How to build foresight scenarios

I finally ran across a relevant paper that clearly explain the methods of scenario-building in foresight. It's called "How to Build Scenarios" by Lawrence Wilkinson. Some excerpts of the methodology:

scenarios are created in plural (...) specially constructed stories about the future, each one modeling a distinct, plausible world in which we might someday have to live and work. (...) the purpose of scenario planning is not to pinpoint future events but to highlight large-scale forces that push the future in different directions. It's about making these forces visible, so that if they do happen, the planner will at least recognize them. (...) Note that the scenarios don't fall neatly into "good" and "bad" worlds, desirable and undesirable futures. (...) Once we've identified those implications that work in all of the scenarios, we get on with them in the confidence that we're making better, more robust plans. (...) For these we want to know the "early warning signs" that tell us those scenarios are beginning to unfold.

The method is pretty straight-forward:

  1. Scenario planning begins by identifying the focal issue or decision (...) So we begin the process by agreeing on the issue that we want to address
  2. we next attempt to identify the primary "driving forces" at work in the present. These fall roughly into four categories: Social dynamics , Economic issues, Political issues, Technological issues
  3. After we identify the predetermined elements from the list of driving forces, we should be left with a number of uncertainties. We then sort these to make sure they are critical uncertainties. (...) If we can simplify our entire list of related uncertainties into two orthogonal axes, then we can define a matrix (two axes crossing) that allows us to define four very different, but plausible, quadrants of uncertainty. Each of these far corners is, in essence, a logical future that we can explore.
  4. We return to the list of driving forces that we generated earlier; these dynamics become "characters" in the stories that we develop. (...) we recognize that the "real" future will not be any of the four scenarios, but that it will contain elements of all of our scenarios.