During the summer we were lucky enough to win one of the contracts in the MOD’s Future Fictions/Future Tools challenge, a £138,000 competition from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to find ways of enabling MOD staff to better think through future issues and future scenarios. Daden were one of 11 companies selected for funding from a field of 60 submissions (eight of which were ours!).
The system we proposed, and have now developed, is based around Edward de Bono’s 6 Hats tool, where each hat (or in this case chatbot) represents a different perspective on a problem. By talking to each hat in turn a user is challenged to consider an issue or future scenario from a variety of different perspectives and identify problems or opportunities which may not have otherwise been uncovered. By having the chatbot facilitate a one-to-one session an employee can test ideas before opening them up to a wider audience – and the system can also be used to facilitate a group discussion.
Having used the 6 Hats approach in other contexts we thought it an ideal subject for a “Future Tool” as it brings a rigour of thinking to almost any problem, and can help users come up with new ideas, and identify potential issues, in a very time-efficient way. The order of the hats can also be varied depending on the type of problem or issue being addressed. We have even developed an iterative sequence to help develop future thinking out to 5,10, 20 or more years hence. In development sessions the application has been used to help think through issues ranging from climate change to cyber-attacks and future battlefield technologies.
We’ve always loved the 6 Hats approach, and this was a nice opportunity to embody it within a bot in order to meet a real need and to potentially bring it to a wider audience. The whole Future Fictions/Future Tools programme was also a great way for people to generate new ideas to help Defence think through some of the key challenges of the future.
The application will now form part of Dstl’s Museum of the Future in order to be shown to a wider audience within MOD. We already have plans to further develop the concept, in particular developing it as a mobile application for general business and personal use. This would support a wider range of bots (such as one providing challenges based on common business models such as Porter’s 5 Forces), and allow users to create their own bots. The resultant tool would enable a wide variety of perspectives and different thinking and business models to be used, making it a valuable general-purpose reflexive planning tool.