Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Rethinking the visitor experience

Aloha kakahiaka, everyone.  Hope Wednesday morning is treating everyone well!  This morning we’re working further on the Reboot and our presentation for it.  Working with some futures colleagues, Day 2 of the Reboot is shaping up to be a very cool experience, one that will likely really shake up participant assumptions about how Hawai’i works and about how it could work.  Very cool stuff.

Later this morning we’ll be working on some pieces to build a new foresight framework for workforce and workforce development for Hawaii, an interesting challenge given many of the assumptions and the focus currently found in that arena.  Choosing a particular approach when constructing a new framework is always fun but also tricky: will ‘reframing’ history set them free to think new thoughts?; will a collection of emerging possibilities energize them?; or do you have to completely deconstruct their ‘worldview’ to effectively shake them up?

The Visitor Experience

A couple of weeks ago we helped with a discussion hosted by NaHHA about the visitor industry, culture, and opportunities.  Attended by some very cool folks, it was an interesting discussion about what, among other things, the visitor industry could look like in the future.  Just afterward, I was on Maui and had a range of experiences that had me reflect even further on the earlier discussions.  From staying at a resort in Makena, to camping in Ke’anae and hanging out at the Hana Taro Festival, to staying in Kahului and eating at IHOP (and vacillating on picking up Krispy Kremes [will power won the day]), it was an interesting compare/contrast.

It occurred to me that, among the many ways people and professionals frame the visitor/hospitality industry, one way is to simply consider the amount of content of the ‘everyday’ that makes up the visitor experience (via their accommodations).  It’s a question of how much the visitor accommodations (the hotel) is interwoven into the lives of local communities and thus how much the real, everyday culture of local communities is intended to shape and make the visitor experience.

At its most basic, a hotel is just a place to sleep when traveling away from home, apartments for the traveler.  Motels are the best examples, designed for people to drive up, sleep, get up, and drive on.  No frills, little mess.  There’s always a need for basic hotels, and given some of the possible futures for Hawai’i around developing new industries and becoming a global center for emerging technologies, we may need a reinvestment in this basic infrastructure.  Here, the content of the everyday within the hotel is minimal, or at best unconscious.  The everyday life and culture of the local community is picked up when they walk out the door and into the community, which they are expected to be doing, whether to attend business meetings, visit relatives, or explore.  Visitors are not meant to stay inside.

But things change, and over the years people have built resorts, which are increasingly self-contained experiences, providing a prepackaged, complete range of services.  The resort in this sense is actually a retreat, it’s intended to be an unusual, unreal place, that is, a place that doesn’t exist in everyday life.  It’s designed for people to escape from the mundane and everyday, and thus they’re typically located in environmentally unusual and beautiful places.  The retreat is intentionally walled off from the content of the everyday that is found in neighboring local communities.  And this why, when such retreats want to expose their visitors to this local content, whatever it might be, they have to import it into the retreat, staging it in ways that are typically unusual and unnatural, ways that typically don’t manifest in the everyday of local life.  And retreats, in and of themselves, aren’t necessarily bad.  In fact, all cultures and peoples feature variations of retreats, often in physical form.  But today’s retreats as found in the visitor industry take on an industrial scale and commercial character that reverberates through localities with unintentional and undesirable results.

Given this, it’s possible to see how the content of the everyday, that is, the everyday real culture of a place can be a fundamental part of of the visitor experience, and specifically through the physical reality of their very accommodations.  Back in 1999, we wrote a short piece called “Experience Hawai’i” which was a thought piece on what a new type of hotel would look like and how it would operate.  While parts of it are certainly dated (the idea of pervasive high speed internet access was novel back then!), much of it retains its relevance for our current discussions about the visitor industry and the visitor experience.  One of the things that made it an exciting piece to work on was that it placed the physical environment and the local community in the position as the primary ‘customer,’ with the visitors as a secondary component.

“Experience Hawai’i” is merely an example of what can be seen as a different set of interactions and experiences between visitors and local everyday culture.  In essence, you have to look at the challenge as one of designing a structure that is built around the everyday, a place that is interwoven into and is a functioning part of local communities.  It is a place that is intended to support living culture, the everyday activities and priorities of people.  And into this you design the capacity for visitors and the accomodation for them to move through and participate in the living, everday culture of the place.  While perhaps an inelegant analogy, such places would be like very vibrant community centers that are designed with the hospitality to accept eager and sincere visitors.

It might not be simple to create such places, but the rewards and benefits of successfully building them would be manifold and ripple across generations.  If the real culture of our communities here is really what visitors want to experience, and not just the beaches and warm weather, then this would seem to be a good new framework to discuss.

Think about tomorrow.


Filed under: Built Environment, Culture, Hawai'i

Futures Index and Social Media in Education

Good Morning, everyone.  Well, now that we’re getting our writing projects back on track and reorganzined, and particularly because we’ve entered a first full swing in Summit 2009 planning, today we’re working once again on the Hawai’i Futures Index.  Meant to be something of a issues barometer and set of indicators for Hawai’i’s desired futures, we survey the attendees to the Summit each year and then build the Index up from there.  A challenge is staying away from the typical ideas about what to track, like visitor stays and construction permits, and build a set of indicators that really taps into the issues that decision makers and thought leaders care about that relate to the futures they actually desire.  And, being futurists, we need a broader and more nuanced (foresightful) set of relationships and impacts to consider, again, beyond just the traditional, “what is California and Japan’s economy doing?”

Also, we want to put a shout out for the new book out by Jeff Piontek (head of the charter school Hawai’i Technology Academy).  We toured the school yesterday (in my old stomping grounds of Waipahu) and their tools and approach are simply fascinating and impressive.  Jeff will also be one of our speakers at this year’s Summit.

His new book is Blogs, Wikis, and Podcasts, Oh, My! And please note that the Amazon info on publication date and availability is wrong: the book was just published and is actually in print.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Education, futures, Hawai'i, Summit

Hawai’i Futures and Strategy

Aloha kakahiaka.  It’s a wonderful Monday morning (spring break!), and despite the rather long task list for today, we have some cool work to do today.  We’re meeting with some charter school folks today, following up on a wonderful future of education discussion we facilitated in January, and possible people who can contribute some exciting ideas to this year’s Summit.  We’re also polishing a presentation for another client for a seminar next month, and that has helped us get back to organizing some of the company’s original products, such as scenarios about Hawai’i’s future and more artful and more useful ways to approach planning and strategy.  And speaking of which, we’re still working on the future of nonprofits project, and the base scenario should shape up nicely this week.  For those interested, we’re going to be talking about the things nonprofits in Hawai’i need to fix in order to better fulfill their mission on one of the forums on SummitNet.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Hawai'i, Nonprofit, scenarios, Strategy, Summit

Crossing Wednesday and the economic stimulus

Good morning, everyone. Today we’re looking at a split schedule, which works very well some days, and unfortunately not so well others. I myself will be working on my paper this morning, further drafting elements of my political design framework, incorporating lines of thought from classic political science, public administration, and futures studies. Hopefully, the resulting building blocks will be properly futures-oriented and practical enough that future designers will have a good springboard from which to launch.

This afternoon we’ll be working more on the website project more, and while getting this relatively straightforward site up and running quickly can be a challenge, the long-term potential for the site as a core of a larger system of sites and applications designed to support greater civic engagement is actually very exciting (especially for a political scientist like me). Again, if anyone knows of any good ‘civic media’ sites, sites (and applications) designed to support civic participation and engagement, please let us know.

And here’s an interesting article, a preview from the NYT Magazine about the economic stimulus and a variety of takes on economic growth, recovery, and issues related to our economic performance.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Civic Media, Economics, Governance, Hawai'i

Sunday morning work (yeah, that’s right)

Good morning folks.  It’s Sunday morning and like any publicly self-respecting Gen-X business owner I’m looking over the things that need to be addressed before the Monday morning work session.  Basically, the day looks like:  a morning review of the posts and feeds, followed by a nice breakfast (it is Sunday afterall), then it might be time to draft some initial strategy mapping for a local nonprofit.  They are a small organization, but they were totally engaged in the planning session and had a very good conversation about who and what they are and how they think they can achieve their vision of the future.  It was very refreshing.  After that, I may have some time to get to a new project concept we started looking at yesterday: garage video.  Stay tuned for this one; it’s cool!

The afternoon will be devoted to more political design work, now looking at how making decisions and implementing change have to be aligned in the design process.  Oddly, a poorly developed subject, world wide.

And since we’re now looking at the 2009 Summit in October, it’s possible that we’ll be interweaving a vision component.  So, check out the short clip below, which looks at some radical and interesting visions for South Korea’s urban future.  This is something that we in Honolulu truly need to take a long, hard look at, and something that actually should make the construction industry salivate over the possibilities, but we seem to need more attention to our urban future.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Built Environment, futures, Governance, Hawai'i, Summit

Looking for education

We’re prepping right now for an upcoming session on the future of education, and we’re pretty excited about the potential for provocative conversation and frank discussion of how to make positive change. A bit of research, a bit of briefing notes, and we’re looking for any really good sites people know about that have (serious) prescriptions for both improving as well as overhauling the education systems in the US. If you’ve got any to suggest, please let us know and we’ll happily check them out.

Tomorrow we’ll also be stopping in for some of the HCEI workgroup meetings, something that, if we can follow through on, could open up Hawai’i’s potential futures tremendously. It’s of course related to the energy working group on community engagement that emerged out of this past year’s Summit, the next meeting for which is on February 25. Good folks with serious hope for change. If you’re interested in learning more, sign on to SummitNet and we’ll start getting you connected.

Oh, and we’ll also be meeting on some other potential ‘future-of-Hawaii’ sessions for later this year, so if anyone has any suggestions as to what kind of work would be most inspiring to people, please let us know.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Change, Education, Energy, Hawai'i, Summit

Virtual Economies

This arstechnica article on the IRS being urged to tax activities in virtual worlds once again reminds us that when it comes to diversifying the economy, there are many ways to do that.  We normally talk about the economy in terms of major sectors like ‘construction’ or singular pillar industries like ‘tourism,’ but the economy is actually a very complex and dynamic thing, and our traditional focus on single shot cures for both short term recovery and long-term growth are likely to fall short of either hope.

There are leading-edge theories about economic growth that posit that our modern, post-industrial economies grow through the development of new technologies and the changes those new capabilities provoke in how we do work and how we produce value.  At the industry and organizational level, we would then be looking at how businesses evolve through applying new technologies and reorganizing themselves around those technologies, not just for greater efficiencies but also to produce new things of value.  Broad change and evolution in economies then is not achieved simply through a government stimulus package or by simply dumping money into public works projects, but more likely through consistent support of new R&D, new businesses, and lots of experimentation.

For Hawai’i, one has to wonder how many different (and new) areas of entrepreneurship and experimentation we should be open to and supportive.  No one really nows what ‘virtual’ economies (which actually are real economies for intangible goods) could become for Hawai’i, but for a place with geographic isolation, multi-cultural populations, and reasonable tech infrastructure, maybe more of us should be looking at developing and growing creative new online economies.

Filed under: Business, Economics, Hawai'i, Technology, Wealth

Climate Change Video Set

The Council on Foreign Relations has an interesting little video set about Climate Change.  Those of you who attended the Summit this year might compare this with the presentation given by Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, looking at Climate Change, energy, and carbon emissions.

One of the interesting things you find in the climate change/sustainability discourse is the tension between those who are looking at large scale changes and those who are looking at small scale changes.  There emerges from different quarters a difference in the basic strategic approach advocates for change have adopted for addressing both climate change and sustainability.  Some see the challenge as great in scope and advocate for major structural changes, such as new generations of technologies or significant shifts in infrastructure and processes.  Others believe in advocating change on an individual basis, promoting the implication that what’s needed are only small personal changes in order to address the roots of climate change or unsustainable lifestyles.

But a reliance on only either of these approaches is likely incorrect.  If observing complex systems has revealed anything, it is that they usually do not produce the outcomes we desire simply in response to a single strategy of change.  Complex adapative systems are composed of many agents, each involved in different relationships with other agents.  When we act, that input resonates through the system in usually unpredictable ways.  Unlike making a single great shot as we do in billiards, when trying to effect change in CAS we probably need to take a much more tentative approach, one comprised of many experiments with lots of feedback and adjustment.

One of the things that Hawai’i lacks is a really good strategic framework that presents a number of strategic approaches to effecting change to deal with both climate change and sustainability.  We need approaches that address the structural realities of modern living, as well as approaches that galvanize individuals to make their small (in-system) alterations in behavior.  Change on the scale that we talk about here requires us to address the many different levels of modern living, and eschewing the traditional and outdated belief in single strategies or ‘silver bullets.’

If you can dig this kind of thinking, then join us on Summit Net, the network for people who are concerned with the big-picture, rule-changing possibilities for Hawai’i’s futures.

Filed under: Change, Climate Change, Hawai'i, Sustainability, Uncategorized

New Answers for Hawai’i

Do you want to know what the Summit this week is really about?  The Summit is for participants to learn about new ideas but also, and more importantly, for them to generate new ideas.  Why is this important, and why is the Summit the best place for this?  Because Hawai‘i is in need of a host of new answers to the large, interrelated issues that define our shared futures.  We need change, and ideas of what to change into, in terms of our collective culture and identity, our technological systems that make modern life possible, and our economy.

These issues, and the many more we could lay on the table, are all related.  You cannot think to address one without having unknown effects on the others, or without having to also consider those others.  Dealing with this requires an occasional broad view, to occasionally rise up and consider the entire forest rather than the single tree.  The leaders at the Summit this week are, thanks to the tools and processes of professional futurists, going to get to deal with this big picture in a meaningful way.  Frankly, the Summit is the only event in Hawai‘i (designed and facilitated by trained professional futurists) that provides leaders in Hawaii with a structured method for addressing the big picture of our futures.

Engaging in this larger context not only helps us generate ideas for all of Hawai‘i, it manifestly helps decision-makers and organizational leaders understand the broader and longer-range context for the challenges and the potential opportunities that they are endeavoring to address within their own organizations.  If we only ever focus on our immediate surroundings, then we miss the larger patterns of change that are making our work more or less valuable.

What’s very important for Hawai‘i is the opportunity for our people to have the tools and the space they need to create new ideas, to literally map out specific new ideas and examine the changes that are needed, and the specific strategies that can influence that change.  Hawai‘i needs to get better at its own intellectual innovation, its ability to synthesize new ideas and approaches that are inspired by developments elsewhere but are uniquely tailored to move us from Today to the Future That We Want.  And we’re not talking simply about ‘policy options,’ the kinds of things typically debated in the newspaper or down at the leg.  We’re talking about seeing entirely new possibilities of what Hawai‘i could become, culturally, technologically, and economically.  Hawai‘i has always lacked for the kind of structured experience leaders need in order to actually work together on generating these new ideas, and the Summit is designed for that.

Hawai‘i needs new answers for the host of issues shaping its futures.  In order to generate these truly innovative answers, Hawai‘i needs a better understanding of the full range of possibilities that are emerging around the world, and it needs the tools and the space to take those possibilities and turn them into real opportunities to shape a better future for us all.

Hawai’i Futures Summit 2008

Filed under: Change, Hawai'i, Summit

4-Day Work Week Mistake?

In recent months cities and states across the country have been debating and experimenting with the four day work week.  It has even hit the federal scene, with congressmen calling for a four day week in DC.  And in almost every case the driving concern has been the reduction of car fuel savings and energy costs for the employer.  And of course Hawaii is half-way through it’s state experiment and responses seem positive.  But will this response to a ‘crisis’ set in motion more difficult strategic challenges in the years ahead?

The idea of the work week has been under criticism for some time; it is, after all, an arbitrary construct.  For most of human history, most people engaged in the work of living pretty much every day.  Long before there were farms or agriculture, humans had an amount of socialization and ‘leisure’ time that many of us would envy.  It’s partly to the Judeo-Christian worldview that we see the week as having days that should be without work (and thus, if we have to make our numbers, we’re supposed to cram them into our ‘work’ days).  And it’s to the mechanization and drive for cost-reduction created by the industrial revolution and mass production that we owe the time card and the concept that your hour has a certain dollar value.

But an interesting new book by cognitive scientist John Medina, Brain Rules, points out a host of provocative new findings about how the human brain works and how our modern approaches to education and work often run counter to the most effective lifestyles for our delicate and wondrous brains.  Did you know that 10% of people truly think and work best early in the day, being very early to bed and early to rise?  Or that 20% of people are truly better late at night and seldom get to bed before 3 am?  A full 30% of our citizens are literally not wired to do well in the standard 9 – 5 routine, yet we have in recent decades required everyone to confirm, with measurable losses in mental abilities, focus, and productivity.

We’re not designed, mentally or physically to sit at a desk for 8 hours, much less 10, yet that is the kind of routine with which we’re experimenting.  It is certainly too early to judge the long-term effects of extending the work day, and the ‘solution’ is really intended to address energy costs.  But once we open up this issue, it’s an opportunity for us to consider broader or additional changes in the construct of the work week.  For instance, in the short term, with our current dependence on fossil fuels to generate the energy we use to get to and from work and to light up the work place, reducing the number of days while lengthening them seems prudent.  But in the longer-term, as renewable and alternative sources of energy come online, the energy issues change, and we will want to keep in mind alternatives that increase overall happiness and productivity in even more fundamental ways.

If anyone has any good sources on scientific studies of alternative work schedules, we would love to hear about them.


Filed under: Biology, Business, Economics, Energy, Hawai'i, Transportation

Hawai’i: the Reboot

2 days. 200 innovators. A new future for Hawai'i.

The Hawai'i Futures Summit 2009 October 16 and 17, 2009


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