As we reflect on 2011 and set goals for 2012, using techniques such as the Milestones and Memorable Moments exercise I shared last week, here’s another interesting tool.
Peter Schwartz’s Your Future in 5 Easy Steps: Wired Guide to Personal Scenario Planning actually appeared back in 2009, but I came across it only recently. In its use of quadrants, personal scenario planning reminds me a lot of SWOT Analysis. Both are tools that are not overtly storied but offer strong story elements. Schwartz writes:
To be clear: Scenario planning is not prediction. The goal is to envision possible futures, which will serve as guideposts to the path forward. The payoff is a clearer view of what the future may hold and of the most advantageous route through it.
It’s the possible futures where storytelling especially enters the picture.
The process in a nutshell is:
Identify forces likely to bear on the problem, organize them into future possibilities, envision paths that would lead to those futures, and devise a strategy for surviving them all. With a sharp picture of potential futures and corresponding plans of action, you’ll always be one step ahead.
Schwartz organizes the five steps into infographics using a sample situation — the future of a career in aerospace engineering. The technique is geared to career but could conceivably be used for more personal aspects of life.
Briefly, the steps are:
- Listing driving forces — variables, trends, and events that will affect your mission, dividing them into certainties and uncertainties, and ranking them in order of significance.
- Make a quadrant grid (matrix) in which the two most important uncertainties — from the top of your list — form the axes of a grid, with each quadrant representing a potential future.
- Here’s the storied part: “Make the scenarios more concrete by fleshing them out into imaginary, but plausible, news stories that are emblematic of the forces at play.”
- “Develop strategies for coping with the four futures you’ve imagined.”
- Armed with what you’ve come up with, be aware and sensitive to the way the future is unfolding. “Adjust your action strategy to anticipate the future as it emerges.”