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Out-of-the-box Retrospectives using Future, Backwards

Update: This session has just been accepted for the Global Scrum Gathering in Atlanta, USA.

Have you ever had the feeling in a retrospective that the thinking in the room is unduly constrained or suffering from tunnel vision? Perhaps we are suffering from shared misconceptions about cause and effect, a sense of ‘learned helplessness’ that prevents people from challenging perceived constraints or simply not considering the bigger picture around the situation. This session gives participants hands-on experience with a proven technique called ‘Future, Backwards’ that helps us to get ‘out of the box’ with our thinking, avoid causation fallacies and identify powerful interventions we may not have otherwise discovered. It can also help us see what entrained patterns of past perception in an organisation are determining its future.

Learning outcomes

  • Participants will:
  • a) be more aware as to where their recent retrospectives have been unduly constrained;
  • b) have a new technique for running effective retrospectives that they can immediately apply back at work.


  1. Introduction and connection: Brief outline of some traps/anti-patterns commonly experienced with Retrospectives. Participants stand beside a description of the anti-pattern they relate to most closely (10m)
  2. Exercise Prep: Outline the setup for Future, Backwards (5m)
  3. Exercise with facilitation: Conduct the Future, Backwards exercise using a scenario familiar to all participants e.g. the development of the Agile community (30m)
  4. Rotate and share: One group member stays with the model and explains it to others who rotate around the room (10m)
  5. Debrief and discussion: Reflection on the experience (5m)


Please note, the Future, Backwards technique should not be confused with the “Remember the Future” Innovation game (Hohmann). Future, Backwards has been developed by Cognitive Edge (

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  • Stuart

    Slide can be found at

    May 14, 2012

  • A former member
    A former member

    Excellent meetup. I liked the way the concept was presented and was fun to work in groups. I have learned a lot. I would like to see similar meetups in the future covering other Scrum techniques/concepts.

    April 26, 2012

  • Rikard J.

    It was good, but the the concept bit narrow. I rather learn about several different theories, then to spend to much time on practice. I got the idea quite early on.

    April 24, 2012

  • Rowan B.

    Not exactly using the Cynefin framework explicitly but it is using one of the open source methods from Cognitive Edge (

    April 18, 2012

  • Jeremie

    Cynefin Retrospective!?

    April 18, 2012

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