Great Scenarios Inspire Us to Act

In times of high anxiety and great uncertainty, organizations and their leaders turn to scenario thinking to expand their sense of what could happen and what they should do. They try to create their Plan B or maybe C in case the future unfolds in ways they didn’t expect.

This objective misses the real power in scenario thinking—anticipating the future with enough clarity and shared purpose that your Plan A moves you into action. Scenarios can generate profound insights that help us confront how we think and feel about our future.

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Great Risks Beyond Our Imagination

We should fear most the risks we cannot easily imagine, and in complex systems, the greatest risk may be responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.

That is a key lesson from Michael Lewis’ 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, although the lesson is almost overshadowed in this absorbing account of what the Trump Administration does not understand or wants to dismantle within the federal government. Lewis observes that people are good at reacting to the last crisis and not so good at imagining the nature of the next great risk.

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First, find your foresight friends

Pressed to explain why some associations have abandoned impressive foresight initiatives, I said they couldn’t spread the benefits of foresight across their organizations: you must find your champions and allies.

Too often people assign the failure of foresight projects to resistance to change. I believe the root cause is failing to bring other leaders along on the journey into foresight. People distrust “oracle on high” pronouncements; they are more likely to trust their own sensemaking about the implications and effective responses.

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