Scenario methodology: New developments in theory and practise : introduction to the special issue

Wright, George and Cairns, George and Bradfield, Ronald (2013) Scenario methodology: New developments in theory and practise : introduction to the special issue. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80 (4). 561–565. ISSN 0040-1625

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    Abstract

    In the call for papers for this special issue, we outlined how scenario method has been applied in a range of contexts over many years, from the military to a wide range of businesses. However, we questioned the extent to which we really know the method and whether it ‘works’ (howsoever we define this term). Also, in identifying the range of variants on the theme of ‘scenario method’, we questioned the degree to which they differ or overlap, and whether there is empirical evidence that might demonstrate the superiority of any one variant over others — or indeed, over other approaches that might be used to achieve similar analytic ends. We asked also if there are any particular domains in which the technique has proven particularly useful. In this special issue, we have sought to gather a range of papers that focus attention on scenario technique in its widest sense, that provide an up-to-date analysis of its development to date, outline the current status of its application and use, and that point towards its future potential and prospects. Specifically, we invited papers that addressed some aspect of scenario method, including: • Critical theoretical considerations of the method and its rationale • Review of the use of the technique in specific applied areas, including evidence of impact on field development or policy making • Empirical studies comparing scenario method variants, or comparing some variant of scenario method with alternative (forecasting) approaches • Novel practical applications of the method • Novel elaborations of the method and critical appraisal of these • Consideration of future prospects for the technique In response to this call, we received a substantial number of submissions that responded to these methodological considerations, and that also provided critical reflection upon the application of scenario methods across a wide range of organizational and geographic contexts. In selecting the papers that we present here, we have sought to provide a broad and inclusive overview of scenario techniques and methods, ranging from quantitative modelling approaches to qualitative narrative methods and mixed methods that encapsulate both. Some of the approaches incorporate alternative theoretical or practice-based frameworks – such as structuration theory, Delphi method, and analysis of early warning signals – in order to enhance the capability of ‘basic’ scenario methodology. The application of the various scenario approaches addresses multiple stages of strategic analysis — from initial environmental scanning through innovation strategy, resource planning, to assessment of alternative outcomes of implementation. The selected papers also present illustrative cases from across a wide range of problem contexts — from higher education futures, through copper scarcity, the future of electric vehicles, to military strategy appraisal. Overall, we consider that this special issue offers a comprehensive collection of papers on scenario techniques that are currently available to readers who seek to engage with the broadest range of methodological approaches. Between them, the papers relate the history and development of scenario methods and provide a wide range of illustrative cases to show their implementation in the practice arena. In order to aid the reader's navigation through this collection, we have grouped the papers under a set of broad thematic headings which we also apply to the collated summaries of the individual contributions below, namely: • Combination of Delphi process with scenario development, • The role of scenarios in strategy development and evaluation, • The interplay of actor motivations and behaviours with other scenario components • Scenario interventions in organizations: guidelines for best practice, and • Scenarios and anticipating the future. We hope that you will find the papers interesting, informative and challenging.