The Pancake Society

Yesterday I went to a meeting of the Pancake Society called by Josephine Green, who for many years was a head of the future research practice in Philips Design. Of course, ‘pancake’ here refers not to a “a thin, flat cake prepared from a batter and cooked on a hot griddle”, but rather to an emerging framework of the future societal organization. The framework has been developed and propagated by Josephine over the years, and her Pyramids to Pancakes story inspired and mobilized numerous followers, both inside Philips and in other companies and organizations.

As a matter of fact, it’s not quite easy to explain what the ‘pancakes future’ means. There is still no website or a portal of some sort where one can be referred to to learn about this framework. There are a few texts available (most notably, a short paper called Democratizing the Future [pdf]. But still, most of the knowledge exists in a form of her presentations and talks; she is a (hyper)active speaker and presenter, and as a quick google search shows, is seemingly everywhere, and often in a few different places at the same time. Her passionate and performative speeches ignite a growing number of the disciples, who are eager to seek and enable changes.

This meeting was a gathering of such enthusiastic followers, from various (more or less pancakish) companies and organizations who came to share their thoughts, ideas, experiences – but also feelings – about the changes in the world around, and in ourselves. But they came to not only share thoughts and opinions: the subtitle of meeting was “from inspiration to action’, and one of the goals was to start a new Thing-Do-Tank, to further promote and develop (to ‘cook’) new pancakes.

It was a very intensive intellectual debate, but also a warm and almost homey gathering. I enjoyed it very much and felt privileged to be with these people. But one of the consequences of this very special involving atmosphere was that I didn’t want to get my camera out and take ‘proper’ pictures. I feel that it would disconnect me from the flow, and managed to only snap a couple of shots with my iPhone. No usual image flow this time.

The hostess of the meeting, Josephine, has of course a very special meaning to me. In some sense, it was her who dragged me into a whole ‘future’ business, by inviting to join her newly shaped team at Philips Design more than ten years ago. We run many, many interesting projects during these last ten years when we worked together. She has been also incredibly supportive to my last adventures, into blending experience design, gaming, and co-creation with future studies, and as such can be called a blessing goddess of Summ()n. This doesn’t mean that she always ‘buys’ what I am trying to ‘sell’ (and vice versa), and our conversation often evolve into fierce arguings and heated debates; but this only makes them ever more inspiring and memorable. Lots of memories, indeed, and lots of learnings, too.

And a lot of stories had been told again this time again, about Frogs, and Princesses, about Paradigms and Transformations (and about Pancakes too, of course). But it wasn’t all about nostalgic reminiscences, it’s was about the futures too (more about the futures, in fact!) Perhaps, it is not a coincidence that we leave Philips Design at the same time, and I feel that’s only a beginning of something new, and foresee many interesting stories, and interesting projects ahead.

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