Scenario planning has an interesting history. Check it out on Wikipedia. Folks like Shell have used it for years, Arie De Geuss probably being the most well known exponent. Those that have an interest in South Africa may remember the stuff Clem Sunter did while he was at Anglo American, the new books he has done with Chantell Ilbury are also well worth a look. The scenario letter they sent to George W Bush in early 2001 is eerily prescient.
Simulation and scenario planning has been popular with military types for ages.
Wargames – 1983, a digression
Those of you of my vintage will remember this movie, starring Matthew Broderick and Ally Sheeny. With this immortal line. There is a slightly odd shrine to the movie here. You need to know the password though.
All that norad mainframe stuff and some mad folks planning thermonuclear war. Hamish would argue that not much has changed in nearly quarter of a century. There is a sequel planned and there is a domain name squabble….
Scenario thinking revisited.
The web has made techniques like Delphi so much easier to do. Whether these are large scale wisdom of the crowd predictive efforts, or small focus groups, applying rigour to prediction has never been more important- and technically feasible. Witness the emergence of prediction markets. (interesting blog here)
I stumbled across a fabulous site yesterday courtesy of an SAP colleague. It is managed by company based in Amsterdam called the DTN (Digital Thinking Network), and they specialize in scenario thinking. Daniel Erasmus runs it, and he teaches at the Rotterdam Business School, one of Europe’s best schools.
he also established the world first wiki site dedicated to the topic of scenario thinking and planning ScenarioThinking.org, on which people who are interested in scenario planning can publish their ideas freely and share knowledge with each other
Three points- why this is important.
1. New collaboration tools make it easier for researchers to tap the “wisdom of the crowd” where appropriate. There is a quantum leap in terms of reach, affordability, ease of collection and depth of analysis.
2. Many graduate students moving into the workplace are very comfortable with both the technology and the methods to do this sort of research. They will want to exploit collaborative forms of research in their jobs, and use the technologies that support it. Simple 2.0 technologies such as social bookmarking, online surveys and tagging, and the extensive use of wikis for project collaboration and presentation will become commonplace. Are you providing these tools?
3. These technologies facilitate closer involvement with customers, partners, consultants, academia and even competitors in the planning processes. Companies that are comfortable with transparency will be able to tap the market sentiments far more precisely than “closed” thinkers.
Scenario thinking isn’t the answer to every problem but it forces you to think beyond your current situation. It is good to shatter your assumptions every now and again. You then think again before rebuilding them.
If you were looking at the future of the software industry what scenarios would you want to model?