel Institute to the Sydney Opera House and the deck of an aircraft carrier. Their extensive networks and experience as event organizers also mean that they are able to develop projects that engage a wide range of fellow subject matter experts, from award-winning science fiction writers to generals and admirals.
A video game firm enlisted us in a project to identify key trends and technology that will shape the next 20 years, to allow them to better understand their future market and geopolitics. As the lead developer later evaluated, the work “really showed us that we were only scratching the surface of what we should be thinking about in the future. After listening to him, we have never been able to look at the world the same way again.”
Bespoke Creation of Audience Targeted Narratives
FICINT is the use of research and narrative to build “synthetic environments” as a tool for analysis, prediction, explanation, and communication. Also known as “useful fiction,” it fuses real world data with creativity, bringing together the best aspects of nonfiction and narrative. Research is turned into insightful character-driven stories that can help individuals and organizations understand complex concepts, distill key themes, explore alternative points of view, reveal analytical blind spots, and/or project future issues and dilemmas.
Such FICINT comes in many formats, from commissioned short stories, visual art, and graphic novellas to crowd-sourcing the same via writing and art contests. In some situations, it is designed to surface new insights, in others to reach a target audience and/or have greater impact. Our team literally pioneered the concept, applying it in projects that range from authoring New York Times-best selling books and consulting on the video game that is the best-selling entertainment project in history to running such projects for entities like the U.S Marine Corps and Air Force
Tailored to each organization’s objectives, FICINT-type engagements come in three primary forms:
1. Creating dynamic narrative vignettes as briefings/scene-setters used to inform wargames, seminars, and board-level or executive meetings.
The US National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence and the Defense Innovation Boardheld a series of board meetings to determine US policy in both AI strategy and investment, as well as ethical guidelines. We built a series of narrative vignettes that were utilized as supplements to the standard briefing packet for the board members, to aid them in visualizing complex information, as well as potential scenarios to be resolved. The visualizations proved integral to jumpstarting more effective discussion during their meetings and were subsequently reflected in policies that will literally guide the future of AI and its allowed uses.
2. Embedding in seminars and wargames, and then generating a reader-friendly narrative drawn from the insights and experiences of the client’s discussions, in order to better communicate the vision and influence key target audiences
Aiding the Norwegian Army on its projections about the future of conflict, AI, and autonomous systems, we generated a fictionalized narrative that distilled key insights from their exercises. Putting in that format allowed their own lessons learned to reach a wider and more influential audience than the standard wargame memorandums; the “Arctic Night” project was ultimately used in briefings all the way up to the Minister of Defense.
3. Enhancing a client’s report/publication with the addition of vignettes, spin-out visions, and even introductions that allow the work to achieve greater readership and influence.
The Cybersecurity Solarium Commission is a bipartisan group of members of Congress tasked with remaking U.S. cyber strategy for the next generation. Its members and research team spent a year generating a 182-page report with 80 recommendations. We were commissioned to summarize and transform the findings into a format designed to reach key audiences, as well as generate emotions that would lead them to pay greater attention to the key recommendations. In a first for both US government documents and fiction, the resultant “Warning from Tomorrow” was made the introduction chapter to the report.“
Executive Education Short Courses
Learn The Fundamentals of Forecasting and Useful Fiction
The methods of “useful fiction” can also be taught, improving both strategic foresight and communications skills. A teaching team of world-class futurists, science fiction and entertainment creators, and military and business leaders teach the “how” of forecasting and narrative, from the principles and theories to their own lessons learned. The typical format are small group workshops, structured as half, 1, or 2 day executive education courses, blending pedagogical development with actual FICINT experimentation and in “writer’s room” exercises for the client organization. These engagements can be blended with read/watch-ahead lists, expanded creative development, and “office hours” type ongoing relationships that allow for an expanded conversation about how to approach specific creative and analytical tasks.
“Blue Horizons” is a group tasked by the head of the U.S. Air Force to help the service understand future trends and their implications for strategy and planning. We built both 1 and 2 day in-person and online courses designed to train mid-career leaders on forecasting and narrative for more effective communications, as well as how to employ FICINT in their own work. The format mixed how-to lectures and discussions from leading experts with developing actual story concepts based on areas of concern to the organization. The teaching team ranged from Singer and Cole to a venture capitalist investor, the head of Australian military officer training, the former Commander of US Special Operations, and the co-writers of Game of Thrones and the producers of Hunger Games and The Walking Dead. Drew Wagstaff, the USAF Blue Horizons director, reviewed of the experience, “…The content was thoroughly engaging, whether it was discussions with the authors themselves, engagements with Hollywood executives, or hands-on assignments meant to teach the skills of creative writing and FICINT. Highly recommend to any program seeking top notch instruction that boosts the creativity and passion of their students.”