Patterns of Change – Foresight Cards

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How to communicate about the future and past in the same way

When looking at the development of a random issue we are able to determine the change that has occurred in a certain timespan. We can determine change for all kinds of phenomenons that have already taken place or that might occur in the future. Change can be described by addressing the corresponding “pattern of change”. Van Rijn & Van der Burgt (2012) identified 9 patterns of change in four categories. That helps people to address change in such a way that  they can talk about change in the same way.

Category 1: Trend

Definition: a repititive pattern that evolves when (long term) data is taken into consideration.

Stable / unchanging
Example: Life insurance ownership VS 1994 – 2006 (Trend – stable)

Steady increase
Example: Coal production VS 1949-2009 (Trend – steady increase)

Steady decrease
Example: Sea Ice extent 2005-2012 (Trend – steady decrease)

Category 2: Gradual discontinuity

Definition: a paradigm shift that evolves gradually (in such a way we might be able to alter the change to come)

Accelerated increase (exponential or saturated)
Example: Greenhouse gases 1750-2000 (Gradual discontinuity – accelerated increase)

Accelerated decrease(exponential or saturated)
Example: Radioactive decay or half-live of knowledge

Category 3: Hype or rage

Definition hype: a development of which people have far too high expectations
Definition rage: a product or lifestyle that, temporarily, is fashionable

Temporary increase
Example: Dotcom bubble 2000 (Hype – temporary increase)

Temporary decrease
Example: EHEC bacteria outbreak (Germany) 2011 – consumption of raw cucumbers

Category 4: Abrupt discontinuity

Definition: a paradigm shift that evolves so fast that a system becomes unstable (in such a way we can’t alter change to come).

Abrupt increase
Example:Earthquake Japan 2011 (Abrupt discontinuity – abrupt increase)

Abrupt decrease
Example: Financial crash Down Jones September 2008 (Abrupt discontinuity – abrupt decrease)

Advanced use: combine patterns

You can combine patterns to describe a specific development over a certain timespan. For example the development “Mobile Application Store” can be described through the Gartner Hype Cycle, and follows the following pattern:

Bibliography (Dutch):
van Rijn, M., van der Burgt, R. (2012). Handboek Scenarioplanning: toekomstscenario’s als strategisch instrument voor het managen van onzekerheid. Deventer: Kluwer, p32-p42.