How a Futurist Might Work – Olympic Swimming Goggles Example

Foreseeing Impacts from Inventions

When swimming goggles were widely introduced in the 1970s they doubled or even tripled the time that swimmers could spend training because the swimmers’ eyes were now better protected. Swimming world records were quickly overtaken.

Foresight from development to impact:

A futurist observing developments in sports technology products might have anticipated the impacts on the users’ performance and thus on international competition, endorsements, and tangential investments.

Foresight for problem solving:

Applying foresight strategy within the field may have lead to asking how performance could be improved and mapped the time that swimmers are able to spend training as a constraint to be addressed. This would entail challenging the assumption that the status quo was unchangeable and that performance had room to grow. 

Foresight professionals/professional Futurists seek out preferred futures and analyze strategy to get there – faster swim times by identifying the barriers or watching for opportunities to leverage. Foresight also entails analyzing how a development will change what is possible and how the futures of stakeholders may be impacted. The overlap between foresight and product innovation is strong. 


A foresight strategist would map the baseline expected future: swimmers can expect to swim at the current speeds in the undisrupted future. 

The futurist would ask what an alternative future might be: One alternative is that swimmers can increase their speed. The futurist would ask what might this mean to the stakeholders and to the ecosystem? More records broken, more endorsement, more media coverage, more people wanting to swim competitively.

Then the futurist would ask, how right this come about? What would it take to get there? What changes should we look out for that may enable this future? How would a swimmer be able to reach greater speeds? More training or different techniques. What would allow more training? Changes in pool chemicals, swim technology including better eye protection. 

Futures work swim goggles ex by Joe Murphy Librarian

Foresight work Swim goggles example

Futures strategy requires scanning, aka researching current events, insight into the field and its stakeholders, and thinking in systems to know how a structural change will impact the behavior and limits of the system.

Joe Murphy Librarian, Futures Studies Student/MS in Foresight +EMBA  

Source: “Why Do Swimmers Break More Records than Runners?” BBC News Magazine. N.p., 13 Aug. 2016. Web. <>.

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