January 24, 2020 | Reid Groeneveld

Why Futurist Scrums Will Be the Most Important Meeting You Have in 2020

How does your agency stay in the loop with trends that could benefit clients like you? How does your team keep its members engaged and collaborative on a multi-department level, in real time? And more importantly, how are these two things related? 

In mid-2019, we built a futurist team. This team was created to look outwards and develop a culture of participation. Led by our Intelligence department, the team created a framework for finding and sharing the most insightful, interesting, and relevant trends influencing both the industries we serve regularly and society as a whole. Using social listening tools and a custom-built dashboard, we engaged team members to look outside of their immediate social platforms and preferred news sites, to a wider pool of information curated from thought leaders and futurists. A weekly scrum brings together representatives from all the teams in our office, to discuss what industry leaders and trendsetters are exploring, and to draw insights from those trends.

If your company has a smaller intelligence or insights department, the true no-brainer for keeping your team nimble and punching above its weight in innovative thinking is to create the tools for collaboration. Even though everyone is working towards the same outcome, delivering the best service for the client or customer, departments can tend to become siloed. Weekly scrums work towards stronger inter-departmental cohesion and a more robust knowledge of the client or customer’s issues. 

How it works

A scrum needs to be informed, which means going beyond reading some headlines or consulting with the odd futurist. Indeed, the key to a more comprehensive analytical session involves an array of tools. The secret sauce for our agency’s futurist team is:

  • Social listening software to follow over 100+ carefully selected thought leaders and innovators as well as their most relevant discussions.
  • Monitoring RSS feeds from pace-setting industry news sites.
  • Keen thinking and eager team members with an open-minded approach to collaboration.
  • A means of presenting all the data in a concise and easy to analyze medium.

For any team, the success of this process relies on the intuitiveness of two components. The data collection must be effective, and the data presentation must be effortless to read. 

Steps towards a truly mindful and perceptive team

Now let’s get to the good part. A team that can pull off effective and thoughtful scrums is entitled to two distinct levels of improvement in the work they do. Firstly, there are new, informative bridges connecting departments. It can be all too easy for people to end up wearing the horse blinders of their workflow and lose perspective on the efforts of other team members. A scrum can be a breath of fresh air in this regard, by allowing strategists, analysts, executives, accounts and creatives to freely share thoughts and inform each other on what they think could have potential for the work your company does. The best part? There’s no mandate, and there’s no pressure. Throw things against the wall and see what sticks. Move fast and break stuff. 

This leads to the second benefit, which takes place once the meeting is over. If the scrum was compelling, people will walk away with something. When you think of work from a billable perspective, it’s almost guaranteed you will miss this insight. At its best, the scrum is composed of information that is new, inventive and imaginative. Like reading an article or think piece, those who attend will retain that comprehension and perhaps implicitly or explicitly inform the work they do. It’s hard to quantify or expect to pay off in sequence, but this intuition might just improve your team’s potential to succeed in ways not seen on a spreadsheet. 

For me, the futurist scrum has been an experience that is not always the most comfortable but has been consistently impactful. Not only is it mentally satisfying to take a break from my normal workload and discuss different topics I find genuinely interesting, but hearing what others think is also very thought-provoking. In some ways I feel like the creative nature of the scrum typifies Solving with Soul. 

Futurist thinking that’s built-in

The futurist scrum can be defined as many things. Conducting due diligence and gaining intelligence on what your clients or customer base is facing in their industry. An effort to capture forward-thinking lightning in a bottle. A chance to break away from your day and flex your creative muscle. Staying on top of the latest emerging trends and cutting-edge movements that have potential to better the work. 

Whatever it is, its merits are defined by the value its members assign to it. And in that sense, its success is not assured, or at times even measurable. But that’s not the point. Just like a futurist, the goal is to try new things and to question what is possible, which is truly how any team can push the envelope.

Reid Groeneveld

Reid joined WS after completing his B.A. in Political Science at Carleton University. Translating a passion for social sciences into his current role in data, he specializes in the collection, cleaning and maintenance of raw data. Reid wonders about the future of data in the 21st century.