For those who think that reason alone will prepare them for the future, there may be little hope to convince them that scenarios will be helpful to their cause. Stories, after all, aren’t driven by analysis of data and robust processes that weed out error. Unfortunately, there is no data about the future, and that’s the point. We can only understand the future through narratives that explore the possible ways in which variables will unfold. Our most precious commodity may not be our ability to churn out long lines of logic, but to see fleeting entities in a haze of doubt, and like the person in a plastic wind tunnel swirling with hundred dollar bills, occasionally grab one out and put it in a pocket.
Scenarios will never be exhaustive explorations of all that could be, but they are better than ascribing to the folly that one can, with any certainty, describe a world five or ten years out.
The world needs scenarios to drive a dialog about what could be and what should be, so that the dialog can be transformed into actions the lead to better paths, away from some edges, perhaps toward others. Without the dialog, without a speculative map or two, or three or four, we plod on arrogantly believing that tomorrow will be what we 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. The one thing we know about the future for certain, is that in all its complexity, it is sure to be very different than any thing we imagine, unless we work toward an imagination that is open to multiple possibilities.