Friederike Riemer: We must dare to make ourselves vulnerable.
As we settle into the year 2020, we find ourselves contemplating what the next decade has in store for us. Wouldn’t it be superb if there were an on/off button or a switch to help us analyze what the future will look like, feel like, smell like? Amidst so much uncertainty, it can be unsettling to anticipate. Luckily, we have future scientists like Friederike Riemer, or Frida, who work towards helping people grasp their ability to imagine and shape desirable futures, and transform those visions into realities.
Frida’s job as a future scientist is to “make people future literate.” In 2017, she, along with a fellow Sonophilian, Harald Neidhardt, founded the futur/io Institute, a network which aims to foster European innovation and bold thinking through technology markets and pioneering strategies. As a member of the faculty, she designed the workshops and helped curate the program. In guiding people and businesses to learn outside their comfort zones, she uses a research methodology in design thinking to work creatively and collaboratively in interdisciplinary teams. Frida focuses not just on technology, but on humans themselves.
One of future/io’s most fundamental strategies is called Moonshots for Europe. The goal of a Moonshot involves shaping desirable futures with seemingly impossible ideas, powerful enough to drive a mission forward. Following a framework that combines breakthrough technology of our time, a defined financial, environmental, and social impact, as well as a massive transformative purpose, a Moonshot Idea must affect a diverse group of people, not just a typical consumer-based one.
“This framework is really great because it makes people very present and aware in the moment,” Frida told Sonophilia. “They have to brainstorm together, build prototypes together, collaborate in a group. There’s no boss really. They’re all on the same level… solving problems together… Another thing I really like is working with narratives and storytelling; in my view, stories are the most powerful tool when we try to imagine better futures, so I really like to do role plays. I like to [help] people find and tell their stories about the future. [They] can be funny, can be creative, can be a bit daunting, but definitely not boring.”
Frida thrives on speaking in front of an audience and feels “safest on stage” when she can lead a group and act as a facilitator. “I love feeling the energy of a crowd, of an audience,” she notes. “For me, it’s much more challenging to work very tightly in a group. (I leave) my comfort zone when I stay in a project with people closely for a longer time and deal with the group dynamics… I try to tackle that when working with different colleagues and trying to synchronize.”
This is, perhaps, where the value of being part of the Sonophilia family lies with Frida. She was first introduced to Sonophilia in 2015 during her time as a research fellow for the Robert-Jungk Library in Salzburg. Sonophilia is curated in a way that encourages minds to work in a myriad of ways, but also allows people to connect and hash out projects on the spot in a very natural way. Frida considers this “very personal human connection” to be the only way she can trust people in collaborative settings.
“It’s about being there as a human,” she says, “having a holistic approach, not only thinking about a great project which can make a lot of revenue or… business success, but it’s a way to really elevate people’s purpose, people’s wishes, people’s dreams and meet people who are on the same level with you. You directly connect and click and start working in that moment. Collaboration or futuristic thinking for me starts at this very human place… Sonophilia was where it all started.”
Frida works with and for people who “understand technologies as a way to help people unfold their true potential and be truly human.” This quote is taken directly from her personal blog, Frida Futura. She has a creative eye for the future and recognizes the role technology can play as we continue to evolve in the digital age.
“We (must) allow ourselves to be playful and to show our whole range of personality,” she concludes, “to be daring to tell a vision or a dream… and make ourselves vulnerable by doing that. For me, a creative leader is someone who is able to create this [safe and sparking] atmosphere among people, [so] they can really be visionary in this group… be very creative, be very bold, to have ideas which seem impossible… Technology, of course, can help us to make these bold visions true, but in the first place, it’s about people meeting face to face and dreaming together [about] what’s possible.”
At this point, it seems highly relevant to go back to the concept of a Moonshot Idea; such an outcome may not come to fruition for many years. Does that mean we should give up working towards a better future?