Five key advantages of scenario planning

Image: Thinkstock

Image: Thinkstock

Scenario planning is one of the most widely used tools of futurists in consulting organisations. In collaborative efforts with a stakeholder group, from within or outside of the organisation, multiple scenarios of different futures are generated. The main uncertainties of where the future might lead us, are often the main pillars for these scenarios. Trends, weak signals and sometimes wildcards are used to elaborate the scenarios into relevant and challenging stories.

Typically, the main reason for doing scenario planning is to contribute to strategic decision making. Scenarios help to think about the consequences of an organisation strategy and they help to see the pitfalls beforehand. However, the advantages of scenario planning are manifold. Here we present five of the key advantages of scenario planning.

  1. Scenarios help people to move away from day to day business

Most of the day we are fully absorbed with things that need urgent actions, in addition to other day to day matters. Scenario sessions ask people to think about these potential futures and discuss what may happen in that world. This requires a completely different mindset compared to what they do on a regular day. It helps to see the bigger picture of where their organisation could be in the future. This be very inspirational, and helps to see the day to day urgent business from a wider scope.

  1. Understanding different cultural worldviews and respect others

Scenarios often display the extremes in possibilities. Therefore, they also represent completely different cultural worldviews and believe systems that people may hold. Discussing the implications of scenarios enables people to talk about how they see the future. This reveals the differences in a group in a non threatening way, because the subject is hypothetical futures. This allows for an open discussion about believe systems, which generally does not happen in discussing the business case of an organisation.

  1. Discussing futures that people consider impossible in a hundred years

A frequent reaction to scenarios is, “no way, this would never happen!”. However, these extreme responses are often very valuable. It reveals resistance and blind spots in your thinking. Because scenarios are hypothetical, people can discuss the consequences while still believing that it won’t ever happen. However, this discussion not only prepares their strategic thinking about this future, it also helps to analyse people’s resistance to a particular scenario and open their eyes for blind spots.

  1. Challenged to use your imagination

Scenarios talk about futures that don’t exist, yet. What may happen there? How do we live, work, recreate, commute, et cetera? Just think about it. Some people will jump to their pencils and start drawing and writing. Others have never used any of that type of skills after their childhood. Scenario planning revitalises people’s imagination, which is still there deep down in everyone. Imagination of what the future may hold enables the organisation to discuss and anticipate more of these possibilities.

  1. Considering a wider range of possibilities and taking these into account in organisational decision making

Indeed, the exercise of talking about the implication of multiple plausible, but extreme futures helps to create a broad view of what may happen in the future. Weak signals of potential radical turns in current affairs have been laid out on the table. Scenario planning enables an organisation to discuss the early warnings of a wide range of black swan events. Things that might not have been on the table in regular board room meetings.

 

About Freija Van Duijne

Twitter: @FreijavanDuijne Futuring is my passion. I am fascinated about what the future might bring. Always looking around for leads about the future and open for new insights. I am futurist, trendwatchter and strategist at the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, a thinktank in the Netherlands. My background is in Human factors psychology. I did my Masters at Leiden University and I did a PhD in Delft University at the faculty of Industrial design engineering. I have been involved in foresight studies since 2006. I am frequently asked as an expert for future studies in area of food, natural resources, health and governance. I am also a speaker and workshop facilitator on futures studies, trend presentations and the many topics that I blog about. My contributions to Futuristablog represent my own personal opinion and is never a statement of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
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