Beliefs, usually implicit, about the current and future environment.
The process of working backwards from the definition of a possible future, in order to determine what needs to happen to make this future unfold and connect to the present.
A metaphor describing an extremely low-probability or unforeseen, high impact event that takes everyone by surprise.
Business as Usual
A path towards a future considered as the continuation of the current path.
A logical link between events where a cause precedes an effect and altering the cause alters the effect.
Unpredictable driving forces, such as public opinion or the state of the economy, that will have an important impact on your area of interest.
Abrupt, major changes in the nature or direction of a trend.
Forces of change outside your organization that will shape future dynamics in predictable and unpredictable ways. Driving forces can be either predetermined elements or uncertainties.
An anticipatory inquiry that investigates a wide range of possible future developments, considered from a variety of perspectives.
Application of a method or conclusion to a new situation assuming that existing trends will continue, or similar methods will be applicable.
Focal Issue or Question
The issue or question that the scenario thinking process seeks to address.
A statement that something is going to happen in the future, often based on current knowledge and trends. Forecasting is the process of making a forecast.
A systematic, participatory and multi-disciplinary approach to explore mid- to long-term futures and drivers of change.
Purposefully designing or changing an artefact so that it will continue to be useful or successful in the future if the situation changes.
A field of studies, focusing on a methodical exploration of what the future might be like.
A systematic method for gathering new insights on issues which may impact the future.
Signs of potentially signiﬁcant change that you can monitor in order to determine if a particular scenario is beginning to unfold. Indicators can be very obvious, like the passing of a debated piece of legislation, or quite subtle, like small signs of a gradual shift in social values.
An unexpected shift to a new set of beliefs that are more accurate, more comprehensive, and more useful. Insights change how we understand, how we act, how we see, and what we desire.
A set of assumptions that in aggregate becomes a framework for how a person or group interacts with the world. Mental models are usually implicit. Scenarios, and outside-in thinking in particular, are a means of challenging mental models.
A simplified representation of an object, an event or a process.
To track the development of a particular trend or set of trends over time.
A coherent description of a scenario (or a family of scenarios), highlighting its main characteristics and dynamics, the relationships between key driving forces and their related outcomes.
The explicit articulation of a set of commonly held beliefs about the future external environment that a group, organization, or industry implicitly expects to unfold. Once articulated, the oﬃcial future captures an organization’s shared assumptions — or mental model.
A trajectory in time, reflecting a particular sequence of actions and consequences against a background of autonomous developments, leading to a specific future situation.
Judged to be reasonable because of its underlying assumptions, internal consistency and logical connection to reality.
Forces of change that are relatively certain, such as locked-in patterns of growth or decline. It is a given that predetermined elements will play out in the future, though their interaction with and impact on other variables remain uncertain.
The likelihood of something happening or changing.
Characterizes something that can be observed but not measured numerically.
Characterizes something that can be observed and measured in magnitude and multitude.
To do a broad survey of the environment in order to surface new and relevant developments.
A description of how the future may unfold according to an explicit, coherent and internally consistent set of assumptions about key relationships and driving forces.
A structure for developing and communicating stories of the future. A scenario framework is created from the combination of critical uncertainties, and usually results in a set of scenarios.
Insights that capture the learning from scenarios. After you have developed a set of scenarios, you can try “living” in each one. Ask yourself: What actions would you take if you knew this were the future? The answers to your question are your scenario implications.
A two-by-two framework created by crossing two critical uncertainties that structures a set of scenarios. The scenario matrix is the most common scenario framework.
A fully developed story of the future — with a beginning, middle, and end — that is structured by the scenario framework. Scenario narratives tell challenging, diverse, and plausible stories that are relevant to the focal issue or question being addressed by the scenario thinking process.
Understanding, preparing for, or achieving, some future state.
A process for developing stories of the future and using them, once developed, to inform strategy. After the process itself is internalized, scenario thinking becomes, for many practitioners, a posture — a routine way of managing change and a way of exploring the future so that you might greet it better prepared.
A set of strategic priorities that will help an organization achieve its desired future state. A strategic agenda can serve as a foundation upon which a strategic plan can be developed.
A plan for moving from the present toward a desired future state. A strategic plan is often articulated in an agreement (unwritten or written) between decision-makers that outlines how the organization should move forward on its mission given its circumstances.
A process through which an organization agrees on and builds commitment to a set of priorities essential to fulﬁlling its mission; these priorities then guide actions that will make progress on the mission.
The risk of not achieving strategic goals due to lack of responsiveness to changes in the business environment and/or poor business decisions regarding future strategies and plans.
A set of interconnected elements that is coherently organized in a pattern or structure. Systemic: relating to or affecting the whole of a system, rather than just some parts of it.
The farthest point in the future that one will consider in a Futures Study. The time frame refers to the complete period (past-to-future) considered in a Futures Study.
General tendency or direction of a movement/change over time. A megatrend is a major trend, at global or large scale.
A state of having limited knowledge about the future.
A clear statement about the future that an organization is striving to achieve. It can focus on organizational transformation or on external results in the world.
Actionable insights highlighting future activities by other actors or relevant changing circumstances, which may adversely affect our interests or create opportunities for future action.
An early indication of a potentially important new event or emerging phenomenon that could become an emerging pattern, a major driver or the source of a new trend.
An unexpected event, like a revolutionary discovery or a global epidemic, that could require a change in strategy. Wild cards help surface new uncertainties and diﬀerent strategies for future action that may not emerge from the more logical structure of a scenario framework.
How people see the world, with an emphasis on their unconscious assumptions, and the principles that they do not call into question.