[EAS]The Long View

pjk pjk at design.eng.yale.edu
Thu Oct 25 01:48:36 EDT 2001

Subject:   The Long View

(from INNOVATION, 24 October 2001)

The tragic events of September 11 caught all of us by surprise, but
no one  more than the futurists planning to attend a conference to
be held the next  day in New York City on the subject "The Big
Surprises." Rescheduled, the  conference was held on October 3rd,
attracting -- not unsurprisingly --  double the number of
participants originally booked. Chairing the  conference was Peter
Schwartz, the president of Global Business Network  (GBN), whose
book, "The Art of the Long View" has popularized the 
scenario-planning technique for thinking about the future. Often
called the  Shell method because Royal Dutch/Shell largely
developed it in the 1970s,  scenario planning relies on imagining
the future rather than extrapolating  from the past. In its latest
refinement scenarios are limited to two  visions of the future up
to the year 2050: Dynamics as Usual and The Spirit  of the Coming
Age. "The first," conferees were told, "sees only a gradual  shift
from carbon fuels, through gas, to renewable energy. The second
looks  at the possibility that a technical revolution will create
dynamics that  are anything but usual." When asked if the terrorist
attacks on America  will require further refinement of the
scenarios, Schwartz said that such  threats are nothing new to the
major oil companies, who routinely include  security issues in
their planning. "The new thing that companies need to  add," he
says, "is the Muslim element, in particular, the extent to which 
Islamic fundamentalism might block the spread of western capitalism
and  democracy." Future big surprises that scenarios might consider
planning for  included: the positive economic effect of later
retirement; the emergence  of Europe as the world's superpower; and
maybe (a tongue in cheek  surprise?) a brand new way of thinking
about the future. (The Economist 11  Oct 2001)

Peter Schwartz's book "The Art of the Long View" came out in 1991.
I read it in Feb. 1992 and sent a copy to then Yale president
Benno Schmidt who was trying to restructure Yale engineering out of
existence. In a companion letter I encouraged him to convene some
experienced scenario builders to project alternative future Yales
with and without Engineering. I never did hear back, and still
wonder how large institutions generate their views of the future.
All too often institutional decision making seems trapped in the
present with the vocabulary of the past, without giving sufficient
deliberation to alternative dimensions of the future. 
[By the way, from their scenario building Royal Dutch/Shell was the
only major oil company with a detailed plan in place for the oil
crisis of 1973 and its aftermath.] --PJK

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