Use the wisdom of the crowd for scenario planning

Scenario planning is a powerful tool for managing complexity and uncertainty. By combining scenario planning and crowdsourcing you can widen your outlook and involve more people in the strategy work, thereby helping your organization to gather around a common vision.

Why: Scenario planning is a powerful methodological tool for managing complexity and uncertainty. It helps an organization to gather around a common vision and shared goals and reduces the risk of continuing business as usual without considering key uncertainties and trends.

Scenario planning is also one of the most fun and rewarding methods for future oriented intelligence work and innovation processes. It lets you look at existing and emerging trends systematically and analyze these drivers jointly, forming a range of possible outcomes. Some plausible and others more unlikely. The method helps you reduce risk, make better decisions, and prepare for the unexpected. 


Bandhold & Lindgren 2010 "Scenario Planning. The Link Between Future and Strategy"


How: Start planning for different future scenarios by focusing on uncertainties of strategic importance that you use to form a scenario question. To make the process manageable it is recommended that you limit your scenario question by focusing on a certain time period, topic, or geographic area for instance.

The next step is to identify which drivers or trends that have the greatest impact on your question. Scan widely and choose two of these that have a high impact and a high level of uncertainty to build a scenario matrix (or scenario cross which is another common term). Also make sure you choose two dimensions that are (more or less) independent of each other. The possible outcomes give you a model with four future scenarios. 


Challenge your own views with a crowd

To challenge your own views and get a wider scope you may want to include elements of crowdsourcing in the process. This could be achieved simply by expanding the team within your organization to include staff from other types of functions and roles besides "the usual suspects". Another more radical option is to invite participants from outside your own organization to contribute with their perspectives.

An interesting example of this is Gartner's Datatopia project (report available here) that looked at the role of information and technology in society in the year 2030 together with some 120 external contributors (some of which anonymous) from around the globe. Gartner's Frank Buytendijk crowdsourced stories (essays) that were tagged, grouped, and converted into four distinct scenarios. Around half of the participants made significant contributions, providing a wide range of perspectives on some issues, while being more in agreement in in others.

A more recent example is Dragon Star which is a project funded by the European Commission, aiming to boost the bilateral dialogue between the EU and China. The project used Co:tunity to gather ideas and spottings for an analysis of China's future innovation landscape and Kairos Future's TAIDA methodology for the analysis. The tool was utilized to easily gather, share, develop and analyze trends and ideas, and also to validate the results from the research. The first stage of the project looked at the future development in China up to 2025 and a recent follow-up has looked further into the future expanding the scope to 2030.

If you are interested in reading the latest report from the Dragon Star project or want to discuss scenario planning or crowdsourcing in strategy work - do not hesitate to contact us We have 30 years of experience from scenario planning and are more than willing to share our knowledge! You can start with some of our case studies or why not check out the book Scenario Planning. The Link Between Future and Strategy by my colleagues Hans Bandhold and Mats Lindgren?



Johan Hammarlund

Collaborative Foresight Advisor



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Cotunity is a crowdsourced trendspotting platform for companies and organizations. Gather, share and develop trends and ideas in real time. Get to the future first!

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Cotunity is a crowdsourced trendspotting platform for companies and organizations. Gather, share and develop trends and ideas in real time. Get to the future first!

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