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Scenario analysis to support decision making in addressing wicked problems : pitfalls and potential

Wright, George and Cairns, George and O'Brien, Frances and Goodwin, Paul (2018) Scenario analysis to support decision making in addressing wicked problems : pitfalls and potential. European Journal of Operational Research. ISSN 0377-2217

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This paper provides a review and evaluation of the use of scenario methods from the Intuitive Logics (IL) school to address so-called ‘wicked problems’. Scenario planning has been widely advocated by its practitioners and its popularity has increased in the practice arena since the Millennium. However, some academics have described the technique as an ‘art’ that lacks theoretical and methodological rigour. Over recent years, academics have responded to this critique, drawing on both empirical and conceptual studies. This has led to a multiplicity of augmented IL scenario methods. Here, we review these developments and compare them to soft OR methods as a means of tackling wicked problems, drawing, in particular, on Churchman’s moral imperative that we must address the whole problem, not merely ‘carve off’ one part. We conclude that IL scenario planning can be a useful tool in the OR practitioner’s tool kit and that it can complement many of the established soft OR methods