Scenario Planning

What Are Scenarios?

Scenarios are stories about the future that help people prepare for what could happen…stories about the way the world might turn out tomorrow…stories that can help us recognize and adapt to changing aspects of our present environment. Scenarios provide a meaningful container to make sure data and information are understood and used appropriately. They provide a context for informational content to make it personally relevant and purposeful.

What Is Scenario Planning?

Scenario Planning is a method for articulating the different possible futures that might exist for you, and considering your appropriate movements down each of those possible paths. Scenario planning provides a way for people to rehearse the future, and to recognize opportunities and potential problems unfolding so they can act effectively and adapt appropriately.


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Unlike traditional business forecasting or market research, scenario planning presents alternative images of the future; they do not simply extrapolate the trends of the past or present.

The objective isn’t prediction, but preparation. Scenario planning is a process to help people learn about possible futures to make better decisions today.

Scenarios and Learning

Learning is of particular importance for successful adaptation to an environment that is changing rapidly. Since that is exactly what people face in the 21st Century, a learning approach for problem solving and decision making is increasingly valued and necessary.


How Does a Scenario Planning Process Promote Learning?

Creating Awareness: Scenarios engage people in discussion of their current situation as well as their desires for the future. This thinking helps the person by: heightening awareness of the need for change; and picturing a wider range of possible options and strategies.

Stimulating Creativity: Scenarios encourage people to stretch beyond traditional approaches for solving problems, and for thinking about possibilities.

Improving Discovery and Questions: Good scenarios cause people to consider the implications of their decisions. As a result, they ask better questions and deeper more meaningful discovery is accomplished.

Challenging Assumptions: To operate in an uncertain world, people need to be able to question their assumptions about the way the world works, so that they can see the world more clearly. Thinking through possible scenarios brings each person’s unspoken assumptions about the future to the surface.

Exploring Opportunities: Scenarios help people identify surprises in all areas of their lives and understand these changes from different perspectives. They cal also help determine which opportunities may provide the best outcome.

Reducing Risk: Scenarios help identify unseen or future challenges as well as opportunities. In addition, by recognizing the warning signals and the future that is unfolding, people can minimize the surprises, respond, and act effectively.

Overcoming Internal Obstacles: How do you judge whether learning takes place? Learning changes thinking and almost always changes behavior. A good scenario asks people to suspend their disbelief in its stories long enough to appreciate their impact. You know that a scenario is effective when someone, pondering an issue that ha been taboo or unthinkable before says “Yes. I can see how that might happen. And what I might do as a result.” This power to break old stereotypes provides great opportunities for significant change.

Better Decisions: Using scenarios typically results in the identification and development of more thoughtful strategies. They encourage people to think proactively. Ultimately, the end result of scenario planning is not a more accurate picture of tomorrow but an understanding that leads to better decisions today.

Committed Decisions: Decisions which have been pre-tested against a range of what fate may offer are more likely to stand the test of time.

Collaboration: Scenarios help develop a shared language for talking about a shared future.

Increased Confidence: Using scenarios can help people consider the risks of changes before they are made. Scenarios help participants act with the confidence that comes from saying, “I have an understanding of how the world might change, I know how to recognize it when it is changing, and if it changes, I know what to do.”

S3 – A Scientific Approach to Managing Complexity

You can’t avoid dealing with complexity. The real world is complex, not simple. Intuition and logic alone can get us into trouble when dealing with complexity. So how do we handle them and make good decisions? To accurately describe and solve problems in an increasingly complex world, we need a new language with skills and tools to support it.

Systems Thinking, Scenario Planning, and Simulation provide us with the theory, methods, and tools we need to understand and manage complexity:

  • Systems Thinking provides us with a language that makes understanding complex problems possible
  • Simulation makes evaluating highly complex (real-world) systems models practical
  • Scenario planning makes simulation purposeful for considering the future

Together, they provide an extremely effective way to understand, evaluate, communicate, and resolve complex problems.


The next chapter brings us back into the realm of selling. We consider different selling methods and how they match up with the problem types we’ve identified. Then we begin to apply the theory, methods, and tools of managing complexity to selling.

© 2018 ScenarioSelling