Category C: Scenarios

Category C: Scenarios

What is it?

Scenarios are a method, which allows you toexplore what can happen and consequently be prepared for what actually happens. Scenarios are based on the important yet uncertain factors, which can determine the future of your business. You create narratives based on these factors and these narratives can be used as images of a future to create solutions for or as a point of departure to create new possibilities from. As such, the method is suitable to gain a general view of the inherent possibilities and limitations that can arise over time.

How is it done?

Plan and facilitate a workshop

The method is conducted through one or more workshops. During these workshops the method is similar to focus group interviews and the same practicalities are to be taken care of.

Establish the factors

Find out which factors your business’ future depends on. Settle on 2-6 factors based on your specific situation. If you choose more factors, the scenarios can become too opaque.

Set up the scenarios

Make sure you combine the factors to bring out the narratives in the scenarios. Don’t be afraid to create unrealistic scenarios as they can make you attentive to small significant factors in the present. 2-8 scenarios are a suitable amount, but it can vary based on the specific situation and number of factors. Write a short account of the situation of each scenario and include a short description of the relevant factors.

Document the scenarios

Create a visual presentation of each scenario so they can be compared and analyzed. This will enable a discussion of the influence of each separate factor.

Discuss the scenarios

Based on the factors and the scenarios, you can pinpoint which ones you need to monitor or adjust. It is important to have a general view of the influence of all the factors so you can act strategically to improve the future.

What does it take?

Time frame

The method can effectively be conducted in 3-7 hours depending on the number of scenarios and relevant factors. You should set aside 2 hours for analysis and discussion of the scenarios.


  • Paper, pencils, markers, post-its and a whiteboard for creating the scenarios.
  • A computer for creating and gathering the descriptions of the scenarios.
  • Food and beverages for the participants of the workshops.


The method demands 1-3 employees. They don’t necessarily need to have any specific skills.



Peggy is in the middle management of a trade organization for the service industry. Because her town has experienced an increase in tourism, Peggy wants to explore the possibilities this creates. There are some obstacles in terms of inefficient road structure and few means of public transportation, so she decides to use scenarios to explore the new possibilities and limitations for the town.


First Peggy identifies the important factors, which may vary in the future. She chooses the amount of visiting tourists, their average spending in one visit, the number of shops and hotels, the prognosis for next summers’ weather, and the transportation possibilities to and fro the town.

Peggy develops 5 scenarios where the different factors are played out. For instance, she imagines great weather but poor transportation possibilities; spending increase but a static amount of shops; increased number of hotels and a static amount of visitors etc. For every scenario she creates a visualization and a description so she can analyze their advantages and drawbacks.


Peggy presents the scenarios to her supervisor, who uses them to make strategic improvements so they can draw advantage of the increasing amounts of visitors to the town.


Based on the scenarios Peggy developed, the trade organization begins lobbying for an expansion of the public transport system. They also lobby for a revision of the public subsidies for regional tourism so they can keep up with the increased tourism.

More on the method

Scenarios can be based on questionnaires or structured interviews and be grounded in observations, personas and focus group interviews.

Further readings on scenarios:

Collins, Hillary (2010) – Creative Research: The Theory and Practice of Research for the Creative Industries – Switzerland: AVA Publishing


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