Strategy planning is about the future, but……

How can scenario’s as a navigational tool help us plan for the future. Tonight I met 6 people I had never met before in my life. They joined us to explore/discuss their desired futures. Paul and I briefly touched on and provided examples of a foresight tool well known by the futurist community called Scenario Thinking. Although, our participants joined in the conversations and a surprising dialogue (and I use this word very carefully) emerged with people and I felt they were very interested in creating a desired future for themselves. On the drive back from the meeting, this got me thinking what was the real purpose of using scenarios. Below are some of my findings from people who have considered, used and taught using scenario’s in organisations.

Dr Peter Hayward from the Swinburne University suggests they are coherent stories using multiple perspectives to explore problems, scenarios can help us to create shared understandings of possible developments, options and actions. More importantly from my perspective Peter goes onto say creating scenario’s places a strong emphasis on the joint definition of a ‘problematique’ and on a synthesis of ideas, rather than just extended and deeper analysis of a single point of view.

Robert Burke, from the Melbourne Business School, suggests that the use of scenario’s creates a process or possibly a journey  that develops a dialogue, the conversations that emerge through futures thinking that is important, the process to the plan, not the plan itself, as any plan to be effective has to be dynamic in response to the now. Indeed, all planning is about the future so futures thinking tools are therefore navigational tools and methodologies largely to help counteract the anxiety and stress disequilibrium (change) evokes. Robert puts forward that conversations cannot be strategic, as participants will feel they are being controlled; conversations need to authentic about the needs and desires for preferred futures, and not about strategic futures which seeks to enhance one’s position by beating the rival.

For me scenario’s are not about forecasting or even alternatives but about having deeper more effective conversations, it is also about challenging our assumptions, inviting a wider exploration of peoples views and knowing, connecting to peoples source of inspiration and letting new knowledge to emerge and facilitating  new knowledge into action.