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The critical role of history in scenario thinking : augmenting causal analysis within the intuitive logics scenario development methodology

Bradfield, Ronald and Derbyshire, James and Wright, George (2016) The critical role of history in scenario thinking : augmenting causal analysis within the intuitive logics scenario development methodology. Futures, 77. pp. 56-66. ISSN 0016-3287

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Abstract

The historian Eric Hobsbawm stated that 'The safest empirical generalization about history is still that nobody heeds its obvious lessons much'. Whether at a macroeconomic level or within individual organisations there are numerous examples of this, such as the economic crash of 2008, the causes of which had many parallels with those that caused the great depression 80 years previously. On the other hand however, overly-relying on the past as a guide to the future has its own obvious dangers – not least that important future events may have no past precedent. As such, the present paper firstly provides a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of using the past as a guide to the future. It then examines the role of history in scenario work, arguing that history should receive greater emphasis as part of the scenario planning process. We suggest changes to the standard Intuitive Logics (IL) approach to scenario planning which would render learning from history a more central component of the scenario process, in contrast to its current peripheral role. Rather than diminishing scenario planning's ability to facilitate a consideration of how the future may differ from the past, we show how a greater emphasis on history can enhance consideration of the causality of future change. An adapted IL that has more emphasis on historical analysis can augment scenario planning's effectiveness as a tool for consideration of the future.