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« Moving an Organization Forward | Main | and ESNA »


Christian Crews

The classic use of scenario planning is to help organizations get out of their established worldview and "reperceive" their environment. The Shell guys developed a few innovative ways to do this back in the 60's.

The first was to create "narratives", immersive stories of the future that allowed senior leaders to engage in new ideas progressively and presented novel ideas in a context that allowed them to be absorbed. The apocryphal story is that the Shell guys perceived the formation of something like OPEC and went to senior leaders and said "a middle east oil cartel will form and restrict supply". They got zero traction. So they went back and created a narrative from the point of view of an arab sheik and re-introduced it and the leadership started to get it. You've got to be a really good storyteller to do that well, or hire one.

A better approach is to involve senior leaders, or in fact members at all levels of an organization or community, in the creation of alternative futures in the first place. This is done by taking them from what they know - the goals of the organization and the external factors in the business environment affecting those goals - and moving them into new space of the broader societal forces, alternate ways those forces may evolve and impact the environment and the organization. They can then consider these forces together to see how the complex inter-relationships will create very different futures for the organization. These alternate futures spring from a new and deeper realized "worldview", or set of worldviews, that free up the leadership from the traditional, inherent, or official future resident in the organization. The difficulty here is getting buy-in to do it. Oversell it and say its critical to the future of the organization, and all sorts of politics invades the production. Undersell it and the organization won't commit the time to do it.

More recently, multimedia is also proving to be a good way of introducing novelty or new approaches. There is a reflex to "believe" what's on the screen, or at least willingly suspend disbelief, that is a critical threshold to overcome in introducing new points of view to organizations.

Christopher Lang

Have the CEO visited by the ghosts of corporation past, corporation
present and corporation future.

Seriously, research indicates that spiritual experiences raise the
probability of attitude change (which is probably why religious
conversions are so often associated with them). The most effective
solution will likely involve an experience that scares the execs at
their core (e.g. serious threat to personal health, to intimate
relationships, to integrity of their value system, etc.). I think you
are looking for execs to become "born again", but of course there are
ethical issues with invading their personal life (i.e. it may be
permissible for God to invade their personal lives, but it isn't
permissible to us to do that, is it?).

Best Wishes,


Joe Coates

In my experience with children and business people you must always take into account that their confidence and bravura are often a put-on. They really have thin skins and are often, if not usually, imperfectly developed
intellectually, emotionally or spiritually. From this it follows that in changing their minds or thinking, which as a futurist is your primary mission, you should:
1) Never talk down to them. Treat them as your equal however you may feel about them;
2) Realize that our primary access to their thinking is through their experience. Build on and out of what you know or find out about their work, and their experience, not yours;
3) Build their confidence in you by telling them things they already know that are a bit esoteric. When you get to futures stuff, no arm -waving, instead emphasize why and how it is or could be important to them.
4) Avoid--to the point of never using-- words like "must," "should," "ought," or phraseology which puts you where you do not belong, on the moral high ground;
5) Use general abstract words and phrases sparingly. Businesspeople love anecdotes, especially ones related to their interests;
6) Don't be dismissive of other futurists' work. But do not shy away from highlighting disagreements and explain why.
7 Do not tell jokes. If you are capable of humor(most of us are not) direct it only at yourself.

Good luck
Joe Coates

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