The trouble with the future is that you don't know what it is going to be until it arrives. By then it can be too late to plan for it.
Scenario planning is not about predicting the future. It is about exploring the future. If you are aware of what could happen, you are better able to prepare for what will happen.
Scenario planning exercises involve identifying trends and exploring the implications of projecting them forward – probably as high, medium and low forecasts. These can include political, economic, social and technological. As different trends are chosen and different combinations of forecast levels are combined, a whole spectrum of possibilities can be identified.
Well known examples include the end of the Berlin Wall, OPEC oil price rises, bombs and terrorist attacks. Asking the great “What if?” Identifying risk.
Carrying out regular scenario planning exercises does not necessarily mean that you will be prepared for an eventuality, but it does mean that you are more likely to be aware of the possibility and, thus, able to act very rapidly if a situation develops.
It is human nature to resist change. The human mind does not easily recognise information it does not understand, or expect. Information is filtered before it is processed. So, in addition to encouraging a pre-run of options, these scenario planning exercises will also sensitise players to critical information that they might otherwise not have noticed.
A scenario planning exercise can involve major data collection and analysis, together with sophisticated computer modelling. That's for specialist teams.
However, they can be as long or short as appropriate; we have run exercises lasting two hours, three days all the way through to a major exercise involving a series of specialist workshops over a period of six months. As a management tool, scenario planning exercises involve letting go of preconceived ideas and expectations, being imaginative – group 'dreaming'. Lots of flip charts, sticky notes, marketing information – and an expert facilitator to manage the process!
There are many 'soft' tools, including brain storming, PEST analysis, study of past technological changes, analysis of historical discontinuities and moments of change, systems analysis and searching for the "unintended consequence".
Brefi Group has developed a simple, quick and powerful model based on The Mind of a Fox.
Brefi Group organises and facilitates group meetings, away days, workshops and conferences internationally. We have worked in North America, Europe, Africa, Middle East and Asia, often in exciting locations.
Our customer-designed packages include: -
We ensure that each event is structured to achieve a previously agreed outcome, but is flexible and responsive enough to deal with whatever arises, whether it be a business issue or inter-personal. We produce lots of flip chart sheets!
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We like to evaluate and collect feedback. Here are some answers we have received after a scenario planning workshop.