If forecasting is about identifying the new and the next, scenario planning, as we explore in The Trends & Foresight Masterclass Series, is about anticipating how the new and the next could impact on the way we live tomorrow. ‘Could’ is the operative word here, for scenario planning is all about what could happen, rather than what will happen.
It is where we look at the possible, the probable, the preferable and the plausible, and how we tell stories about these in ways that allow us to better understand the many tomorrows we may encounter as a consequence of key actions.
As one of the first information brochures for the WZB Berlin Social Science Center (founded in 1969) put it, ‘one begins to realise that there is a wealth of possible futures and that these possibilities can be shaped in different ways’.
And this really, is what scenarios are trying to teach us: that we are not predicting the future, even forecasting it, but in actuality, we are trying to use the best data we have now, with the most informed possibilities about tomorrow, to help us determine a number of possible routes forward.
Regardless of the sectors you are working in, the aims and objectives remain fairly constant:
: To help brands, businesses and corporations make better and more strategic decisions about the future
: To manage complexity and foster and facilitate the conversations that take place around it
: To mitigate uncertainty by supplying you with a range of scenarios, or future outlooks, that prepare you for change
: To assess the skills, knowledge and resources you have today against the possible, probable, preferable and plausible ones you will need for tomorrow
: To allow you to become a proactive author of your role in the future, as opposed to being a passive or reactive player
: To determine a strategy or series of stories that allows you to embrace, understand and live within the same eco-system of possibility
But good scenario planning, especially when it comes to identifying a shift in consumer tastes or the development of an organisation’s future structure (which many forecasters are called on to consider), also requires you to engage with tomorrow in an intellectual, emotional, experiential and imaginative manner. It requires you to have a strong vision, clear narrative objectives and exemplary storytelling techniques.