The terms in this glossary, listed in alphabetical order, apply to recurring reference points in the context of this project. When thinking about the breadth of Futures Studies and skills, we acknowledge that there may be other definitions, depending on the user and different schools of thought. Throughtout the Glossary, the noun ‘futures’ is used in plural. This choice highlights this project’s conceptural premise that there is not one, but many potential futures and scenarios – because the future doesn’t exist yet.

The A to Z to FUTURES

Anticipation – The ‘Discipline of Anticipation’ encompasses theories and practices for the study of the future’s role in the present. According to Riel Miller, ‘the  future  does  not  exist in the present but anticipation does. The form the future takes in the present is anticipation’.  (Miller, 2018: 2)

Anticipation for Emergence (AfE) – Through Anticipation for Emergence (AfE), we explore alternative futures, so that we can detect novelty in the present, to see the present differently. (see also “Walking on two legs”)

Anticipation for the Future (AfF) – Through Anticipation for the Future, we plan to reach goals and ambitions or prepare for what we expect will happen. (see also “Walking on two legs”)

Anticipatory Assumptions – The premise of this concept is that different assumptions generate different kinds of anticipatory processes of imagining the future.  The images of the future that we create and hold are underpinned by our ‘anticipatory assumptions’, whether we are aware of them or not. Assumptions determine what futures we think are likely to happen, but also what futures we wish to happen, we fear might happen, for example.

Causal Layered Analysis – is a tool for ‘deepening the future’ – one of the Six Pillars in futures thinking (Inayatullah, 2008). It can be used for both external reality as well as inner worlds.

Devising – In theatre and performance practices, devising is the process through which a company of players collectively creates a performance, starting from a stimulus, which can be an object, an idea, a work of art, a theme. Key to the devising process is the fact that there is no script as such at the start of the process – even if there is some text. This concept helps to generate future scenarios, using images of what might happen to think about the now. (Turner and Berndt, 2016)

Dramaturgy – In theatre and performance practices, dramaturgy is the set of organising principles that hold a performance together. It mediates the relationship between object (performance) and observer (audience). (Turner and Berndt, 2016)

Force Field Analysis is a tool based on the theory which assumes that every behaviour (for example, that of an employee in a team, a family member, or a group in an organization) is a result of two types of forces: driving and inhibiting.

Forecasting vs Scenario Building
Forecasting is frequently based on trend exploration and is characterised by predictability and linearity. With scenario building, we assume that there is more than one path into the future, and explore what those might be, while assessing their likelyhood and significance.

Foresight is an approach of being open to the future by all available means and developing views on future options. It is a purposeful, critical, reflective and creative engagement with future-oriented actions.

Foresight for professional development is the ability to identify challenges in the micro- and macro environment, interpret their impact on professional development and shape individual career paths and strategy.

Futures Literacy is the ability to consciously use the future for different purposes and in different contexts (UNESCO, 2021). It is a skill that helps us understand why and how we use, imagine and differentiate the future in different contexts (Miller, 2018). The approach is to take advantage of change and appreciate the potential for uncertainty by opening perspectives to new realities and moving beyond the delusion of certainty (Kazemier et al., 2021).

Futures Literacy Laboratories (FLL) are designed so that participants make their ‘anticipatory assumptions’ explicit and thereby reveal not only the determinants of the futures they imagine but also the attributes of their anticipatory systems and knowledge creation processes. (Miller, 2018: 95)

Futures Wheel is a visual/graphic brainstorming tool that can be used to illustrate holistic futures-orientated thinking in order to make more accurate decisions under conditions of high complexity. Thanks to this method, it is possible to identify, analyse and arrange various influences and their causal relations. The principle of the futures wheel is to identify the different future impacts of a phenomenon and place them in a graphical representation of related circles (Ramasubramanian and Albrecht, 2018: 81).

Identity work – the range of activities individuals engage in for “forming, repairing, maintaining, strengthening or revising” their self-meanings (Alvesson and Willmot, 2002) in the context of their occupations and organisation. (Caza et al., 2018).

Image Theatre – a technique developed by Brazilian director Augusto Boal, as a way of establishing narratives and communicating ideas or feelings in performance which bypasses the verbal and allows images to speak for themselves. (Boal, 2021)

Lateral thinking assumes the assessment of a given phenomenon from various points of view. This approach allows for a conscious search for new, alternative solutions by means of creative thinking. As a concept, it originates in Edward de Bono’s book The Use of Lateral Thinking, first published in 1967, and which became a classic international bestseller.

Oblique Strategies is a set of cards originally designed by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt and first published in 1975. Each card offers a prompt to encourage creativity through unexpected and disruptive approaches to situations. In the context of the FUTURES project, the authors of the ‘Performance for Futures’ module have designed their own version of oblique strategies to create a ‘Future Lives Game’, one which involves scenario generation, (im)possible futures and complexity. (see Annex of IO3)

Performance for Futures are concepts and ideas from the world of theatre and performance, which can be applied to thinking about futures in ways that, in the context of this project, will support personal and professional development.

Polak Game (or Where do you Stand?) – the framework of the Polak game is aimed to help participants think: are things getting generally better or worse? To what extent do they feel like they can affect outcomes in this particular area? The Polak Game is named after the Dutch sociologist. Frederik Lodewijk Polak, whose book The Image of the Future (1961) is a famous text in the history of Futures Studies. (Hayward and Candy, 2017)

Rainbow of Desire – a set of techniques developed by theatre director Augusto Boal to help participants overcome internalised oppressions and allow them to reclaim agency and creativity. (Boal, 2021)

Reframe scenario a part of the learning curve of a ‘Futures Literacy Lab’ (see above); it is supposed to challenge held assumptions on continuity and discontinuity.

Roadmapping supports the planning process by enabling the creation of multidimensional analyses and a broad view of an area/problem/idea under study. It involves the creation of a strategic roadmap that outlines the necessary steps, resources and milestones needed to achieve a particular state (e.g., a desired career path, new product, service, technology) in the future.

SCAMPER is a creative thinking technique that uses targeted, thought-provoking questions and ideas in seven areas, called: Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify (and Magnify or Minify), Put to another use, Eliminate (or Elaborate) and Reverse (or Rearrange) to stimulate lateral thinking and help find innovative answers to the problems being analysed.

Scenario generation The process of creating different versions of what might happen in the future, which can be based on perceived trends or completely wild imaginations.

Six Thinking Hats technique (Edward de Bono’s ‘Six Thinking Hats’) is a thinking framework that allows all aspects of a question to be investigated, one at a time, without letting just one thinking mode dominate the process. Groups and organisations use that technique to enhance creativity and productivity, solve problems, and make decisions. In order to make it easier to remember and use the different thought styles, the author of this method assigned each style a different colour hat: white, green, yellow, black, red and blue. (de Bono, 2016)

Status (in performance terms) demonstrates the hierarchies of power that different characters or agents have at any given moment. It is always there, it is always shifting and it is always relative: no-one has absolute status in any situation.

STEEPVL analysis could be treated as a checklist of Social, Technological, Economic, Ecological, Political, Value-related and Legal factors that influence a given phenomenon. All of the mentioned factors are interrelated and influence each other. Social factors influence the economy, the economy influences politics and the environment, and so on. All factors should therefore be interpreted as co-creating the future, as they all contribute to its better understanding.

“Walking on two legs” is switching between ‘Anticipation for the Future’ (AfF) and ‘Anticipation for Emergence’ (AfE), with AfF standing for a linear view on the future (planning and preparation in order to ‘engineer the future’) and AfE adopting a more open view on the later-than-now-reality as a complex emergent universe. The main distinction between AfF and AfE is why we anticipate: Do we imagine futures for the purpose of planning or preparation, e.g. with a certain goal in mind? Or do we imagine futures for the purpose of exploration, to see new things in the present? Both are important and complementary skills to have.


Alvesson, M. and Willmott, H. (2002) ‘Identity Regulation as Organizational Control: Producing the Appropriate Individual’. Journal of Management Studies, 39: pp. 619-644.

Boal, A. (2021) Games for Actors and Non-actors (3rd ed.). London: Routledge.

Caza, BB, Vough, H, Puranik, H. (2018) ‘Identity Work in Organizations and Occupations: Definitions, Theories, and Pathways Forward’. Journal of Organisational Behaviour, 39: pp. 889–910.

de Bono, E. (2016) Six Thinking Hats: The multi-million bestselling guide to running better meetings and making faster decisions. London: Penguin.

Hayward, P and Candy, S. (2017) ‘The Polak Game, or: Where do you stand?’, Journal of Futures Studies, 22 (2), pp. 5-14.

Inayatullah, S. (2008) ‘Six Pillars: Futures Thinking for Transforming’. Foresight, 10 (1), pp. 4-21.

Kazemier, E, Damhof, L, Gulmans, J and Cremers, P. (2021) ‘Mastering Futures Literacy in Higher Education: an Evaluation of Learning Outcomes and Instructional Design of a Faculty Development Program’. Futures, 132 (3)

Miller, R. ed. (2018) Transforming the future: Anticipation in the 21st century, UNESCO Publishing, Paris.

Ramasubramanian, L and Albrecht, J (2018) Essential Methods for Planning Practitioners: Skills and Techniques for Data Analysis, Visualization, and Communication, Springer.

Turner, S and Berndt, S. (2016) Dramaturgy and Performance (2nd ed.). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

UNESCO (2021) Futures Literacy: An essential competency for the 21st century.