Lala Deheinzelin

Lala Deheinzelin: “The future demands adaptation to new economies”

One of the most important Brazilian future-minded scholars, Lala Deheinzelin highlights the importance of creative, shared and collaborative economies designing and building a more sustainable future

Lala Deheinzelin is one of the major scholars about the future in Brazil - she is the only Brazilian associated with World Future Society, one of the oldest and most respected futurist communities in the world. Founder of the "Crie Futuros" Movement and the "Núcleo de Estudos do Futuro" at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP), she focuses her assessments on creative, sharing and collaborative economies.

The beginning of her future-related studies was in 1995, when she joined the WFS and, since then, has worked on projects such as advisor to governmental, non-governmental institutions, companies and even the United Nations (UN), focusing on issues related to sustainability and future projections. In 2014, invited by the Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing (ESPM-Sul), she created and coordinated the postgraduate studies course in Creative and Collaborative Economics. Lala organized and systematized her futurist technique in the 4D Fluxonomy approach, combining Future Studies and 4 New Economies (Creative, Sharing, Collaborative and Multivalue).

At Bluevision, Lala Deheinzelin explained how knowledge is produced in Futurism, highlighting determining factors for projecting the future, and presented her understanding of sustainability and new economies.

Read below:

Bluevision: Lala, can you first explain what is the role of a futurist? Why do you use this name for your work?

Lala Deheinzelin: I officially became a futurist in 1999, when WFS promoted a yearbook of people who research and think about futures: I wrote a report on my activities and was accepted. My work was settled with practice. I have done a lot of research and provided large services as an advisor. As of 2008, I started Crie Futuros, where we work with projections for a desirable future. In a world of exponential networks, it's no longer possible to work with a probable future, we must go further. I believe that the study of trends is interesting, but not enough to generate innovation. Trend is a portrait of the moment, which results from thoughts from the past. In the Crie Futuros Movement, I collected desirable futures from many countries, from various profiles and ages, and combined that vision with technical advice for governments, the UN and companies. 

Today, I work with futurism from a social and cultural point of view. There are more people working with the future from a technology standpoint. It is complex to imagine another society, other relationships, other ways of thinking and producing. The focus is on how to enhance collaboration, join powers, and think about the future with creative, sharing, collaborative and multivalue economics.

How does it work in your daily activities? What does a futurist do?

Early 2017, Jerome Blenn from the Millenium Project, a group of futurists in 35 countries, presented a study about the impact of artificial intelligence and what it can bring. They asked about two key issues: global warming and education as a way to change human awareness. He wrote: "the study on global warming was published in '71, and [the one] on education and awareness, in '73. So, what does a futurist do? As Peter Drucker [Austrian scholar on administrative science, deceased in 2005] stated: "I just see what's there, but it has not yet been noticed." We have our eyes trained to perceive what is already happening, in order to not to be influenced by past patterns, and to have macro vision. A futurist is a summarizer. There are many analysts, but there is a lack of people who see the macro patterns, who perceive the whole and can understand what is happening.

In short: we need to understand the features of an industry and compare them with what lies ahead, thinking about the macro needs of the world and imagining the opportunities ahead. For each sector, we analyze the opportunities and match the collective desires. We seek to understand what society wants and needs, and how we can accomplish it.

What kind of solutions can futurists present to society?

We identify opportunities: I see what no longer makes sense and I see what can generate opportunities ahead. 

I’ll tell you a story: in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, large cities were driven by horse - and where there are a lot of horses, there is a lot of horse poop. Large cities, like London, were seeking solutions for the amount of horse poop, and city planners came up with horse diapers. Meanwhile, the cars quickly replaced horses - and horse diapers no longer made sense. For me, that was emblematic. We can't create more horse diapers today. I see companies, organizations, and governments discussing their horse diapers - things that won't make any sense soon. My job is to bring the future into the present. 

And how can this be put into practice?

Our method works with the perception of the present. When you think about the future you have to look closely to the present. Often, there is a dissociation. You create an ideal image of the future, but there are problems today, such as logistics, talent management, innovation, creating a new relationship with consumers. For example, if you think about 2050, there will be no delivery of boxes because everything will be made locally with 3D printers and delivered by drones. But there is a big problem now about how to deliver boxes of goods. What do we do? We see the future components and apply them to the present. For example, you deliver your boxes collaboratively in a shared economy format. Instead of having a truck, you look for those who have excess space in their trucks and with whom you can associate to distribute your material. The issue is now. The futurist brings new ways of doing things. As a society, we also use old tools to solve new issues. 

Which factors are considered in this forecast? And which aspects does it project from society?

The guideline for our work is the idea that being sustainable means that I can sustain in my time: me, the planet, society, cities and my institution or my professional profile. And when you think you're taking care of the whole, then sustainability is a consequence of the perception that we are interdependent.

And how does this future materialize? The networked life is completely different from everything that happened before and it has exponential dynamics: everything connected to everything and in real time, out of time and space, because it is not local and not timeless. In order to learn how to deal with it, the only way is to combine information and communication technologies with collaboration technologies. 
The way is to act simultaneously in four dimensions: we take into account the cultural, environmental, social and financial dimensions, aiming to gain exponentially from the combination of technologies and collaboration. It's different from the vision of Silicon Valley futurists, who are just thinking about technologies as a solution for everything. We think of sustainability, local development, poverty reduction, increasing happiness, and we know that technology alone is not enough for all that. On the contrary, it can make us less happy and less sustainable, as it is. It's a wonder when associated with collaboration and human and social development, but it can be very dangerous when it's disassociated from these factors. 

You study new economies under a methodology that you have developed yourself, is that correct? Can you please briefly explain the 4D Fluxonomy approach?

4D Fluxonomy combines futurism and new economies. The goal is to synthesize information in this sea of data we are immersed in. We specialize in how, not in what, to do. Once we define "what", we work on "how" with Fluxonomy, that is,  with our collaboration tools, 4D resource mappings, systemic understanding of processes. We identify the non-monetary resources available, such as environmental, structure, equipment, cultural and social resources, internal knowledge, partners, and non-monetary financial resources such as time. Once recognized, they are placed in the flow. Fluxonomy is like a set of lenses that helps us perceive the system as a whole. The method works with institutions, within the macro sphere, and with managers, within the micro sphere. That is why our slogan is "new economies enabling desirable futures."

The method is called 4D because it works on four dimensions of sustainability, simultaneously. When we practice sustainability, we see that environmental, social and financial sustainability is only possible when there is a change in mentality, which is associated with adequate language, communication and necessary knowledge. 

From the point of view of sustainability, how do you see the solutions for the future?

We make a full service on sustainability. Environmental sustainability, with reduction of waste and energy, is a consequence of the processes of other areas. Experience has shown that people do not achieve environmental results if they do not work on other dimensions.

In five years, the scenario will be very different from what we see now, and so fast that companies and institutions are not realizing. When we see images of the past and future, there is a multitude of images of desired technologies, but very few show other portraits of society and relationships. It is the reason why we are in crisis - not crisis, but transition.

Do you see the economy moving to accommodate these problems? How do you imagine the international organization of production and consumption for the next decades?

It is clear that we have several economies and that the traditional mechanisms that consider wealth generation need to be revised. For example, traditional economy considers generating wealth through consumerism. But caring generates much more wealth than consumerism. Our ability to consume is limited, as is the planet's ability to generate resources for consumption. On the other hand, caring is infinite - there is always something to take care of. We need to change the metrics, which are only adequate to measure the needs in currency. Even for the creative economy, which is already consolidated, measuring intangible value is still very complex. Take an iPad, for example: If it costs USD 500, USD 23 covers the tangible part and all the rest is related to the intangible. Yet, the metrics to measure it are still insufficient. How do we compute the amount generated when sharing the structure by this view of using instead of owning? From the point of view of collaboration, then, it’s impossible. The collaborative economy grows by adding the actions of many that are small and diverse. We also don't have metrics for the value of time, reputation, collaboration, so many things included in the new economies.

We're crawling on the transition model. And we need to be clear that it is a transition from a political-economic model, not a crisis. This happens periodically in history. When the patterns of how wealth, information, and power are connected and distributed, adjustments come. It happened in the transition from monarchy to republic, from monopoly to industrial economy. The centralized monarchy network became multi-centric in the industrial era. Now we are experiencing a new transition from this way of organizing, which is hierarchical, to a way of distributed network. And, inevitably, it's just a matter of time before that takes us to a new political and economic pattern, with new ways of distributing value, multi-currency, direct exchanges and also changes in the political management model, which will be more distributed, perhaps a format of direct digital democracy or something.

How do you see Brazil's participation in this setting with a sustainable development agenda?

We fell behind. There was a moment, until 2009, in which we had extraordinary opportunities to lead a global change, precisely because the challenge for network is collaboration, and we are good at "doing it together" - just look at the power of Carnival, soccer and even church organizations. But now we are completely late, and moving backwards. From the point of view of society, there is a breakthrough in the design of new civil society initiatives, there is a proliferation of good practices and methodologies, but this is still very slow. And there is no Government support or vision for innovation. We produce cutting-edge experiences and knowledge but can't gain sustainable knowledge and experience, because we do not have a Government back-up. We have to operate in spite of it and not thanks to it.

In your opinion, what are the main concerns we must have to build a sustainable future?

The main concern should be people's lack of awareness of the power they have. We just had the World Cup: Imagine if, after watching a two-hour game, we dedicated ourselves to teaching something we know and that is important for the whole - after all, nobody doubts that education is the greatest element that catalyzes transformation. If 60% of the Brazilian population devoted two hours to teaching something, that means 27,600 years, adding up all the hours. That's more or less the period of human civilization. This converted time could produce 303,000 school years. Can you imagine its power? The main thing we need to know is that everything is already available, what does not exist is the choice to converge.

We lose, or invest, a lot of our time into time-consuming activities, such as football or social networking. If we were aware of the power of our time, if it were possible to converge our resources, it would be extraordinary. A very interesting example is the captchas, which are the letters we add in a field to prove that we are not robots. It takes only ten seconds to fill them in; but, if you add the seconds everyone uses to fill them out, it reaches 500,000 hours a day. The creator of the captchas then created the recaptchas, in which for every four letters we fill there's a piece of a word from a book that we are collectively typing. In four letters, which we fill in ten seconds collectively, with very little effort, we type 2 million books annually. Can you imagine this kind of thing in a scale?

The main issue now is the narrative to show society that we already have all it takes to solve problems, but we have to choose. The priority is to communicate that it is already possible and that there are resources already, as well as people and time, if we make the right choices.