Storytelling and the scenario process : understanding success and failure

Bowman, Gary and MacKay, R. Bradley and Masrani, Swapnesh and Mckiernan, Peter (2013) Storytelling and the scenario process : understanding success and failure. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80 (4). 735–748. ISSN 0040-1625 (

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Scenario planning has become a widely used strategic management approach for understanding future environmental uncertainty. Despite its increasing popularity in management practice, the theoretical underpinnings for scenario planning processes remain underdeveloped. Furthermore, there is little analysis on why some scenario methods succeed and others fail. To address this gap, we draw on storytelling theory as a conceptual lens for analyzing our data. This paper uses a longitudinal case study of two successive scenario planning interventions over a nine-year period in an intra-organizational partnership to investigate the efficacy of scenario planning development processes. Of the two interventions, the first, which followed what we term an ‘inductive’ method, was successful, meeting the objectives set by the organization, while the second approach, which we term ‘deductive’, was deemed a failure. We develop a process model explaining these divergent outcomes based on how meaning was either enabled or inhibited in the two methods through storytelling.