Derek Woodgate: Futurist, Educator, Author
Futurist and author Derek Woodgate is the CEO of The Futures Lab, a futures-based consultancy headquartered in Atlanta, with six satellite offices around the world. The firm specializes in creating future potential for major corporations and institutions, especially in the fields of entertainment, media, culture, communications, and new communities.
He spent nine years as a British diplomat, and 13 years as a corporate executive, and is an authority on the application of emerging and immersive technologies and the changing human in the design and production of experiential entertainment with his creation of what he terms “Sense Events.”
He is also involved in integrating creative industries into urban/community development and future living spaces. His work on “remix” lifestyles in terms of archetypes, behavior, and identity is reflected in his renowned reworking of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and has been applied by a number of clients of The Futures Lab.
In his foresight work, Woodgate is known for developing what is considered a paradigm-shifting approach to future studies, demonstrated in his book “Future Frequencies” (Fringecore 2004) and in his work on leveraging dystopian futures and rhizomatic thinking techniques, as well as in his merging of progressive culture with future studies.
His clients have included Philips Electronics, Intel, Shell, Fiat, Nokia, Pemex, AKZO-Nobel, GSK, Casio, Nestle, SWB, MTV Europe, Intel, Ford, Kellogg’s, Coca-Cola, BBC, WorldSpace, Nissan, and many more.
Woodgate has also served as chief creative officer for Plutopia Productions, Inc.—a future-focused entertainment and event-production company—where he produced dozens of public events, including: The Science of Music, The Future of Home, The Future of Sustainable Living, Future Living Systems, The Future of Play, The Future of Imagination, and FutureMusic Summit 2012. He also produced events for SXSW, including the Chilean Showcase.
His books include:
- “Future Flow” (2013), with a preface by DJ Spooky
- “Future Frequencies” (2004), hailed as “creating a unique paradigm in the professional futurist field”
- “Calling the Toads—A Burroughs Compendium” (1999), co-authored with Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth, Allen Ginsberg, and Douglas Brinkley.
Watch Woodgate in action! Click here to see his speaker’s sizzle reel.
Praise for Derek Woodgate
James L. Martin, Sr. VP
Incite Director, GSD&M
“Derek is an engaging, interesting, and involved presenter—no matter what subject matter he is talking about. Whenever I hire him to be a keynote, sit on a panel, or conduct a workshop, I can always count on Derek to bring a unique perspective and expansive thinking to the event.”
Ashley Smith, Director of Innovation Strategy, Philips Electronics, Amsterdam, Netherlands
“Even within the field of ‘Futurology,’ Derek blew us away with the quantity and quality of trends and innovations he is tracking. The true secret of his success, of course, is his ability to link these marvels to the business issues that we are facing right now.”
Candido Peterlini, SVP Innovation, The Fiat Group
“Derek is a creative and inspirational person who helps people and companies to open their eyes through an innovative and effective approach. We will be inviting him back to speak to us many times in the coming years.”
Future Rules: Derek Woodgate’s Speaking Topics
Future Flow: The Age of Upheaval—How fundamental economic transformation will reset the “American Dream”
Despite recent improvements, according to two recent polls, two‐thirds of US consumers believe the future will be worse for their children and grandchildren, and when asked about the economy, 68 percent believe the worst is yet to come. The recent economic meltdown has raised concerns not only about the questionable trading behavior of a section of the financial services industry, but moreover whether the whole premise of the “American Dream”—with its promise of trickle-down economics, upward mobility, and a strong middle class—is still plausible.
Failing education in math and the sciences, and high unemployment and shortage of loans, are hindering innovation, an area in which the United States has dominated for some time. While the United States continues to lead in GDP generation, the “public discovery” of America’s “third world” and the fact that 46 million of its people live in poverty has tempered the public’s belief and trust in the country’s future.
This presentation delivers a sense of hope based on the slogan “The New American Dream—Fairness,” sustainable living, and the pursuit of happiness. In the presentation, Woodgate proposes critical future leverage points, as well as ways to kick-start the middle class, upward mobility, and the US economy. He considers the positive impact that can be gained from the dramatic changes in demographics, community, workforce, infrastructure, energy, sustainability, new technologies, and urban development. The presentation pushes the reset button for a magnificent new America with a new set of societal and economic values.
The Sense Event: From Sensation to Imagination, how experiential entertainment will augment learning and creative endeavor
Over the past decade, Woodgate has had direct experience creating, designing, curating, and producing what he calls future‐focused “Sense Events.” These multisensory, immersive, interactive events show in practice many of the wonderful, creative inventions and innovations that are underway to future‐proof and augment our future.
The presentation covers a multitude of emerging technologies and behaviors that extend the potential of sensory enhancement and immersive environments, such as: adaptive projection maps, holographic overlays, hybrid and imaginary spaces, simulated worlds, and programmed atmospheres, as well as the seamless fusion between entertainment and communication and the seamless movement between real and virtual. The material demonstrates how such events are designed to be adaptive to personal aesthetics, imagination, moods, and emotions in order to facilitate new approaches to exploration, innovation, and learning.
The material demonstrates how such events are designed to be adaptive to personal aesthetics, imagination moods, and emotions in order to facilitate new approaches to exploration, innovation, and learning.
Convergence vs. Collision: The Future of Personalized Experiential Media
In an increasingly post‐broadcast world, we are constantly celebrating the values of digital convergence. The multiplicity of interconnected technologies and devices, peer-aggregated media, open source, and collaborative design and development have created integrated communication, media, and entertainment opportunities, augmented by the greater unification of compatible standards.
This presentation considers two critical, distinctive strategic possibilities for the future of personalized experiential media. The first—promoting the continuation and expansion of interconnectivity and extension of the “anything, anytime, anyplace, anyhow” trend—we have been experiencing over the past decade. The second strategy amplifies the complexity and hazards of convergence, when too much simply leads to a collision of technologies, cost inefficiencies, user ineffectiveness, and more.
The presentation looks at the whole field of potential future experiential media with the human at the center. It discusses the role of emotive feedback, affective systems, and invisible, intuitive interfaces and their impact on new distribution methods, new revenue strategies, and changing modes of audience engagement. It also demonstrates ways in which emphasis on the human will give more power to the user in creating more personalized multisensory delivery mechanisms, as well as developments in fully immersive, self‐generating, and responsive environments, metaverses, telepresence, and augmentation through AR, AI, and sensor networks.
Finally, we shall see how future experiential media will influence consumer behavior and societal change over the next decade.
Emerging Lifestyles and Human 2.0: How redefined identities, archetypes, and the augmented self are creating a “Remix Society”
It is said that unlike earlier generations, the average American currently has at least four identities. When this idea is coupled with the impact of the growing trend in nomadic lifestyles, gaming, social networks, interactive storytelling, newly emerging narrative formats, audience acceptance of nonlinear approaches, as well as new media delivery systems and technologies such as augmented projection and virtual humans, it’s clear that the opportunities for self-expression are growing in so many different ways. Woodgate begins the presentation by revisiting Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs at the time of its 50‐year anniversary and then analyzes his restructured version of the needs heirarchy.
He also discusses the importance of the enduring desire for self‐extension beyond self-fulfillment, and the way in which emerging technologies—such as character‐building agents; synthetic characters with built‐in emotions, gestures, and morality systems; AI‐human interaction; directable robots; and performance enhancement—are helping humans gain a completely different perspective of themselves.
The advent of dynamic spatial interfaces coupled with the ability to envision and generate DGI worlds in which people can interact in revolutionary simulated and stimulated ways is enhancing knowledge of human potential and future roles.
Such developments are redefining both the philosophical and practical understanding of what to expect from humans in the 2020s, how they will interact with other humans, augmented humans, robots, and synthetic environments, leading to even greater changes in the meaning of identity and the development of new expressions of archetypes, which have already shifted way beyond Jung through life-simulation video games such as SIMS and interactive storytelling.
The presentation will show new opportunities for business, social development, and human advancement in what Woodgate calls the “Remix Society.”
Body>Data>Space! How Interactive storytelling is creating a new narrative for business, media, entertainment, and the retail experience
This presentation looks at the interface between the human/body and behavior, the environment, technologies, ambiance, and sensation in the emerging world of interactive storytelling in a multitude of formats. The presentation goes way beyond the use of narrative in entertainment to how it is impacting human development and expectations, development of new business models, retail space, and media formats.
It demonstrates learning from the transformative world of programmable movies, morphable studios, and simulated-reality technologies, which allow one physical space to represent a variety of
things. The presentation also looks at developing a more integrated approach to interactive storytelling technologies and how best to apply them in other fields. The presentation also addresses the methodologies to evaluate interactive storytelling systems as well as the media and consumer experience of interactive narrative.
Finding Comfort in Discomfort: How adaptive enterprises and the power of community-based collaborative networks will revolutionize the global economy
Unpredictable, discontinuous change (the Internet itself being the best example) is an unavoidable consequence of doing business in the Information Age. Discontinuous change generates a sense of discomfort and confusion over how best to approach development and investment for a company’s future. Due to the intense turbulence such change creates, the market demands fast—even instantaneous—response, so that many large companies are fragmenting themselves into smaller, quick‐response units.
Can large, complex firms adapt successfully and systematically to unexpected change?
They certainly can, and this presentation demonstrates a broad base of approaches that can help companies prepare for the medium- and long‐term future. Woodgate draws on the work of Stephan Haeckel in “Adaptive Enterprise,” and his own experience as a practicing futurist consulting to some of the top companies around the globe. For example, he has been heavily involved in developing and implementing radical and comprehensive rethinking of organizational strategy, structure, and leadership based on operating in a future‐projected landscape.
The ability to create fluid, highly adaptable strategies and solutions ensures that companies are able to follow a future‐focused strategic direction, based on a preferred future arrived at through the futures process, at very low risk. Introducting adaptive enterprises and flexible support systems and enterprise architecture, including adaptive workforce structures, has transformed thinking about the way the market operates, projected consumer needs, new product introductions, the introduction to new/more effective technologies, and leadership structures.
When global collaborative networks are added into the mix—including consumer-generated product development, rapid prototyping, and peer reviews—it’s clear that adaptive enterprises are able to optimize the use of their resources, focusing on only those it needs and paying only for what it uses, yet ensuring that the supply is adequate to meet demand.
Such changes in operational structures and practices are particularly pertinent to the growing global economy and globalization in general. The presentation provides examples of successful reorganization and restructuring for future scenarios based on discontinuous change.
From Dystopia to Plutopia: Using revolutionary thinking systems to create alternative worldviews
Woodgate was brought up on physicist and philosopher David Bohm’s “Thought as a System,” in which he states: “What I mean by ‘thought’ is the whole thing—thought, felt, the body, the whole society sharing thoughts—it’s all one process. It is essential for me not to break that up, because it’s all one process; somebody else’s thoughts become my thoughts, and vice versa.”
This was followed by a strong dose of hierarchical and systems thinking as Woodgate developed as a successful corporate strategist. When in 1996, he founded The Futures Lab, Inc., he soon realized that he needed to develop new thinking techniques and a differentiated system to create the future, given that it meant working with discontinuous change and creating “connects” from a multitude of disparate disconnects.
At the time, he had been highly involved in postmodernist philosophy, in particular the works of Gilles Deleuze, Guattari, Derrida, and the post-structuralist approach of Slavoj Žižek, as well the digital cultural work of Arthur Kroker and the cyberpunk narrative of Gibson and Sterling.
Four particular quotes drove him to devise a fresh thinking system, specifically relevant and purposeful for creating the future, namely:
- Nietzsche: “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”
- Heinlein: “One man’s “magic” is another man’s engineering.”
- Oldenburg: “I am for the art of conversation between the sidewalk and a blind man’s metal stick.”
- Ono: “You need a glass key to open the sky.”
Consequently, he decided to create a thinking system that applied elements of Deleuze and Guatari’s rhizomatic thinking in “A Thousand Plateaus” and remix it with elements of network and nomadic thinking techniques in order to generate the unexpected, even the unthinkable. Such an approach is designed to leverage projected future dystopias and disruptors, in order to create positive future worldviews, which Woodgate terms plutopias. Recent developments in the cognitive sciences, imaginal visioning, and emotionally intelligent, optical, and quantum computing are adding additional layers to the process.
The presentation describes the tenets of this new thinking approach and its successful application in creating revolutionary ideation in terms of business models, product innovation, market approaches, and design.
The Experience City: The Future of Living Spaces—How to redesign our world to optimize the human–living space interface
Since 2000, Woodgate has been heavily involved on numerous committees for the sustainable development of Austin, Texas, and the Central Texas technology convergence corridor. In 2009, he was asked to create a blueprint for the future development of Covent Garden in London and more recently, he has worked on creating a future eco-city in China and on plans for an eco-city and sustainable living project outside of Atlanta.
A critical aspect to these and other projects he has worked on in recent years—alternative energy systems for Mexico, revolutionizing farming for agricultural machinery suppliers, the development of sustainable products for the automotive industry, and the industrial coatings industry—has been the need to understand the city or space as a living organism, or sometimes even a data network.
This presentation looks at how to design and build sustainable future living spaces that take into account the physical, emotional, cultural, and generational environment, and even aspects such as health (tackling obesity, exercise, zoning, brain), stress reduction (improved aesthetics, culture, greening), resilient communities, and societal contribution.
The presentation considers how to leverage real‐time data to utilize emerging behaviors in space; the power of responsive, kinetic architecture for anything from CO2 detection to heating; interactive playgrounds; the success of zero-waste and improved-resource utilization systems; the use of open-source streets and annotated environments; and the power of nano, whether it be in coatings or architecture, as well as the way in which buildings will communicate information about local conditions to a network of other buildings as architecture comes to life. It even touches on the ability of the city to act as a living laboratory and to offer amazing experiences and to provide value and revenue.