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Future Basing for Product Mapping

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

You've heard of manifestation, new years resolutions, and SMART Goals. Why add to the mix? Well, Future Basing is about creating the future you want, specifically in a business context. Read this blog to learn more about the difference it can make and how to apply it to your business.

Future Basing for Startups
Future Basing for Startups

Brief History of Future Basing

Future Basing was coined by Bill Phillips, a certified International NLP Coach, an accomplished and experienced Team Coach, and International Facilitator.

Initially, Future Basing was first learned by a commercial team in a military aircraft manufacturing and servicing organization. It was used as a part of a project team formation process to design the vision of projects. They found it useful to develop and focus team objectives, create new systems and procedures, and resolve conflicts by thinking beyond them.

Why Use Future Basing?

Let's cut to it - Future Basing is a powerful and creative way of building a compelling vision of your desired future and starting the journey toward it. This concept steps into the future and works backward.

Since most startups are based on a new solution or innovation entering the market, working backward can create a more efficient and focused product development process. With a clearly articulated endpoint in mind, teams won't get distracted or build the wrong things as they trek forward. It also allows them flexibility in their approach to reaching business goals. Whatsmore, it encourages them to focus on tasks that actually move the needle.

If you're a founder, you're likely a visionary type that inspires employees by demonstrating passion and perseverance. Working backward from the business concept can allow founders to think and dream more freely and make the unrealized more concrete.

Steps To Apply Future Basing

Step 1 - Stimulate imagination by reviewing the future

Stimulate your imagination. Think about where you want your business to be in the future. If you're having trouble picturing this, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are my goals for my business?

  • Where do I see my offering(s) being used?

  • Why are these my goals?

The outcome of this step is to create a descriptive vision of your business's future. Once you have this in place, describe your future vision as if it is currently real and attach a date and time to this (no matter how far ahead your goals lie).

Step 2 - Create a frame for success

Think about what you are successful at. Think about what each staff member is successful at. Next, generate a series of short headings of important success areas. Below, add one to two short, descriptive sentences explaining how this relates to your team in its operating environment.

The outcome of this step is to outline streams of achievement and success areas. People naturally chose to work on tasks that they feel are important and likely to bring them success. By making sure your staff is working on business value-adding areas that align with their values, skillsets, and passions you are simultaneously building morale, productivity, and company value buy-in (which can also help reduce turnover).

Step 3 - Develop the vision

Under each success heading, list specific achievements. These are the accomplishments that you will have attained in this imagined future. Phrase these accomplishments in the present tense, using positive and personalized terms. You can make this a team-building exercise by encouraging staff to write their own desired achievements with 'win' descriptions under the success headings.

Examples of this include "We're proud that ..." and "It's satisfying to have completed ... ". By outlining your future achievements, tasks that feel good and are directly linked to critical business success areas are being created. Writing the achievements in the present tense under the future successes is the application of the saying, "the future depends on what you do in the present" (Mahatma Gandhi).

Below is a visual example of the steps up until this point:

Achievement Visualization
Achievement Visualization

Step 4 - Analyze your feelings

Contrary to popular belief, emotions play a large role in business and the success of a business. Emotions affect teamwork, customer satisfaction, manager-employee relationships, and employee retention. Plus, the brain's emotional state affects decision-making, planning and negotiating, and creative thinking (page 184, Do Emotions Help or Hurt Decision Making? A Hedgefoxian Perspective).

At this step in the exercise, your achievements have been realized in this ideal future. Ask yourself, how am I feeling about all of these accomplishments? Examples of common feelings are amazed, excited, relaxed, and energized.

Step 5 - Map out how you got to this ideal future

Now that you know where you want to reach and the associated achievements, kick back into your logical brain. For each achievement to be reached, there must be at least one critical action or event that lead to it. These can be mapped out into a progress chart to create a critical path plan.

Below is an example of a critical path plan:

Startup Plan Mapping
Startup Plan Mapping

Step 6 - Generate buy-in

The final step is to generate buy-in. One way to achieve buy-in is to complete this exercise with as many stakeholders as possible in the room when the vision is being generated. Once there is a central vision and planning to get there, task allocation, employee onboarding, and decision-making become simpler.


Working backward from winning is a great way to set growth expectations, create a cadence of accountability and check-ins, and celebrate small wins. Future Basing presents a logical sequence of short terms goals and how they contribute to long-term successes.

It allows founders to be fluid while increasing their ability to make tough calls such as changes to hypotheses and teams. For example, if short terms goals aren't met, perhaps you need to change the team. Or, if short-term goals are met but you're missing long-term growth expectations, perhaps you need to change your hypothesis.

One of the hardest parts of being a founder in a startup is the balance of suspending self-doubt with razor-sharp self-awareness. I hope this exercise proves to be beneficial for you in this endeavor.


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Larry Cooper
Larry Cooper
Jan 31, 2023

This captures some of how I approach strategic discovery (replaces strategic planning) though I know it as back-casting which has its roots in The Theory of Change first developed in the NGO and international development space. Future basing adds a couple of new elements to that conversation. Would love to have a chat about it!


Larry Cooper
Larry Cooper
Jan 31, 2023
Replying to

My context definition is "Backcasting is a planning method that starts with defining a desirable future and then works backwards to identify policies and programs that will connect that specified future to the present." (John B. Robinson, University of Waterloo,1990) - so I start on the right and work backwards to sort out the first thing we need to do get started. Strategic planning starts on the left and tries to forecast the future.



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