In a context of accelerated transformation it is not enough to "understand a lot about my business". It is increasingly important to understand the world around us and how changes in this world can constitute risks or opportunities for the project at hand.

It is urgent that organisations reflect and explore the future in a systemic way and prepare for the 'space of the possible'. It is not only important to create structured internal business intelligence mechanisms and processes, but also to scan the transactional, contextual and global environments. Decision-making agents should have the ability to structure a thought about the future, incorporating it in the planning and strategic decision processes.

It is crucial to systematically explore the forces of change that are continuously reshaping the world. However, knowing these Megatrends will not, in itself, make the difference for the organisation. For that, it is essential to achieve a greater depth of analysis.

Perceive, for example:

- how these forces interact with each other;

- how digitalisation and a world in which the free movement of people, goods, services, capital (and even information) may be jeopardised;

- what each Megatrend means for the organisation.

The ageing of the population does not mean the same for Jer├│nimo Martins, for Daimler or for Faro Hospital, for example. The essence of the phenomenon is the same, but the type of consequences it has in terms of demand, product design, target markets, partnerships and value chains is very different.

Nowadays, the least that can be expected from an organisation is that it is efficient and has the capacity for internal alignment and resource mobilisation. The greatest opportunities and risks, as well as the differentiating factors, increasingly come from outside: from the ability to identify in time and anticipate transformations that the organisation does not control, but that it can nevertheless take advantage of. To do so, it is essential to 'see further' than the short term, to generate possibilities for action to map opportunities and risks and, if necessary, to redirect the direction of the organisation, projects and priorities.

Here, the methodologies of Scenarios and Foresight can make a decisive contribution, systematising, in a participative and informed ( evidence-based) way, the individual and organisational thinking about the future and its close relationship with the processes of strategic decision and innovation.  

In a strategic conception, we can distinguish two very different types of risk. On the one hand, there is the risk of events that repeat themselves over time. In these cases, the event "offers" us its probability. In this way, it is not difficult to calculate the probability of something similar happening in a more or less distant future, nor is it necessary to carry out major strategic planning exercises with specialists or stakeholders. In fact, if we want to know, for example, the risk of a certain person dying from a stroke, it is enough for that person to undergo some medical examinations and to cross-reference the respective data with those of other people with the same age and profile, observing how many of those people died from strokes.

Something very different will be, for example, the attempt to obtain the probability of the occurrence of a fierce currency war between China and the United States of America. In fact, it will not be possible to obtain this probability in such an objective and direct way, because there is no statistical evidence and there are no previous examples. And that does not mean it is not still a risk. We are facing real crucial uncertainties that will allow us to build different futures where we will test strategies and understand how we can act if the world goes in that direction.

In this context, Scenario Planning has proved to be very useful, increasing organisational capacity to incorporate uncertainty in decision making, in a troubled world, increasingly contingent and in accelerated transition.

By focusing attention on the crucial uncertainties that each organisation faces and on understanding their deeper causes, Scenarios and Foresight processes activate in organisations a more conscious decision-making capacity aligned with the reality of their strategic context, without omitting difficult issues, questioning established ideas and clarifying, through their explicitness, the different starting assumptions.

In this process, the key players, who have to make strategic decisions, participate in identifying specific opportunities for their organisation. And it is in generating and testing the strategic alternatives that a learning culture is promoted and the robustness of their business-as-usual activities and current decision criteria and priorities are assessed in the light of different possible futures. Indeed, without consideration of strategic alternatives and without divergence, space for innovation can hardly be created.

More than a consensual analysis of the uncertainties, trends and disruptions likely to affect the future of a specific organisation, Scenarios and Foresight aim to clarify different points of view with regard to the interpretation of available information, the evolution of key variables and the way in which the organisation can position itself in the face of these developments.

Each of the Scenarios developed overcomes the limitations and risks underlying single visions of the future and encourages the asking of long-term questions, which act as powerful stimuli for action in the present.

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Scenarios & Strategic Exploration of the Future?
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