Tamar Kasriel: Entrepreneur & World Leading Futurist

Tamar Kasriel is the Founder of Futureal, a London-based strategic agency which uses quantitative and qualitative research, logic and creativity to help clients build strategy for an uncertain future.

Listed by Wired Magazine as one of the world's most influential futurists, Tamar helps organisations across the world be future ready, from luxury businesses to beverage brands to religious orders thousands of years old.

She worked at The Guardian newspaper's Medialab (now Guardian Online) at a time when sensible people could still have described the internet as a series of tubes, and has spent the last fifteen years on the consultancy side, moving on from being a Director at The Henley Centre to set up Futureal in 2007. 

Tamar's book, Futurescaping: Using Business Insight to Plan Your Life, is aimed at allowing professionals to use professional insight and techniques to rationally manage their personal lives.

We spoke to Tamar about how she came to be a futurist; how using futurist techniques can help us all to plan our daily lives; and what is next for her business.

TNW: How did you come to be a futurist?

TK: I would like to say that I always knew I was going to be a futurist, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. In retrospect, endless curiosity and a keen desire to understand why things happen probably helped propel me in this direction. My first degree was in history, which, to some people’s surprise, is an excellent foundation for futurism as it teaches you to spot patterns and use data from a wide variety of sources to construct a sensible ‘story’ of change. 

TNW: How did you come up with the idea for Futureal? 

TK: Now more than ever business leaders are conscious that they are facing unprecedented change and disruption. For many, this can seem overwhelming, and planning for the future beyond the next financial year becomes something easier to avoid. There is no lack of amazing sources to discover new trends, fads and what is coming up on the horizon. However, what is missing is a thoughtful, robust way to look at this change and work out what it means for a particular business. 

Having worked at a number of different companies including the Guardian newspaper’s medialab followed by ten years at The Henley Centre, a former think tank owned by WPP, I knew I had the consulting skills and experience to help companies tackle their future and find ways to build strategy off the back of it.

I set up Futureal with the certainty that the key to addressing future change lies in the ability to logically yet creatively frame the drivers of change and their likely outcomes. Our clients are consumer-facing businesses, and it makes sense that we derive our understanding of the future from marrying an appreciation of the possibilities of external change – shifting industrial and technological frontiers, macro political, economic and social factors – with a keen sense for how much people are willing, able and likely to change in response.

TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?

TK: I think the way we approach questions is quite unique.  The answers to questions about the future won’t come just from one place – we can’t just rely on, say, primary research. If we use it at all, we need to combine it with what we can glean from academia, what’s going on within the industry, find parallels in other sectors, and create a workable model for putting it all together. We’re also finding that despite all the hype, social media is largely an untapped resource in terms of understanding shifts in consumer attitudes, and we find ourselves increasingly drawn to create our own innovative social media analytics. 

TNW: If you could distil your book, Futurescaping: Using Business Insight to Plan Your Life, into five key lessons, what would they be?

TK: 1. There’s no good reason not to use the same kind of smartness we all deploy at work to manage certain elements of our personal lives. 

2. Planning doesn’t ruin the romance of life. 

A sense of living in an era of unprecedented change is nothing new. We all have the capacity to deal a little better with uncertainty.

4. Trying to be as rational as possible in our personal lives does not mean we are trying to deny our emotions, just to be able to recognise them for what they are, and, hopefully, marshall them

5. It’s an innately human characteristic to try and look for reasons for why things happen, to find some causality between events. We won’t ever be able to come up for a perfect model for understanding how our lives operate, but we can at least make a start.

TNW: What is next for your company?

TK: We’re keen to build on the success of Futurescaping and help even more businesses find a way to understand and plan for the future which works for them. We have a product called Future Quotient where we go into a company and ‘audit’ their future readiness and show them how to improve that, which we will be bringing to a wider audience. It’s important because longer-term future planning is something which can, and should, become part of the company mentality, not just a one-off.

Sector-wise, we are going to be focusing on healthcare. A rapidly transforming health technology landscape and near ubiquitous connectivity is leading to fundamental changes in consumer behaviour when it comes to how, where and from whom a health consumer accesses healthcare. We feel there are a lot of critical questions we must answer: From how the consumer ‘journey’ from initial awareness to treatment will change, to who will be the new arbiters of advice. We want to get to an understanding of what the new expectations of personalisation be, what changes consumer-facing business will have to make when ‘niche’ conditions go mainstreams, and what the new norms of preventative care will be. We’re seeking organisations now to partner in the research, and planning to launch it early next year.

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