Twenty-five years ago, scenarios were seen as a luxury management tool. Now they are commonplace. People know the word, journalists routinely describe alternative outcomes to situations they cover, universities offer courses in scenario planning, and both businesses and governments include scenarios in their strategic thinking.
Yet, despite this success, it can be argued that scenarios have failed. Many organizations and individuals have been unprepared for the shocks of recent years – whether these were political, financial or social. Instead of an ability to adapt quickly to new situations, there has been an atmosphere of hurt surprise that such things could happen in a well-ordered world.
This paradox of successful adoption but failed anticipation lies at the heart of scenario practice today. Why has rapid learning so ofen been followed by a rapid return to business as usual? What needs to be done differently and how? What have we learned from the decades of scenario work? This is the frontier for any serious scenario professional today. How can these lessons be applied to the challenges of systemic change and invention?
Barbara Heinzen has a history of practical innovation developed in partnership with her clients. In the mid 1980s, she developed new scenario methods that better integrated high quality research into practical affairs. Now she is thinking critically about how organizations and society can act prudently on what have scenarios taught them. She brings a toolkit of methods to this task, as well as a willingness to create new methods to meet new demands.
She is especially interested in looking at the rules, incentives, relationships and structures that might inhibit active learning and reduce our ability to invent the institutions we need to make a successful transition to a world that supports the natural world so that it can continue to support human kind.