Until it becomes our present, the future exists as a myriad of possibilities. Out of this multitude of possibilities, we can create possible futures. By imagining possible futures, we can unveil novelty and, ultimately, opportunities for the present that would otherwise stay hidden from today's perspective.
What if we can create the future we want to see?
In his book “The Man Without Qualities,” writer Robert Musil suggests that a person with a sense of possibility attaches “no more importance to what is than to what is not.” This is in contrast to someone who is driven exclusively by reality and is only concerned with how the world is. If something is the way it is, it could just as well be otherwise.
The work of Y is driven by this sense of possibility. This is what allows us to think freely, to create opportunities that go beyond the known facts, and to imagine desirable futures. How can we create opportunities for the future we want to see?
Y Opportunity Axis
The Y Axis is one of the tools we designed for future thinking. It helps us explore and create desirable futures. The Y Axis consists of two sides, each representing a distinct approach to finding opportunities—the Sense of Reality and the Sense of Possibility. The Opportunity Space is where tangible opportunities are created. It is possible to get to the Opportunity Space by working from either side, but the nature of the opportunities you will derive is different. These opportunities can then be taken up by people—by UBS, our partners, or maybe even you—and shaped into specific ideas that will shape the future.
We can create opportunities based on the Sense of Reality. Such an approach, illustrated by the left side of the Axis, usually involves solving present-day problems and working with present-day capabilities. The opportunities you will find there are often logical, implementable, and solve existing problems. When you work from this space, you are likely to use tools such as data, expert knowledge, and problem solving to arrive at opportunities.
The Sense of Possibility, on the right side of the Axis, is a space of the speculative long-term future—a future unknown and unpredictable. It is a more dreamy approach to creating new opportunities. More than that, it is a space of the imagination, a space where the new, the unthinkable, and even the impossible can be imagined.
The kind of opportunities you can create by working with the Sense of Possibility are fundamentally different from those that are derived from the Sense of Reality. The Sense of Possibility allows you to create opportunities that go beyond the present conditions, the already-existing problems, and the known capabilities. The opportunities you can create through the Sense of Possibility go beyond the limits of the known.
What if opportunities existed in the space beyond the known?
This is why UBS Y lives in the Sense of Possibility. We give ourselves the permission to imagine any kind of future that we desire. We can then create opportunities that go beyond present day data and dare to create entirely new futures—futures that truly go beyond the limits of the present.
The process of creating a concrete opportunity from the Sense of Possibility is a reverse engineering of time. When we explore a possible future in that space, we trace that future back to our reality. We can then imagine what opportunities can be created in the present and near future that can lead us to that desirable future. This brings the future into the present.
Once an opportunity is born, it is up to our friends to take them and give them life in the world. Some opportunities turn into business ideas at UBS, others inspire projects by other partners, and some may even spark a great idea in you.
The most important question to ask before executing such an opportunity is "when"? When do you want the idea to come to fruition? Just like in our everyday life, setting the time horizon has drastic effects on what the result will look like, and what needs to be done to get there.
Imagine your friend invites you for a coffee at a café on the other side of town. What would be the first thing you would want to know? Probably what time you’re going to meet. If you know you are going to meet at 10am, you can start thinking about when you need to leave your apartment, when to have a shower, and when to wake up so you’re not late. Imagining the ideal goal that exists in the distant future helps you trace your steps back to the present moment. All of a sudden, the desired future really becomes possible.
What if starting at the end would be the perfect beginning?
Going beyond the limits of the present and diving into the Sense of Possibility allows us to think freely and create futures bound only by our imagination.
Blueprints for Futures
The Blueprints for Futures is a collection of various developments and dimensions that we discovered during our explorations. They are already observable now and, we believe, will still be relevant in the future. When combining the themes, the Blueprints helps to think multi-dimensionally about the futures and can be used as a tool to create future related scenarios.