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A formal approach for designing creative futures based on C‐K theory

Patrick Corsi (Based at IKBM Sprl, Arts et Métiers ParisTech, Laval, France)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 25 January 2013




Despite an increasingly explicit professional nature, the futures studies field has suffered an increasing constraining to a collection of specific techniques. The purpose of this paper is to harness the foundational shortcomings of current futures studies methods, namely the lack of a well‐defined underpinning theory and of rigorous, rational, systematic, repeatable, traceable, documentable, and transferable method. It proposes a rigorous theory for futures studies whereby futures can be logically designed.


This paper envisages the futures design activity as an extension and a generalization of decision theories and problem solving. The process is made comprehensible and interpretable thanks to a co‐generation referencing between two spaces named Concepts and Knowledge. It works by undertaking a formal mathematical approach on undecidable root concepts, bearing no logical status, by logically expanding them until a validable proposition in the knowledge space is reached. The paper is based on the concept‐knowledge theory (C‐K theory) from Ecole des Mines ParisTech, explains why it is needed, illustrates it and uses it on two illustrative futures studies examples.


The proposed research opens a new method for designing futures based on the C‐K theory that has the intrinsic capacity of constructing radical innovations for futures scenarios. While setting clear departure from, for example, brainstorming techniques or Delphi‐based methods, it offers a systematic method for designing futures that rests upon solid theoretical foundation that explains the nonsense or contradictions in producing futures.

Research limitations/implications

While the C‐K theory is fully supported by a scientific basis founded on mathematics and is in widening use in domain‐specific industrial sectors at large, it is still being expanded both theoretically and epistemologically. The theory is not aimed at choosing or formulating suitable or appropriate root concepts, this being the role of domain professionals. Its implementation, however coherent, is only as extensive and covering the problematic at hand as the implementers are congruous to the application domain.

Practical implications

The proposed research can help futurists to develop new breakthrough plans, solutions and alternatives with essential and novel benefits: to help control the rationale of a futures scenario development, to control the degree of innovation (e.g. change, reform, progress, create …) to reach, and to bring to decision makers and policy‐makers the traced explanation of different design paths.

Social implications

The benefits of the C‐K approach are detailed and elements founding further theoretical research are provided, including possible developments of C‐K theory specifically helpful for futurists. The research offers a collective design method for revisiting futures sciences by defining, understanding and developing creative futures alternatives that can collectively mobilize stakeholders. Workshops with stakeholders remain necessary, with experienced coaches catalyzing its field implementation.


The paper pushes the edge of the discussion on philosophical, ontological and epistemological grounds and supplies a theoretical underpinning for futures studies at large. The research is inherited from the creative power of modern mathematics as developed and proven by the C‐K theory, a powerful approach for discussing design phenomena. The author argues that it constitutes a suitable and useful asset for futures scientists insofar as to imagine, understand, develop, manipulate, and assess creative futures alternatives. The paper introduces and discusses the notion of futuron, which can be seen as a “logical quantum particle of future”.



Corsi, P. (2013), "A formal approach for designing creative futures based on C‐K theory", On the Horizon, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 54-68.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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