The Futures Lab, Inc. – The History
The Futures Lab was founded in December 1996, in Antwerp, Belgium, by Derek Woodgate, who had spent the past 7 years as Senior VP of Marketing and Strategy at US Apparel Giants, VF Europe. The first client, MTV Europe was contracted in January 1997. Others soon followed through collaboration with Brand Futures, London, which had been established a year earlier by Grey Advertising in London, U.K., to create long-term strategies and follow future trends for their media clients. This was at a time when Faith Popcorn, Watts Wacker and books like Next and Competing in the Age of Digital Convergence were dominating the visioneering landscape.
Derek’s interest in Studies of the Future had been piqued a couple of years earlier, when working on a long-term strategy for Lee jeans. He had realized that the company did not have a process for developing longer-term strategies in an age of discontinuous change, one in which the western world was beginning to witness the early workings of the internet, considerable advances in manufacturing technologies and approaches, the power of hi-tech information and distribution systems and the potential of globalization. As he recalls in his recent book Future Flow, Woodgate had been inspired to seek out new paradigms in approaches to future-focused market, product and brand development, by a book titled The World of 2004 – Technological Development and the Future of Society. He then realized the immense possibilities for revolutionary change that could be delivered through unexpected innovation techniques. Books like the futurists’ staple: Art of the Long View and Richard Slaughter’s New Thinking for a New Millennium with its amazing bibliography provided the necessary systematic approach and business processes, coupled with his own obsession with the thinking of post-modernists.
It was while working on the Lee project (which Lee awarded to the newly formed Brand Futures (Grey was Lee’s agency at the time) and the excellent collaboration with their team, led by Simon Ratcliffe and Clive Cooper that helped cement Woodgate’s decision to create an independent futures consultancy.
Within just a few of years, The Futures Lab, Inc. was able to boast a client list that included MTV, P&G, Nissan, WorldSpace, Shell, Casio, Hugo Boss, Pringle-Ballantyne, Etienne Aigner and M&S. Many of these projects were undertaken together with Brand Futures and their subsequent owner, Corporate Edge. At that time, The Futures Lab, Inc. operated both from the Antwerp and London offices.
In 2000, seeing that business was growing in North America and most of the clients and projects were global in nature, Woodgate moved the head office of The Futures Lab, Inc to Austin, Texas and agreed a long-term sister company relationship with Simon and Clive to lead the European business. This relationship is still in operation today, under the name of Your Future (London), having been bought from Corporate Edge.
Upon moving to the USA, The Futures Lab, Inc. grew from strength to strength, expanding its operations with a number of staff from the University of Houston Studies of the Future Program with considerable help from its leading professor, Peter Bishop. The company continues to engage staff from that program.
The business expanded into new categories such as automotive with projects for Nissan, Fiat Group, Land Rover and Ford; entertainment and media including projects for agency GSD&M, Showtime, Philips, Clear Channel, Nokia, Blastro, etc. and numerous consumer products through clients such as Nestlé, Pennzoil, Henkel – Dial, Cadbury-Schweppes, Coca Cola and many more, as well as into energy and city and state institutions.
Over the past decade, the company expanded globally adding offices in Australia, Brazil, Chile, Mexico City and partnerships in Japan and China, as well as expanding its collaborative relationships with the leading universities such as MIT, Berkeley, University of Texas, Carnegie-Mellon and a extensive range of experts from disciplines as specific as bio and nanotechnology to social network development.
In early 2005, together with his long-time The Futures Lab colleague Wayne Pethrick, Woodgate authored the book Future Frequencies, which described in detail the company’s process and approach to innovation and future studies. The book was hailed as “creating a unique paradigm in the professional futurist field”.
Still growing from strength to strength, with more and more projects requiring multi-office participation and a growing list of consumer research and innovation partners, The Futures Lab, Inc. has become a global leader in what it terms “the future potential” field, helping companies and institutions to create their future based upon “discontinuous change” in order to develop concepts that seem at first to be completely unthinkable.
In recent years, the company has undertaken an increasing number of projects in the entertainment and media field and as such decided to invest and help establish an entertainment and event company, Plutopia Productions that can transform many of the future concepts into reality, and to demonstrate many of the emerging and projected advances in fields such as performance, human transformation, sustainability, education, the life sciences, etc. Plutopia is about “making the future happen”.
The Futures Lab, Inc is about using the science of futures studies and a high level of creativity and business acumen to create the future that drive it clients to market leadership. In the 14 years since its inception, it has proven it can do so very successfully, time and time again.