Monday, 5 August 2013

"Scenarios can't predict the future, so what's the point?"

I agree with Oliver Freeman when he says "let's worry about the world we are operating in first before we worry how we respond to it". He also makes reference to giving very little emphasis to the past and that it is much more opportunistic to "go to the future and look back".

Oliver Freeman also applies the definition of scenario planning as "QUEST":

Q     = Questions - needed to identify issues and frame questions to move forward (identify key aspects in the external environment that will have an impact
U     = Unimagined worlds - designing a history of the future eg 2030 and work backwards (could identify imaginative events and date them). This identifies the robustness of the scenario
E     = Established -  influences that could change the world
S     = Scenario Sets - look at the world that has been created as a set and the scenarios that are generated are a set eg it covers a range of potentialities and would it be possible to live in that world?
T     = Transformation - strategists test to see if the scenario is plausible - an evaluation process.

In my view, Freeman seems to explain the complexity of scenario planning in simpler terms which I found easier to understand. It seems logical that we can't predict the future and that to have one single scenario plan relies on a very high degree of risk. Whereas to consider multiple scenarios instead, there are several possibilities of how the world could turn out and this then reduces the risk for the strategic planning.

It is important to consider scenarios as stepping stones to change which relates to strategy. Scenario planning needs to be seen as a process or a way of redefining a way to get to a strategy. There needs to be a process and engagement from a diverse range of people for scenarios to work effectively and generate appropriate outcomes.

Peter Schwartz states "scenarios deal with two worlds; the world of facts and the world of perceptions. They explore for facts but they aim at perceptions inside the heads of decision-makers. Their purpose is to gather and transform information of strategic significance into fresh perceptions". Of course scenarios can't predict the future, but what it can do is help consider alternative plausible futures.

  1. Have the capacity to assimilate very divergent inputs
    The beginning of the process can seem chaotic and disfunctional but it is the ability to synthesise and assimilate the scenarios 
  2. Have to suspend disbelief
    Scenario planning can only be achieved if the people involved are open and receptive to futuristic ideas. That doesn't mean you have to agree/disagree/like/dislike or that the idea just could not happen.
  3. Have a sense of experiential learning
    The scenario planning process is based on experiential learning - people working and interacting collaboratively and sharing knowledge at the same time. 
Scenario Planning Strategy Tube, published by BUSINESS21C, University of Technology Sydney.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Sandra,

    I love reading your posts - your thinking always seems to clear (even when you're writing about being off track or creatively blocked!)

    In terms of the first characteristic you identify, what really brought that idea home to me was when Oliver talks about there being hundreds of ideas on the table which are then bundled into groups. I wonder to what degree schools are teaching skills such as this in an authentic and 'deep' way? Thinking about education in developing countries, are they embedding teaching of these higher order skills or are they starting wih a content-based view? Just random early morning thoughts from my mind to your blog....totally off track!