Creating the Future: Scenarios for the Digital Economy

The four environmental factors of scenario planning:

1) Social dynamics:
Quantitative, demographic issues (e.g. increased immigration and visible minorities, aging baby boomers and Generation-X) and softer issues of values, lifestyle, demand or political energy (e.g. more surveillance, more autonomy or more reliance on fellow citizens)

2) Economic issues:
Macroeconomic trends and forces shaping the economy as a whole, microeconomics (e.g. competition between small, innovator companies) and forces at work or within the company itself (e.g. employee training, "intranet")

3) Technological issues:
Direct (e.g. updating and innovating technologies or software), enabling (e.g. autonomous banking) and indirect (e.g. increased need for security experts).

4) Political issues:
we focused largely on regulatory issues (e.g. Will there be government intervention or a free, competitive market? How will taxation work? Will participatory government prevail in the upcoming century?)

What is
Scenario Planning?

Scenarios are specially constructed stories about the future. Each scenario represents a distinct, plausible world. The purpose of scenario planning is not to predict the future; but rather, to show how different forces can manipulate the future in different directions. It is very important to realize this, for this procedure helps to identify these forces if and when they happen. The utility of scenario planning lies in its ability to anticipate the future. When this is accomplished, the ability to better respond to future events is increased.

How to write scenarios...
First, we needed identify the focal issue or decision. Of course, we could simply tell stories of what we think may happen in the future, but our task was to narrow the scenarios down to a specific issue. Only then could we build, expand, and learn from our scenarios, enabling us to make better decisions. We found that sometimes the questions can be quite broad (e.g. What will be the future of technology in banking?) or quite specific (e.g. How will technology change and reshape the physical structure of present-day financial institutions?).

We then had to identify the primary "driving forces" of today to predict the events of tomorrow. These forces are detailed in the sidebar to the left. Scenarios are not necessarily "good" or "bad"; they are, in fact, a potpourri of circumstances and events.

"It [scenario planning] can prepare us in the same way that it prepares corporate executives: it helps us understand the uncertainties that lie before us, and what they might mean. It helps us "rehearse" our responses to those possible futures. And it helps us spot them as they begin to unfold." (Wilkinson, Scenarios: Special Wired Edition, January 1996 )

About IDEA | What Are Scenarios? | Scenario 1 | Scenario 2 | Scenario 3 | Recommendations | Bibliography

Copyright © 1996 by the IDEA Team.
Questions? Comments? Please contact Dr. Richard Smith