Why the World Needs Scenarios

Why the World Needs Scenarios

Why the World Needs Scenarios

Many think that reason alone will prepare them for the future. There little hope of convincing those pinned to logical extrapolation that scenarios will enlighten their assumptions and assertions. Stories about the future can’t be driven by evidence, the analysis of data and robust processes that weed out error. There is no data about the future. People can only explore the future through narratives based on uncertainty. The most precious human commodity may not be our ability to churn out logical proofs but to imagine the range of possible ways in which variables may unfold.

Scenarios will never be exhaustive explorations of all that could be, but they are better than ascribing to the folly that anyone can accurately describe a world five or ten years out.

Scenarios offer necessary tools for navigating uncertainty and should be no more ignored by managers than project management or team dynamics.

The world needs scenarios to drive a dialog about what could be and what should be, dialog to help constrain and inspire, to identify sharp edges and to point out leaps worth taking. Without the dialog, without a speculative map or two, or three or four, organizations plod on arrogantly believing that tomorrow will be what they make of it, only to be surprised some days and disappointed others. Scenarios offer necessary tools for navigating uncertainty and should be no more ignored by managers than project management or team dynamics.

We do know that the future will manifest as a complex interplay between uncertainties—that regardless of the accuracy of any extrapolations that the future is sure to be very different than anything imagined through logic, or by any individual. Imagining the future is a team sport and scenario planning is the playing field that opens participants to multiple possibilities.

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

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