Summer Course in Innovation and Future Thinking


Read more about this program on the school's website

Program Description

The Summer Course in Innovation & Future Thinking capitalizes on the ability to detect signs of change, arrange ideas in comprehensible models, synthesize new forms of assessment for possible future scenarios, identify barriers and potential opportunities, and design innovative ideas, products, and services.

As the pace of social, technological, financial and environmental transformations rises, so does uncertainty when it comes to anticipating, comprehending, planning and creating.

The course underlines the importance of foresight and of linking it to strategy, innovation, and creation. Students are encouraged to develop storytelling skills, a strategic focus, prototyping, and communication.


The objective of the Futures Lab is to provide students and professionals with varied backgrounds a strong baseline understanding of foresight and how it ties to strategy, innovation, and creation. This is done not only by teaching essential data collection and modeling but narrative development, strategic framing, prototyping, and communication.


This course begins by asking the fundamental question: “Why think about the future?” It will explore this through an overview of essential future skills—horizon scanning and trends identification and analysis—looking at weak signals, micro- and macro-trends—and how to use these to think about implications and unexpected outcomes. This will include observational analysis, searching Barcelona for indicators about the future, studying behaviors, messages, and signs that point to emergent change.

We will visit scenario development, road mapping, timelines and backcasting, and creative ideation to develop new future narratives as a way of writing stories about the future we can use strategically. We will also have Skype talks from futurists, innovators, and designers who employ these techniques in their own work.

From this basis, we will look at innovation practices and processes - traditional top-down, bottom-up and open innovation - and how these are being used in both major companies and cutting edge startups. By learning how to tie foresight to innovation, we will look at the future-proofing new design and product development.

Lastly, we will look at prototyping using the futures we have created and build toward a final project that presents solutions to the wicked problems we’ve uncovered - creating for the next decade.

Student Profile

As a transdisciplinary topic, this course is designed for students and professionals from different fields with wide interests, backgrounds, and future paths. Because it blends the strategic business view with the insights and aesthetics of design and product development, it should be of interest to those interested in innovation or the creation of new products, services, and concepts. It is designed for those who like to mix rigorous thinking with creativity.


John V Willshire

Founder of Smithery, a strategic design unit based in London. Since forming in 2011 they have been on a mission to help companies make things people want, rather than make people want things. This is his third year teaching on the IED Innovation and Future Thinking course, and his first as overall course coordinator.

The work at Smithery spans many disciplines but is formed around a broad territory of strategy, design, culture change, and prototyping. Central to this work has been establishing a new form of ‘appropriate design’.

Based on the concept of developing a metastrategy (a strategy of strategies), this means that rather than attempting to seek out and implement the one ‘right’, organizations must instead be versed in many different approaches. Helping organizations learn to adopt the most appropriate stance, through a system of movement, layers, and loops mean creating compelling innovation projects where the experience takes hold within the organization. One of the tools designed for this approach, Artefact Cards, has grown to become a successful range of different creative tools for ideas practitioners and companies across the globe.

The beneficiaries of this approach include LEGO, BBC, Konica Minolta, Experian, the British Council, The Science Museum, Vodafone, Lloyds Bank, Google, Carlsberg, University of Glasgow, University of Stirling, the FSA and the V&A.

John also teaches these methods at further education establishments such as IED in Barcelona and the Saïd Business School, Oxford, as well as delivering keynotes at various conferences around Europe like dConstruct, Webdagene, The Conference and more. Previously, John was Chief Innovation Officer at PHD Media in London.

Last updated Apr 2020

About the School

The IED Barcelona is a workshop for conducting analysis and research applied to material culture, a focus it is destined to develop increasingly in the future.

The IED Barcelona is a workshop for conducting analysis and research applied to material culture, a focus it is destined to develop increasingly in the future. Read less