How to bring more creativity in scenario thinking?

"Drawing" M.C. Escher Collection National Archive, the Netherlands

“Drawing” M.C. Escher
Collection National Archive, the Netherlands

One of the main criteria for scenarios about the future is that they are challenging. They also need to be relevant and plausible, but they should also trigger people’s thinking. That means, scenarios need to contain creative elements, creative storylines that initiate the conversation about what the future may look like. If this is what we are looking for, then the process of building the scenarios also needs to be focused on enhancing creativity.

Divergence and convergence

Like any other creative process, scenario building has a divergent phase and a convergent phase. First, all sorts of trends, drivers of change, disruptive elements and emerging transitions are introduced. One of the challenges here is to think about the impact of trends and consequences for the future. By means of brainstorming techniques these are being laid out on the table and discussed by the team members. Later in the convergent phase, the main drivers or the axes that form the basis of the scenarios are selected. The scenarios can be further elaborated around the main concepts that are selected from the trend analysis. In order to get scenarios that are creative and challenging, the first divergent step should contain sufficient creative elements that can come back in the storylines of the scenarios.

Engaging in associative thinking

For creativity to pop up, the scenario teams needs to be stimulated to engage in associative thinking. Introducing team members who are trained in using their brains in this way, certainly helps to bring the group in a creative mode of thinking. Introducing inspirational materials is another way. Analogies that come from a different domain could inspire the group’s thought processes. Also, images of challenging innovations helps to make people see what might be possible in the future. One step further would be when introducing creative examples from science fiction, or self created newsletters of the future. All of these are techniques to stimulate creative thinking.

Into the crazy zone

However, for the most creative ideas to emerge, there is one additional prerequisite. You have to go into the crazy zone. Let the silly, the stupid and ridiculous ideas come in. While it looks like only having fun, there is more to it. Letting the crazy stuff in is really essential to give rise to ideas that people normally don’t tap into. If these ideas are not introduced in the divergent phase, then they will certainly not be in the convergent phase of scenario building. The playful distraction of thinking wildly, making stupid associations is what brings the mind in the area of the unknown and unexpected. And that is exactly what creativity and the future hold in common.

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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