What is a scenario for strategic foresight, early warning and risk management?

For strategic foresight, early warning, risk management or any anticipatory methodology, a scenario is a fictionalized narrative set at a specific time in the future.
It answers a question about the future.
It is grounded in a detailed analysis of this question.

Can I use scenario for preparedness?

Yes, indeed. Scenarios are the best tools to be fully ready and prepared for the future and for uncertainty.
The highest the level of uncertainty, the most important scenarios become.

What is the use of scenarios?

Scenarios allow you to plan ahead, implement your responses and thus to be prepared for the changes to come.
They are the ideal tool to make sure preparedness is optimal.

What is scenario analysis in risk management?

Scenario analysis is a methodology through which you analyse a question regarding the future, notably its key uncertainties.
Through this method you build a set of fictionalised narratives that outline the cone of possible futures. Scenario analysis is similar to scenario building.

Is there a way to know if scenarios are good?

Yes, if your scenarios are built according to a proper methodology then they will be valid.
There are points to check to evaluate if scenarios are valid or not, as explained in this article: “Are your Strategic Foresight Scenarios Valid?“.

Do you need a methodology to develop valid scenarios?

Yes. If you want to develop detailed valid scenarios, then you need to follow a correct methodology. Some methodologies are stronger than others. You need to make sure the methodology you use leads to valid and good scenarios, as explained above.
This is why we created a course focused on scenario-building.
Scenarios are also part of the section on methodology in our publications.

What are the main disadvantages of scenario-building

Building proper scenarios is resource intensive in terms of time and knowledge. However, because properly created scenarios last, this is an investment.

Are there other types of “scenarios”, that may be done quickly?

Yes there are. Ideally we should give them other names not to create confusion.
For example, you can name “scenario” any fictionalised story about the future (or for that matter the past or the present).
These types of scenarios are useful in the context of brainstorming, to try to find wild cards, to foster imagination.
However, they will not be as useful as fully detailed scenarios for preparedness. Notably, they will likely not help you be ready across the range of possible futures. They may also not be used for early warning. Thus surprises remain likely.

What are “What if scenarios”?

What if scenarios are fictionalised narratives, where you question an assumption, what comes right after the “what if”.
These often short scenarios are truly useful to make the effort of imagination necessary to break prejudice, false beliefs, biaises, etc.
They are however, as explained in the previous point” not sufficient on their own to develop strong and exhaustive preparedness across all possibles for the future.

Featured image par PIRO4D on Pixabay 

Published by Dr Helene Lavoix (MSc PhD Lond)

Dr Helene Lavoix, PhD Lond (International Relations), is the President/CEO of The Red Team Analysis Society. She is specialised in strategic foresight and warning for international relations, national and international security issues. Her current focus is on the war in Ukraine, international order and the rise of China, the overstepping of planetary boundaries and international relations, the methodology of SF&W, radicalisation as well as new tech and security.

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