Posts tagged ‘methodology’

seeing, believing, acting

by Nik Baerten

At the outbreak of any major crisis, there is always the question of ‘why didn’t we see this coming?’. The financial crisis? Oh, many saw it coming alright … yet few managed to make others believe a meltdown was not only possible, but most likely, and none managed to mobilize believers-decision-makers to act upon their belief to an extent that would have prevented the crisis from happening (or the latter proved insufficiently equipped/organized to do so).

Adam Gordon of FutureStudio reflects upon the relationships between belief & action in foresight contexts in his most recent post over at The Future Savvy Journal. He refers to a letter from Peter Schwartz explaining the added value of scenario thinking in assessing and acting upon future challenges. They help to keep various options open, alternatives about what the future might be like, hence serve as a tool-to-think-through & to learn, and pave the way for action. According to Peter Schwartz:

“The problem is that decision-makers believe that they are forced to pick one right answer: the most likely scenario. Their approach to decision-making does not afford them the opportunity to consider apparently low probability but highly consequential scenarios. The answer, therefore, to the “believe” half of the question is a decision-making process that considers several scenarios: compelling stories about alternative futures that incorporate the analysis of “outliers” and describe three or four plausible paths forward.
Good scenarios force decision-makers to challenge their own assumptions and reconsider what is possible. As a result, they can take seriously those scenarios that seemed less likely at first, but whose plausibility increases over time.”

It is also a people matter in the sense that to make radical, systemic changes happen, various roles or skills are needed (e.g. to understand the complexity of the challenge at hand, to network and form the necessary alliances to tackle it, to draft innovative solutions, to scale and sell these, to monitor progress and motivate etc.). Seldomly these are found in one person or one type of person, even one group of people only. Also because of this aspect, the action part of the equation of systemic change is a complex one and no one, easy recipe can be prescribed to orchestrate massive change as such. Nevertheless, insight in these matters is growing, both academically and practically, which will hopefully serve as well in the many futures and societal challenges ahead of us.