How to Build Scenarios Efficiently with a Scenario Planning Process

Scenario planning is a versatile foresight tool that boosts agility and creates space for innovation. With a scenario planning process, teams can easily make scenario planning an integral part of their strategy work.

March 9, 2021, Gökce Sandal

Future operational environments are increasingly shaped by forces of unprecedented nature, such as new technologies and climate change. When there are no historical analogies to look back to, scenario planning can help us better understand and plan for a multitude of possible futures. In addition to enhancing efficiency, an established scenario planning process will empower organisations to proactively shape the future through strategic decision-making. 

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With the accelerating complexity of change, there is a growing need to supplement pure forecasting methods, which rely on objective historical data, with qualitative and speculative foresight practices that focus on ‘what if’ questions. 

No matter the industry, organisations that systematically explore alternative futures will be the ones who seize disruptive innovation opportunities and lead the change. 

To empower teams to shape their desirable futures, our foresight experts designed scenario planning instructions for Futures Platform users that can be used repeatedly in strategy, planning and innovation work. 

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Interested? If you’d like to learn more, contact us - our foresight experts will be happy to tell you more about the scenario workflow.

We recommend using Futures Platform's foresight solution as a complete tool for the scenario workflow. If you don't have a subscription yet, check our subscription plans and pricing here or try Futures Platform for free for 15-days.


 

What is scenario planning? 

As a methodology, scenarios take the uncertainty of the future as the starting point. With a fine balance between objective knowledge and intuitive logic, they form well-founded but still imaginative descriptions of possible futures. Having its roots in cinema, scenario building also uses compelling narratives that make foresight work accessible and engaging for all participants. 

Read more about scenarios in our Futures Intelligence article on scenario-making

 

What are the benefits of scenario planning processes? 

In scenario planning, the work process itself is as important as the end result, which is why it is crucial for organisations to have a well-defined scenario planning process in place. Moreover, building scenarios as a one-off exercise will hardly bring any benefits in the long term. 

Since the main benefit of scenario planning is to create a dynamic understanding of potential futures and link them to the decisions we make today, scenario-planning needs to be a continuous, institutionalised practice – ideally conducted at least once a year. 

Following a structured scenario planning workflow will guide participants to think about the potential evolvement of trends in a methodological way. It will help keep the process focused yet still open-ended enough, nurturing creative thinking and innovative ideas. It will also ensure that the internal logic of scenario descriptions is consistent and linked to concrete business opportunities and threats. 

Moreover, having a scenario workflow in place will ensure that the results are not put to shelf once the scenario work is completed. With its key objectives and clear performance indicators, scenario workflows set up clear guidelines for organisations to test, implement and review the results of scenario work in a structured and measurable way. 

 

How to Introduce a Scenario Planning Process in your Organisation 

You can easily make scenario-planning an integral part of your strategy work using established scenario planning frameworks.  

One frequently used method in scenario planning is the Axes of Uncertainty, which results in 4 scenarios describing alternative futures in a 2x2 scenario planning matrix.  


Start creating your scenarios with your team with these five simple steps: 

  1. Define the research question 

The correct framing of the issue at hand is vital to the rest of the scenario-making process. At this stage, define the main themes, topics, or key ‘what if’ questions you want to explore. To further narrow down your scope, also determine the year when your scenarios will be taking place, e.g. “Customer 2030”.  

  1. Scan the horizon for trends and signals of change 

Scan for phenomena that are relevant to your research question. In addition to megatrends, search also for wild cards, weak signals of change and weakening trends to ensure diversity in your environmental description. You can utilise Futures Platform’s foresight database with a 15-day free trial to speed up your research.  

  1. Vote and rate findings for prioritisation 

Ask a selected team involving your organisation and stakeholders to vote for the signals you gathered at the previous stage. Rate the content according to specified criteria (for example, the level of uncertainty and threat) to prioritise key uncertainties regarding the future of your research topic.  

  1. Build the scenario descriptions 

Select the two key uncertainties central to the question you’re investigating. Use them to create a simple 2x2 matrix. Give each of your scenarios a name and keep the narratives rich with multiple perspectives and actionable insights.  

  1. Implement results and measure their future development 

Once the scenario-descriptions are finalised, you should then implement the results in your organisation’s functions and set up metrics for measuring their future development. This can include, for example, action plans to seize the identified opportunities or future-proofing operations against the threats you may be facing. 

 

Are you interested in the complete scenario planning instructions? Leave your contact details here and our foresight expert will be in contact with you.

 

CASE VISIT FINLAND: TRAVELER 2030 SCENARIOS WITH FUTURES PLATFORM 

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Image credit: Visit Finland

Visit Finland began its tourism foresight work in the spring of 2020 by gathering views on trends and signals of change affecting the tourism landscape. Scenario building was executed by involving Visit Finland’s network of experts.  

Utilising Futures Platform's digital foresight solution and scenario workflows (the uncertainty axis method and intuitive scenario building logic), participants first prioritised phenomena based on their estimated significance and potential future impact. The prioritisation served as the foundation for the scenario work.  

In the scenario-building phase, the participants formed four potential tourism landscapes and future tourist personas based on driving forces and uncertainties. Scenarios were fleshed out by using the uncertainty matrix. With these scenarios, they were able to explore each tourist persona, describe the possible customer profiles, and discover the business opportunities as well as identify risks.

As a result of the scenario work, Visit Finland is now well-equipped to take advantage of future changes and seize innovative opportunities to serve future travellers' needs. 

Easily create your own scenarios with Futures Platform’s scenario planning workflow. Contact us to learn more about how you can make scenario-work efficient, engaging and impactful using this easy-to-follow workflow. 

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