“Scenario planning is the gentle art of re-perceiving”
- Pierre Wack
My life has been significantly impacted by scenarios.
In 1988 I was at an AIESEC Winter School in Johannesburg when I heard Clem Sunter present the Anglo American “High Road and Low Road Scenarios”. At the time I remember thinking, what a great story this High Road is, but how could we ever get there. South Africa was, at that point very firmly on the low road and the chance of a government negotiating themselves out of power was somewhere between slim and that other word.
In 2002 when I was working on my Executive Coaching Masters Degree, Christo Davel the founder of 20twenty handed an article by Adam Kahane entitled “How to Change The World - Lessons for Entrepreneurs From Activists”. In the article Adam talks about his experiences with scenario planning in a number of countries around the world including the Mont Fleur Scenarios in South Africa which he facilitated in 1991/92.
This scenario planning exercise attended by a cross section of South African’s came up with four stories (Ostrich, Lame Duck, Icarus and Flight of the Flamingos) for how the country would emerge from apartheid. The full report is available on my resources page.
I decided then to base my thesis on scenario planning and not only learn the art of scenario planning but also to adapt scenarios for use by both individuals and organisations. While doing my masters research I was very fortunate to get input and mentorship from two of the most respected and experienced players in the field of scenario planning, Clem Sunter and Adam Kahane.
This started a journey which has been incredibly rewarding both personally and professionally as I have facilitated scenario planning exercises for a number of corporate clients and individuals.
My experience is that strategic planning has consistently overlooked Scenario Planning. Most strategic planning exercises focus on using different tools to arrive at the best possible answer - or direction that a business should take. This approach to strategy is fatally flawed as has been proven in the financial crises that rocked the world starting in 2008.
When embarking on a strategic conversion company’s, organisations, teams and individual need to consider multiple scenarios in order to best prepare for the future. The quote by scenario planning expert Stewart Brand below best describes why it is crucial to consider multiple different futures when working on strategy.