Art of Long View: Future, Uncertainty and Scenario Planning

Art of Long View: Future, Uncertainty and Scenario Planning

 

Key Concepts:

  • Fundamental Uncertainty
  • Knightian Uncertainty
  • Long term Thinking
  • Possibility Space
  • Probabilistic Space
  • Plausibility
  • Anticipation
  • Strategic Conversations
  • Strategic Narratives
  • Strategic Scenarios
  • Normative Scenarios
  • Causal Layered Analysis
  • Strategic Learning
  • Integral Futures
  • Multiple Futures
  • Multiple Horizons

 

Key People:

  • Peter Schwartz
  • Stewart Brand
  • Jay Ogilvy
  • Kees Van Der Heijden
  • Michel Godet
  • Pierre Wack
  • Herman Kahn
  • P J H Schoemaker
  • Arie De Gues
  • Napier Collyns
  • Eric Best
  • Art Kleiner
  • Thomas J Chermack
  • Gill Ringland
  • Angela Wilkinson
  • Adam Kahane
  • Ged Davis
  • Russell Ackoff
  • Jay Forrester
  • Peter Senge
  • Andy Hines
  • Peter Bishop
  • R Slaughter
  • Sohail Inayatullah
  • Rafael Ramirez
  • Roberto Poli
  • Riel Miller
  • George Wright
  • Eamonn Kelly
  • Katherine Fulton

 

From How plausibility-based scenario practices are grappling with complexity to appreciate and address 21st century challenges

The tighter interconnections of natural, social and economic systems lead to increased uncertainty and greater complexity. The growing list of today’s significant concerns, whether focused on fixing the financial crisis or progressing socio-ecological sustainability highlights the urgency to look forward and manage large scale, system transformations [1] and challenges the conventional western economic wisdom of continuous, linear or exponential growth. Failure to engage with irreducible uncertainty is more widely appreciated and attempts to tame uncertainty can make matters worse [2].

Scenarios were introduced over 50 years ago as a means to overcome the limits of linear, reductionist and deterministic thinking that underpinned the then dominant practices of forecast-based planning. Scenario builders reject the notion of wholly predictable futures and instead seek to construct alternative futures which explore not only the paths to each, but do so in a way that emphasizes the need to attend to disruptive change as normal. Scenarios work is conducted in different sectors – public, private, civil and academia – and for a wide range of purposes, such as learning [7], strategy [8], or conflict avoidance [9].

Scenario practices have evolved from a “hypothetical sequencing of events constructed with the purpose of focusing attention on causal structures and decision points” [10] to attendance to the dynamic interactions that create disruptive and turbulent change as organizations co-evolve with their wider contexts [11]. At the same time, continuous innovation and diversity of scenario practices result in methodological confusions and misunderstandings [12]. To avoid contributing to further confusion we first define and then justify our interest in one particular tradition of practice.

Bradfield et al. [13] highlight three different scenario ‘schools’. In this paper we focus on what those authors refer to as Intuitive Logics, with its emphasis on plausible alternative futures, in contrast with the normative French School and the probabilistic USA School. Our choice to focus on the intuitive logics school is justified by evidence of its growing dominance in non-probabilistic scenario work [14].

Schoemaker [15] describes how plausibility-based scenarios are useful approaches in situations characterized by increasing uncertainty and complexity. He notes the effectiveness of scenarios as a psychological basis for addressing biases due to cognitive limits and overcoming ‘group think’ resulting from consensus building processes in social organizations.

In the intuitive logics tradition, the future is a fiction. Scenarios are ‘open stories’ [16] and stories and storytelling are deployed as a means to engage intuition, expose deeply held assumptions and forge new and shared interpretative frames. The assumption is that the emerging future cannot be forecasted but can be imagined and “lived in” and offers a different perspective to learning about the present than history alone provides. In effect, plausibility-based scenarios offer reframing devices rather than forecasting tools [17,18]. Scenarios are not populated with facts but with perceptions, assumptions and expectations.

Quality of a good scenario is not determined by its predictive accuracy but by its impact which can be evaluated in different ways — cognitive shift, enhancing judgment, leading to more and better strategic options and/or motivating change [19].

Despite the extensive and continued use of intuitive logics scenarios in the public and private sectors, the diversity of methods can lead to a wholesale dismissal of these practices by empiricist traditions of inquiry and evidence-based decision making cultures [20,21]. At the same time organizations, such as Shell, which have sustained the practice of plausibility-based, intuitive logics scenarios for over 50 years, appreciate the added value in terms of enabling decision makers to engage with uncertainty, enabling systemic insights and contributing to the adaptive capacity of the firm [21].

In contrast with the objectivist and positivist ontologies of probabilistic scenario practices, constructivism, nominalism and post-normal science are the mainstays of the plausibility-based, intuitive logics tradition [10,12,48,49]. As Burrell and Morgan [50] noted, a realist sees the nature of reality as ‘out there’, hard and concrete, while the nominalist sees the social world as the result of individual cognition and made up of names, labels and concepts. Wilkinson and Eidinow [12] note the objectivist– constructivist dichotomy between probable and plausible scenario traditions. Scenarios are pragmatic rather than positivistic: events and behaviors are explained from the perspective of the individuals involved and thus reflect equally valid understandings from multiple points in a system. A central challenge is thus to navigate plurality [51] (Table 1).

For many complexity practitioners, the science of multi- level interconnected systems is extending the boundary of uncertainty where quantitative analysis is applicable. Agent- based modeling is one of the new techniques being used to undertake quantitative assessment of the probability of the collapse of system resilience [52], enabling a statistical forecast of the transition between various regimes of the system. Such approach proved relevant in addressing in- stabilities in financial markets and the role of contagion of norms as proposed by Axelrod [53], or Gintis [54] in the reframing obesity as an epidemic [55] rather than induced by the marketing of dubious foods.

Paul Cilliers [56] reflects on the ontology of complexity as follows: “The argument from complexity thus wants to move beyond the objective/subjective dichotomy”. He goes on to say that complexity science is in some ways an extension of the traditional scientific approach, but the ontological issues are shifted to the problem of boundaries. Since complex systems are open systems that interact with other systems, the choice of boundary is arbitrary. He quotes the notion of ‘operational closure’ as a useful approach, rooted in pragmatism. The uncertainty on the state of the system in the future is therefore objectively bound by formal mathematical modeling, but at the same time subjectively framed through the (explicit or implicit) choices concerning critical systems heuristics e.g. definition of the system boundaries.

 

 

Key Sources of Research:

 

Scenario Planning and Strategic Forecasting

Jay Ogilvy

http://www.forbes.com/sites/stratfor/2015/01/08/scenario-planning-and-strategic-forecasting/print/

 

Living in the futures

Angela Wilkinson

https://hbr.org/2013/05/living-in-the-futures

 

Scenarios: Uncharted Waters Ahead

Pierre Wack

https://hbr.org/1985/09/scenarios-uncharted-waters-ahead

 

Scenarios: Shooting the Rapids

Pierre Wack

https://hbr.org/1985/11/scenarios-shooting-the-rapids/ar/1

 

Planning As Learning

https://hbr.org/1988/03/planning-as-learning&cm_sp=Article-_-Links-_-End%20of%20Page%20Recirculation

 

The Living Company

https://hbr.org/1997/03/the-living-company

 

The Use and Misuse of Scenarios

http://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/strategy-and-corporate-finance/our-insights/the-use-and-abuse-of-scenarios

 

Scenario Planning

http://www.economist.com/node/12000755

 

WHAT IF? The Art of Scenario Thinking for Nonprofits

 

http://monitorinstitute.com/downloads/what-we-think/what-if/What_If.pdf

 

Shell Scenarios

http://www.shell.com/energy-and-innovation/the-energy-future/scenarios.html

 

A Review of Scenario Planning Literature

https://scienceimpact.mit.edu/sites/default/files/documents/Scenario%20PlanningA%20Review%20of%20the%20Literature.PDF

 

The origins and evolution of scenario techniques in long range business planning

Ron Bradfielda, George Wrightb, George Burt, George Cairns, Kees Van Der Heijden

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.322.703&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

Directions in Scenario Planning Literature – A Review of the Past Decades

Celeste Amorim Varuma, Carla Melo

 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Celeste_Varum/publication/229173845_Directions_in_scenario_planning_literature__A_review_of_the_past_decades/links/0a85e53c946a22d99c000000.pdf

 

A review of scenario planning

 

Muhammad Amer, Tugrul U. Daim *, Antonie Jetter

2012

 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Muhammad_Amer8/publication/256712985_A_review_of_scenario_planning._Futures/links/53dbe98c0cf2a76fb667b0b3.pdf

 

The current state of scenario development: an overview of techniques

Peter Bishop, Andy Hines and Terry Collins

 

https://nctc.fws.gov/courses/alc/alc3194/resources/publications/scenario-planning/Bishop_et_al_2007.pdf

 

Integrating organizational networks, weak signals, strategic radars and scenario planning

Paul J.H. Schoemaker ⁎, George S. Day, Scott A. Snyder

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Schoemaker/publication/256859401_Integrating_organizational_networks_weak_signals_strategic_radars_and_scenario_planning/links/0a85e5352fd617b0f6000000.pdf

 

Advantages and disadvantages of scenario approaches for strategic foresight

Dana Mietzner and Guido Reger

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.464.3984&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

PLAUSIBILITY AND PROBABILITY IN SCENARIO PLANNING

 

Rafael Ramirez  & Cynthia Selin

 

http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/4754/1/ACCEPTED__Plausibility_and_Probability_in_Scenario_Planning_March_24_2013.pdf

 

Scenario building: Uses and abuses

Philippe Durance, Michel Godet

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.663.568&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

The Role of System Theory in Scenario Planning

 

Thomas Chermack

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.529.95&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

The Art of Scenarios and Strategic Planning: Tools and Pitfalls

MICHEL GODET

http://en.laprospective.fr/dyn/anglais/articles/art_of_scenarios.pdf

 

A Scenario-based Approach to Strategic Planning – Integrating Planning and Process Perspective of Strategy

Torsten Wulf, Philip Meißner, Stephan Stubner

 

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Philip_Meissner/publication/267786604_A_Scenario-based_Approach_to_Strategic_Planning__Integrating_Planning_and_Process_Perspective_of_Strategy/links/553b7c780cf2c415bb093eb0.pdf

 

An Introduction to the Ontology of Anticipation

Roberto Poli

 

http://cspo.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/read_Poli-An-Introduction-to-the-Ontology-of-Anticipation.pdf

 

Being Without Existing: The Futures Community at a Turning Point? A Comment on Jay Ogilvy’s “Facing the Fold”

By Riel Miller

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Riel_Miller2/publication/243995158_Being_without_existing_the_futures_community_at_a_turning_point_A_comment_on_Jay_Ogilvy’s_Facing_the_fold/links/53f70d4d0cf22be01c452fae.pdf

 

Riel Miller, Roberto Poli and Pierre Rossel

The Discipline of Anticipation: Exploring Key Issues

 

 

Towards an ontology of the present moment

 

Anthony Hodgson

 

Augmenting the intuitive logics scenario planning method for a more comprehensive analysis of causation

James Derbyshire , George Wright

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0169207016300152

 

Plotting Your Scenarios

Jay Ogilvy and Peter Schwartz

http://www.meadowlark.co/plotting_your_scenarios.pdf

 

When and How to Use Scenario Planning: A Heuristic Approach with Illustration

Paul J.H. Schoemaker

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul_Schoemaker/publication/220040372_When_and_How_to_Use_Scenario_Planning_A_Heuristic_Approach_with_Illustration/links/0c9605325c140d52e9000000.pdf

 

Futures literacy: A hybrid strategic scenario method

Riel Miller

https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Riel_Miller2/publication/222053294_Futures_literacy_A_hybrid_strategic_scenario_method._Futures_39_341-362/links/54783ef50cf293e2da287b54.pdf

 

From Forecasting and Scenarios to Social Construction: Changing Methodological Paradigms in Futures Studies

Richard A. Slaughter

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.196.9425&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

Developing and Applying Strategic Foresight

Richard A. Slaughter

http://www.forschungsnetzwerk.at/downloadpub/2002slaughter_Strategic_Foresight.pdf

 

 

What difference does ‘integral’ make?

Richard A. Slaughter

http://integralfutures.com/wordpress/wpcontent/uploads/2011/10/What_Diff_Integral.pdf

 

Framework foresight: Exploring futures the Houston way

Andy Hines , Peter C. Bishop

http://www.andyhinesight.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/93-Framework-Foresight.pdf

 

BRINGING FORESIGHT INTO SYSTEMS THINKING – A THREE HORIZONS APPROACH –

Anthony Hodgson and Gerald Midgley

http://journals.isss.org/index.php/proceedings58th/article/viewFile/2278/770

 

Seeing in Multiple Horizons: Connecting Futures to Strategy

Andrew Curry

Anthony Hodgson

 

http://networkingaction.net/wp-content/uploads/Curry-three-time-horizons.pdf

 

Introduction to Strategic Foresight : A Resource Bibliography

Dr. Peter Bishop

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.731.952&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

40 Years of Shell Scenarios

Shell International

http://s05.static-shell.com/content/dam/shell-new/local/corporate/corporate/downloads/pdf/shell-scenarios-40yearsbook080213.pdf

 

Scenarios as a Tool for the 21st Century

Ged Davis

Shell International

 

https://www.pik-potsdam.de/avec/peyresq2005/talks/0921/leemans/literature/davis_how_does_shell_do_scenarios.pdf

 

The Evolution of Integral Futures: A Status Update

Terry Collins & Andy Hines

 

http://integralfutures.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Collins_Hines_Evo_of_Integral_Futs_2011.pdf

 

integral futures

by Richard A. Slaughter

http://integralfutures.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Integral_Futures_APF_Overview_2012.pdf

 

Six pillars: futures thinking for transforming

Sohail Inayatullah

 

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.510.9662&rep=rep1&type=pdf

 

How plausibility-based scenario practices are grappling with complexity to appreciate and address 21st century challenges

Angela Wilkinson, Roland Kupers , Diana Mangalagiu

http://www.rolandkupers.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Link-16.pdf

 

Scenario Method: Current developments in theory and practice

Technological Forecasting and Social Change

Volume 80, Issue 4, Pages 561-838 (May 2013)

Edited by George Wright, George Cairns and Ron Bradfield

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/00401625/80/4

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Author: Mayank Chaturvedi

You can contact me using this email mchatur at the rate of AOL.COM. My professional profile is on Linkedin.com.

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