A Futures thinking pilot

Exploring ways to build futures techniques into an innovation lab’s design process.


Royal Bank of Scotland




Pilot of a Futures Process

The Challenge

The Open Experience (OX) department at the time of the engagement was a relatively new entity within the bank. They were still working to define and develop their own culture to differentiate from other design and innovation capabilities within the Royal Bank of Scotland. This involved building distinct processes and approaches.

Building on one of OX’s projects we were asked to run a pilot to explore whether they could extract extra value from the research they had already conducted, converting it into future scenarios which could drive product and service conceptualisation.

Client Details

Open Experience (OX) is the Royal Bank of Scotland’s innovation lab, based in Edinburgh and London, and established in 2016. They address challenges from across all parts of the bank, while championing a human-centered and collaborative attitude to innovation through design thinking approaches. 

Project Links

Our Approach

We worked with members of one of OX’s past projects. We examined their existing research, re-formatted it, and designed a process (which blended techniques like Causal Layered Analysis, Deductive Scenario Planning, Systems Mapping, and Backcasting) to convert their research into future scenarios. 

Across a three-day working session with the extended OX team we extrapolated from their research and generated a series of four possible future scenarios around their research theme. We explored different pathways for the banking sector dependent on changing social attitudes and barriers to entry. These scenarios were prototyped initially as dioramas using toys and collage before being refined into illustrations and then analysed for further insight.

To conclude, we explored opportunities to integrate a similar futures approach into other projects in order to create a space for expanded thinking and visioning, while also nurturing a future-focussed innovation culture in OX.



Fighting Myopia

Through applying futures techniques we helped the OX team identify social, political, technological and economic factors. These would otherwise have gone unnoticed due to the tight constraints and focus on delivery often present in a corporate environment. Furthermore, the OX team identified threats and opportunities for the bank which had not been identified or seriously discussed, challenging preexisting ideas around what a ‘preferable’ future for the bank would look like.


New Approaches

This project demonstrated the potential of integrating futures into their design approach and expanded the OX team’s set of innovation tools and processes. Since the project’s completion, OX has been experimenting further with using futures techniques in innovation projects exploring how they can be used to strengthen strategic decision-making and inform near-term developments.