13 September 2011

Scenario planning for the future

Professor George Cairns, Head of the School of Management and Professor Ian Palmer, Pro Vice-Chancellor Business and Vice-President<em>.</em>

Professor George Cairns, Head of the School of Management, and Professor Ian Palmer, Pro Vice-Chancellor Business and Vice-President.

Professor George Cairns, Head of RMIT University's School of Management, spoke at a seminar held to launch a book he has co-authored.

Scenario Thinking: Practical approaches to the future, was written by Professor Cairns and George Wright, Professor of Management at the University of Durham, UK.

In his seminar, Professor Cairns discussed the importance of "scenario thinking" and outlined how it could be used to analyse the political, economic, social, technological, ecological and legal (PESTEL) factors that determine the future.

He explained that while the future was unpredictable, it was not unknowable and it was possible to apply "intuitive logics" in order to explore causal and chronological links to the future.

Participants also learnt how to make sense of different scenarios that they may find themselves in and how to test alternative strategies and plans against these varying futures.

The seminar was followed by a cocktail party at which Professor Ian Palmer, Pro Vice-Chancellor Business and Vice-President, formally launched the publication.

"I was delighted by the way the text links the theory of intuitive logic to its practical application. It is an approach that is very consistent with what we value in the College of Business and across RMIT as a whole," Professor Palmer said.

"More and more organisations are realising that a strictly rationalist approach fails to engage with the social construction of reality and opportunities are lost when we apply only traditional business as usual thinking."

The book proposes a new approach that provides structure to intuitive thought so that higher level intuition is developed.

It presents a range of techniques guaranteed to shake up the way we frame our thinking. These include role-playing stakeholder perspectives as they react to unfolding events, and the use of devil's advocacy and dialectical inquiry to critique the content of scenario storylines under development.

These techniques set out a framework for assessing strategic options and demonstrate how to combine scenario thinking with options thinking for effective decisions and planning.

Scenario Thinking is available at the RMIT Bookshop.

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