Confronting Your Longer-Term Futures

Scenarios are short, internally consistent narratives of possible futures; they're not predictions. Some uncertainties aren't as pressing as others, such as those that may occur in the far future. In the previous section, you explore how to plan for immediate risks. In this section, I show you how to plan for longer-term uncertainties. Organizations know that longer-term uncertainties exist, but they often don't want to address them because they're not as pressing or as critical today.

Thinking about the big what ifs

The most significant trends likely to affect the larger world are those forces that are the big what ifs — the driving forces. These situations tend to push your thinking and are usually classified as the big unknowns. Draw from your research in Chapter 10 for this section. The forces generally fit in one of four categories:

  • Political issues: You may need to handle electoral concerns, such as who's going to be the next president. Legislative changes can affect tax policies, and regulatory issues can include figuring out what to do if Microsoft were to go under.
  • Economic issues: Macroeconomic trends and forces shape the economy as a whole. How does the price of crude oil impact the cost of running your business? Microeconomic dynamics are also a factor. What will your competitors do? How does the very structure of the industry change? And within the company itself, will you be able to find the skilled employees you need?
  • Social ...

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