Why Your Business Needs Scenario Thinking
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Why Your Business Needs Scenario Thinking

The What, The How and Why Your Business Needs It

Why Your Business Needs Scenario Thinking

"If you could look into the future of your business — what would you like to know?" — asks Ursula Eysin, a founder and CEO of Red Swan consultancy. Indeed, would you like to know what may happen to your company, career, or political party in 15 years? Can you have an answer to this? It turns out that yes, but your will need to make your mind do the hard part.

Though it was originally called “Scenario Planning”, Ursula names her method "Future Scenario Thinking", as it fits the creative process better than thinking you could “plan” the future in a rigid way. "I had the great opportunity to learn the scenario method from one of the best: former chief strategist with Royal Dutch Shell, Karl Rose." — Ursula admits on the Red Swan's website. For their part, Royal Dutch Shell inherited the scenario thinking from US Air Force in the 60s. The military exploited it to answer the most crucial question: what could the enemy do?

In 2015 Ursula reconsidered the technique. She launched a consultancy in Vienna to help people build their future reality-wise. They teach how to succeed in a world of change. And no wonder future scenario planning thrived during the pandemic.

Who is Ursula Eysin?

Ursula Eysin

Credit Xaver Kettele

She is an innovative strategist whose highest value is human connection. On top of that, she is a theatre, opera, and film producer turned technology consultant, communication expert, and future scenario developer of 20+ years.

According to her, we can create a better time to come on the foundation of human connection. For Ursula, life is a roller-coaster, where you can't skip the ride. So the best you can do — is to be prepared for the most extreme twists. At least, that is what the future scenario thinking encourages us to do. She develops positive as well as negative scenarios. “Many people are triggered by imagining negative scenarios, but actually, the negative scenarios are very valuable as the human mind becomes most creative when we have to overcome obstacles,” she explains. Ursula would rather not have people rely on false hopes but face reality and empower themselves by co-creating their future in full awareness of the driving forces that influence that future.

What is Future Scenario Thinking? 

Ursula Eysin doesn't lecture you about how you should plan. Instead, you take your reality perception, align it with actuality, and contemplate possible dynamics in the light of how they can affect something you care about. Practically, you put your effort into regaining your power over today and tomorrow.

Future scenario planning is all about being open and flexible for a real hereafter that can happen. The process brings subconscious motivations, fears, and desires to the conscious level and is action-oriented in every step. If simplified, it looks as follows:

  • Define a question you want to answer or a decision you have to make.
  • Identify internal and external driving forces influencing that topic.
  • Analyze which of these driving forces are certain trends (things you can not change and shouldn’t exhaust yourself on) and which of them are critical uncertainties of the future (the realm of creative power).
  • Create 3-4 future scenarios and put yourself into these different futures, almost like a method actor.
  • Take inspired action steps from the awareness you gained in the process and a place of being deeply grounded in reality.
  • Reevaluate the scenarios and the development of your driving forces regularly and live your life being open to changes.

Such an approach doesn't deprive you of the future, making you a control freak. On the contrary, it opens you to various business and personal patterns. Moreover, it takes away the persistent urge to hit the red button. Ursula states that "scenario thinking empowers people by operating on the assumption that we can shape the future and we take choices along the way. The future is not determined yet — we have a say in it."

Your part is to trust your intuition, imagination, and critical thinking. As such, get plenty of valuable insights from the scenarios process. Then, rehearse those scenarios, live them in your mind, and set some extra measures. Or ignore that practice, choose the "on-the-go" method, and face the challenge unprepared. It's your choice.

What isn't Future Scenario Thinking?

Can the method be comprehended as foreseeing the future? Definitely not; no supernatural powers are involved. Predicting future trends is likewise a typical misconception of the scenario thinking technique. Ursula Eysin discourages you from indulging yourself in rigid and excessive planning. It is also off-base — you don't want to control your future with a detailed plan you once invented.

Who Can Benefit from Future Scenario Thinking?

In a world where one disaster hasn't yet said its goodbyes while another is waving you from around the corner — can a company or a political force take the liberty to neglect the future?

Along with the businesses, whole countries enjoy future scenario thinking methods. Singapore proves it with its own history. Scenario planning helped the country surmount the crisis of the early years of its rise.

Google Trends can't predict an unobvious threat to your business, charity, or artistic endeavour. Yet your creative mind can. Moreover, future scenario thinking serves all: large companies, small entrepreneurs, start-ups, non-profits, political associations, and individuals — who would refuse to mitigate the risks?

Fortunately, facing the worst-case scenario doesn't necessarily mean its implementation in reality. Shaping the future feels good. Can you see that shift? — Now you are in charge.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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