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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds So how does one go about doing a scenario? Actually scenarios are something we inadvertently do every day. Let me show an example. Imagine the following situation. It’s around about 8 o’clock in the morning. You’re travelling to work by car. You are traveling in a certain direction for the time being with no oncoming traffic. You’re adhering to the speed limit. But you do note out of the corner of your eye a little dog on the pavement. And suddenly a few things go through your mind. In fact, as you’re about to discover, a few scenarios flash through your mind in the next few seconds.

Skip to 0 minutes and 40 seconds You’ll probably say to yourself that a very important issue now regarding the outcome of the next few seconds is that dog’s behavior. For now, it’s on the pavement. There it is. Good, well-behaved dog sticking to the pavement. But there’s a possibility it might rush onto the road. The other thing probably going through your mind is, what’s going to happen to oncoming traffic over the next couple of seconds? Actually two possibilities. One it is that there will be no oncoming traffic. Alternatively, there might suddenly be a long busy stream of traffic coming in the opposite direction.

Skip to 1 minute and 15 seconds And as you can see from the way I’ve depicted these two– what we are going to call later– key uncertainties, there are four possible scenarios. Each of these blocks depicts a possible scenario. But now we have to test the plausibility and also later the implication of these scenarios. Let’s take this one. In this particular set of circumstances, the dog remains well behaved. It sticks to the pavement. And there’s no oncoming traffic. This is a surprise-free kind of scenario. In other words, proceed. However, there’s another possibility. Whilst there might still be no oncoming traffic, that dog might wander off the pavement onto the road. Now this is a fairly safe kind of scenario.

Skip to 2 minutes and 1 second But you might have to take some kind of action. You can take action. You’ll be able to swerve and miss the dog without causing a major traffic accident. So that’s not a bad outcome. In this scenario, the dog remains well-behaved. But there’s oncoming traffic. Here you’ll probably say to yourself, proceed with caution. But in this fourth and final scenario, I’m afraid not a very good outcome. The dog runs on to the road in front of you. There is oncoming traffic. So you can’t swerve. You can’t brake either. Remember, there’s traffic behind you. I’m afraid, in this case, it’s kind of a disaster scenario. There’s bound to be some kind of accident.

Skip to 2 minutes and 41 seconds You might bump or crash into somebody else and or sadly you might have to run over the dog. So what we have here is essentially a set of four scenarios. Not predictions. Four possible outcomes for the future based on our assumptions regarding two key uncertainties. At the same time, what we’ve seen here is these scenarios enable us to take a decision now. They enable us to take action– either carry on, carry on carefully, proceed with caution, or cause a traffic accident. And this is the essence of scenarios.

Skip to 3 minutes and 15 seconds And what we’re going to do in this learning unit from here onwards is formalize this process and then also– just to drive home the point– share with you a few more actual scenarios.

The process

In this video, we will look at a practical example of a scenario and take you step by step through the process.

Using the diagram of certainties and uncertainties demonstrated in the video, do your scenarios for the flower in our previous step, still remain the same?

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This video is from the free online course:

Futurism and Business: Dealing with Complexity

University of Stellenbosch Business School Executive Development