Notes from the first week of Future Scenarios

Big questions

  • How do you research? What frameworks are you using?
  • What do we care about?
  • What do we hope to see continue?
  • What do we want from our future?

Scenario building is thinking systematically to come up with stories to explore about our future.

We must be aware of our own assumptions.


  • State what we know we know
    • current conditions
    • predetermined elements
    • current trends
  • State what we know we carea bout
    • driving forces
    • our values
    • social, demographic, economic, policical, environmental changes
    • keep in mind forces that run counter to your values/biases
  • Determine what we don’t know
    • critical uncertainties

Reading Notes

  • Uses of the Future Stewart Brand
    • “Rigorous long-view thinking makes responsibility taking inevitable because it responds to the slower, deeper feedback loops of the whole society and the natural world.”
    • ** Parties can utilize scenario planning, as they can continue to disagree about the past and present but reach an agreement about the possible futures they face together.
    • “Time is asymmetrical for us. We can see the past but not influence it. We can influence the future but not see it.” Why don’t we like the present more.. something we can both see and influence?
    • How can we move the perception of value from the present to the future?
    • Culture, governance, nature, infrastructure : karmic approach
    • Commercial, fashion : discounted approach
    • Love this passage. Chilling.
      • Some say that a sense of any future at all was extinguished for three generations in the twentieth century by the dread of nuclear armageddon, from which we have not yet recovered. At the same time, increasing reports of incremental loss— of atmospheric ozone, of species diversity, of rural village stability— tell us that long-term maintenance issues are accumulating to crisis proportions that short-term thinking is powerless to address. “For most of civilization’s history,” observes Kelly, “tomorrow was going to be no different than today, so the future was owed nothing. Suddenly, in the technological age, our power of disruption became so great, there was no guarantee we’d have any future whatsoever. We now know we are stuck with having a future, and thus are obliged to it, but we have no idea what that means.”
    • Reminds me of
    • Read another article: Both suggest durable good relationships are key to solving big issues.
  • A Review of Scenario Planning Literature
    • Can we see how the rationalist, evolutionary, and processural schools of thought work together in an effective scenario building example?
    • The core of scenario planning is the concept of the business idea. “The business idea is the organization’s mental model of the forces behind its current and future success.” Business ideas need to have the ability to create a surplus for stakeholders and that this surplus will exist and grow in the future. Moreover, the business idea needs to take advantage of unique competencies based on tacit uncodified knowledge that cannot be copied.
      • Note to self: what are 29D’s uncodified institutional knowledge? who are our networked people? what are our embedded processes? What are our sunk costs/irreversible investments? What are our investments in reputation? What are our legal protections? Specialized assets?
      • Uniqueness in two of these sources combine to form a competitive advantage. Business ideas are a systemic structure specifying customer value created, nature of the competitive advantage, the distinctive competiencies, and a positive feedback loop.
    • the subconscious won’t “intervene until it has been frustrated”. p 16
    • Schwartz steps:
      1. identify focal issue or decision
      2. identify key forces in local environment
      3. brainstorm driving forces
      4. rank key factors and driving forces on the basis of degree of importance for success and the degree of uncertainty surrounding the forces themselves.
      5. develop and select general scenario logics according to the matrix resulting from the ranking exercise.
      6. flesh out the scenarios.
      7. examine the implications of the developed scenarios. figure out which decisions look good across a number of scenarios. what vulnerabilities have been revealed? does a specific scenario require a high-risk, bet-the-farm strategy?
      8. select “leading indicators” that will signify that actual events may be unfolding according to a developed scenario.
    • Decision Strategies seems like a worse version of Schwartz.
    • “A scenario with more than three stories becomes unmanageable and the ideal number ‘is one plus two; that is, first, the surprise-free view (showing explicitly why and where it is fragile) and then two other worlds or different ways of seeing the wrold that focus on critical uncertainties” Or more than 2 stories but fewer than 5.

Possible questions to ask

  • How can we counter the forces of terrorism and fear?
  • How will income inequality continue to affect the global order?
  • How will the future of food affect the global population?

First week preso: