Scenario Building

What are scenarios?

Scenarios are alternative descriptions of how the future might unfold. They compile information about divergent trends and possibilities into internally consistent images of plausible alternative futures. Going through the process of scenario-building with us provokes your imagination, raises fundamental questions, makes explicit your deeply held values, and stretches your worldviews.

Our scenarios provide a context for identifying three different kinds of strategies:
Robust strategies that would be effective in all of the scenarios;
Optimal strategies to focus efforts on creating your preferred future;
Contingency strategies that would work for scenarios that now appear less likely.

 

AFA’s “aspirational futures” approach

AFA uses the “aspirational futures” approach (see figure below), which describes three “zones” of the future bounded by plausibility (an objective lens) and differentiated by preferability (a subjective lens):

A “zone of conventional expectation” reflecting the extrapolation of known trends into an “expectable” future;
A “zone of growing desperation” which presents a set of plausible challenges that may emerge as a “challenging” future; and
A “zone of high aspiration” in which stakeholders pursue visionary strategies that achieve surprising success.

AspirationalGraphic-hi-res

This method benefits from applying two different lenses. An objective lens defines the probability space in which the future will unfold and helps corporate teams assess likelihood for the range of imagined outcomes. A subjective lens articulates the shared hopes and fears that we often project – consciously or unconsciously – onto the future. Neither lens is sufficient without the other. When a group uses only one of these lenses, the future becomes either an intellectual exercise with shallow meaning, or a playful fantasy without import. However, by applying these two lenses jointly, corporate teams can identify meaningful images of surprising success that prompt strategic insights and invite concerted action.