The way we work
We believe that the quality of strategic decision making draws heavily on companies’ competencies to understand and act upon the future business environment. That’s why we make use of the Scenario Approach in many of our projects.
Scenarios are internally consistent stories of alternative plausible futures. Because the future is inherently uncertain, there is not one plausible story but there are several. Scenarios are stories about alternative ways in which situation may develop in the future. They do not predict what will happen by extrapolating from the past, but instead offer different stories of how the future might look.
An important starting point for the scenario planner is that the future is not ‘more of the same’. The ‘art’ of scenario building is to discover alternative novel ways in which the external environment could unfold, based on the fundamental uncertainties of the situation. Good scenarios help decision makers to develop new insights and see new ‘logics’ (and ‘unlearn’ the old), to look over the horizon and to explore the “unknowable”.
To analyze the impact of the different scenarios on a company or organization we often develop a so called Business Idea. A business idea is a representation of the current strategic success formula of an organization. It articulates how value is created in the current environmental context.
In so called ‘Scenarios to Strategy’ workshops, strategic issues, current options, business ideas and the scenarios themselves are brought to the table. Participants (managers, decision makers) discuss systematically a. the implications for the players in their business environment and their anticipated responses b. implications for the organization itself and for its current Business Idea c. the options available (‘what would be do if’, and why!). This process is a vital part of the ‘strategic conversation’ as managers must open up to new situations, combine creativity and business sense, argue, listen, improve and learn. An important element in our client processes is helping to develop the company’s options and building their Business Idea of the Future. The process helps translate Future Thinking into Strategic Advantage.
Over time we have learned that ‘scenario thinking’ is not only valuable in strategic planning contexts, but also a highly useful tool for helping to create “common ground” in multi stakeholder processes. In such so called ‘transformative scenarios’, interactive building processes help in improving insight in the problem situation (seeing the bigger picture) and enlarging the solution space among parties. Our ‘Food for Thought’ project – involving 10 Nile Basin countries – and our current Central Asia scenario process are excellent illustrations of an application of this type.