Scenario planning - the secret weapon?

'The problem with the future is that it is different. If you are unable to think differently, the future will always arrive as a surprise.'

And surprises most people prefer to avoid, myself included. Following many intriguing conversations with clients and colleagues in recent months, I've spent time considering how we can best prepare ourselves for 'tomorrow'.

Scenario planning can be used for many different purposes and can be accessible to managers at multiple levels in an organisation. Shell is one example. In the short video clip above, Jeremy Bentham, VP Global Business Environment for Shell, talks about how scenario planning helps Shell plan and navigate in uncertain times.

Historically scenario planning has played a modest role, especially in relation to strategic planning. Looking across many of our clients only few practice scenario planning regularly and over the years significantly more has been invested behind building capabilities in strategic planning.

But in times of economic change and uncertainty, could scenario planning indeed be a secret weapon that helps brands and organisations survive and win? Unlike strategic planning, that is built upon a single anticipated future, scenario planning looks into many potential futures, without trying to predict it. The timescale could be five, ten or even twenty years into the future. Scenario planning is about working laterally and consider the unexpected, in order to examine possible future developments that could influence a brand or an organisation. Scenario planning helps make the most beneficial decisions here and now, regardless of how the future unfolds.

So how can scenario planning help you, your brands and your organisation win? First of all, an upfront investment in planning means you don't need to think through every possible situation that may arise from scratch, which makes better use of time and thinking resources. Secondly, most winning strategies result from an awareness of impending change – it's about knowing when to advance or retreat. Last, but not least, every organisation values innovation and investigating new directions.

So what are you waiting for…time to start using the secret weapon?

For more information about how Brand Learning can help you lift your organisation’s strategy and planning capabilities, please get in touch. You may also like these films, perspectives and resources on Strategy & Planning.

Also see our case study on advancing customer experience with Shell

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