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Your main objective here is to predict and prepare for future circumstances by taking into account key trends, patterns and other factors that may help you to make better decisions in the present moment.
You will take the three to five best ideas you selected within the previous sub-stage and you will envision future scenarios where you will take into account future trends, changes and potential obstacles that could influence your results and desired outcome. As such, you will create alternate courses of action in response to these challenges, thusly helping you to develop a solid plan of action for moving forward with your best idea.
When building your scenarios, you are basically telling a persuasive story that explains how to get from your current reality to a future end-state where your solution or idea has already been implemented. However, keep in mind that the multiple scenarios that you will explore are only possible futures, not actual futures.
Once you have clearly outlined a number of scenarios, you will then contrast them against the Universal View, which presents you with a trend of how your life or business will unfold over the coming weeks, months and years. Your scenarios must ideally complement this Universal View, otherwise there could be conflicts and problems as you begin to implement your solution and ideas into your life or business.
Let’s now explore this sub-stage in a little more detail.
Scenarios are a type of mental model that helps form the basis for designing measures that will help you to prevent predictable future surprises. You are in-effect creating alternative visions of the future based on logical assumptions that will help you to build a solid plan of action — enabling you to make more effective decisions.
It’s important to point out that your objective here is to figure out what could be possible, and not what is the right solution or idea to implement.
The purpose of creating scenarios isn’t necessarily about predicting the future accurately, but rather about thinking about the future in a way that will help you to consider future outcomes that may influence your choices, decisions and actions. It’s about identifying what the results of current plans will be in the variety of futures that may emerge.
Being thorough here will enable you to make better decisions about your future as scenarios provide you with clear estimations of what might happen if a certain idea is implemented today — effectively helping you build your strategic plan of action.
In most instances, three scenarios are usually sufficient in helping you lay down a solid path for potential futures. However, I’ll leave this to your discretion, as it will always depend on the type of problem you are facing and the outcomes you are wanting to achieve.
Your first objective is to envision different kinds of scenarios that are based on the short-list of ideas/solutions you have chosen that will help you solve your problem. Only once these scenarios are in place, should you move onto the Universal View and envision how these scenarios could be affected by trends, transitions and changes that you or your company will go through in the coming weeks, months and years.
Also keep in mind, that once your scenarios have been created, you must take some time to contemplate, to study them, and reflect on them before making any decisions about how to move forward into the future.
To create effective scenarios you will need to clarify an end-state and a plot. Let’s look at these two factors in a little more detail.
An end-state describes what will happen at a specific point in the future at a designated time. They are based on the options you have available in front of you, which are based on the best ideas or solutions you selected within the previous sub-stage.
If you’re in business, you can describe who the competitors will be and what they will be offering. You can also identify the types of customers that will exist, what they will want, and how and why they will buy.
If you are working with a personal problem, than you can describe what your social and financial life will be like in relation to your career and objectives. Also take into consideration possible challenges that you might face at that time.
Keep in mind that even a small amount of detail can paint a picture that will help you to make far more effective decisions in the present moment. However, it’s important to understand that they are not meant to be accurate forecasts, but rather speculative assumptions that are continuously shifting and changing.
A plot is something that connects the present moment to a desired future. Each plot clearly illustrates what would need to happen for a specific scenario to come to fruition.
While creating your plot, you are imagining yourself having implemented a specific solution or idea taken from your short-list of ideas. Your goal is to present a persuasive story that explains how to get from the current moment to a future end-state where this solution or idea has been fully implemented or integrated into your life or business.
Put yourself into this future and think of how this future affects everything else around you in an all-encompassing way — describing all the events and circumstances that would lead to this specific scenario.
Alternatively, if you can’t imagine yourself implementing this idea yourself, than imagine someone else implementing this scenario. This detached way of building this scenario, will help you to see circumstances from a slightly different perspective, which could lead to surprising insights.
Finally, it’s important that you do not fall into the trap of thinking that you MIGHT choose this scenario. Instead, physically imagine having chosen this particular alternative, and put yourself clearly into the future.
Begin Building Your Scenario
To help you start building your scenario, begin by choosing an idea from your short-list and ask yourself the following questions:
- What would happen if I made this choice…?
- What could be possible?
- When will this happen?
- What resources might be required?
- What is the cost of this scenario in terms of my time, energy and money?
- What sequence of steps need to take place for this particular future to take place?
It’s important that you clearly outline dates and tasks that are part of this process. You must also set clear milestones and goals.
Clarify Cause-Effect Relationships
In addition to these questions, you must also take into account cause-effect relationships. This is where your mind begins to unravel and stitch things together that you’ve seen so far. Moreover it begins to discern how everything is connected and intertwined into the bigger picture. Furthermore, it also presents you with insight into how the world works or how your problems can potentially be solved more effectively given these future scenarios.
Take into consideration all the factors and circumstances you are working with, and ask yourself:
- How does this thing affect other things?
- How do these things interact with one another?
- How does pushing one of these things affect the entire system?
Once you understand the cause-effect relationships between different factors and variables, it will allow you to make better and more effective strategic decisions in the present moment.
Consider Viewpoints and Possibilities
Having now created your scenario, you must determine whether it reflects the whole range of viewpoints and possibilities that you have come across along your journey through The Path. In addition to this, you must also take time to learn from this scenario in order to make better decisions in the present moment. Ask yourself:
- Does my scenario reflect a whole range of viewpoints and possibilities?
- What else do I need to do and how will I do it?
- What can I learn from this?
Key Driving Forces
Key driving forces are what shape and propel your story (scenario) forward. In fact, every scenario you develop should take into consideration external forces that could potentially shape and influence the results and outcomes you will experience in the future.
These forces can be divided into two distinct categories. They include Environmental forces, and Institutional forces.
- Environmental Forces: environment, society, culture, ecology and technology.
- Institutional Forces: political parties, businesses, government agencies and international bodies.
It’s critical that you take into consideration how these forces could influence and impact your scenario in a positive or negative way.
- What impact do these forces have on my scenario?
- How do they influence my decisions and actions?
- How must I adapt my strategy to account for these forces?
Clarify Your Universal View
Your objective here is to lay down a Universal View of your life or business and specify where things are heading and the changes and trends that are likely to define your life or business in the coming weeks, months and years.
It’s critical that you are able to define your Universal View clearly at this point because it will help you later to determine how each scenario best fits into this picture.
Say for example that over the next couple of years you are planning to get married and have kids (it might not even require any planning). Or maybe planning to travel overseas, or seriously considering a career-change (or a career-change is forced upon you). Imagine the impact that this might have on your values and life priorities. Of course the problem you are currently working through may not be relevant to these life changes. However, because a major life-change is coming up, it could dramatically influence how you make decisions in the future, and as such these life changing circumstances could very well influence the solution you are planning to implement to help you resolve your current problem. For this very reason, it’s critical that you clarify your Universal View.
To help you define your Universal View, ask yourself the following questions:
- Where is my life taking me?
- How are things likely to change in a week, month and year?
- What are the possible trends in my life or business?
- What will I want in the future?
- What will I need in the future?
- What will my values be like in the future?
- How are my roles and responsibilities likely to be different?
- How are my desires likely to change?
- How are my priorities likely to shift?
- What obstacles could stand in my way?
- What possible problems could I experience in the future?
It’s important to be very clear and specific. In fact, add detail to your description and consider carefully the different possibilities that might exist moving forward for your business or your life.
Having clarified your Universal View, there is one more question you must now ask yourself:
- How will all this affect the different scenarios I have outlined?
We will come back to this within the next sub-stage when we move through the ecology-check.
How can I visualize this?
Integrated into this stage is a set of visual thinking techniques, strategies, tools and processes that you can utilize to help you visualize your thoughts on paper or in physical form. These techniques will be revealed and integrated into each stage along The Path over time
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