Holistic Futures Wheel
To guide the design of new products with consideration of the environment and other lifeforms
Invented by futurist Jerome C. Glenn in 1971 to explore consequences of change, the original Futures Wheel has evolved into a decision-making and idea-exploring tool.
The Wheel gave structure to brain-storming (recalling what you know about a topic) and mind-mapping (working out relationships between those points).
Glenn eventually became concerned his original wheel didn’t force users to consider consequences beyond the economic impacts. He created a Version 2 that segmented the wheel into predetermined sections including cultural, psychological, welfare, technological, educational, political, environmental, and economic. He then created a Version 3 to consider time.
I’ve adapted Glenn’s Version 2 to be more design-related and less predetermined, separating the original wheel into just two areas: HUMAN Direct/Indirect results and LIFE Direct/Indirect results. The HUMAN results include the immediate human impacts - product users, business and economic impacts. The LIFE results include impacts to biodiversity health (land, forests, sea, air, animals, insects, ecosystems, energy flow, weather flow) and human diversity (racial, cultural, sexual, gender).
How to use
Write your Challenge (idea/decision/change) in the centre.
Imagine this challenge actually occurs, and identify (brainstorm or research) possible direct consequences. These can be positive, negative, or neutral. Write them in the first ring around the Challenge in the centre.
Identify indirect consequences generated by the direct consequences. Use the connecting lines to help you think of what indirect results the combined effects of two direct results might generate. These lines are just a guide, feel free to ignore/remove as needed.
Extend into new rings of indirect results as many times as desired. Feel free to go into third or more levels of consequences.
Analyze for next steps-consider how to improve or manage the negative impacts, enhance and leverage the positive, and remove or energise the neutral.
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