Three silhouettes in a boardroom

Research Scenario thinking and scenario planning

Scenario thinking offers a way for individuals and groups to face up to the threats and opportunities of the future, and to their potential impact upon the organisation or community. It contains key components to promote the effective exchange of opinions and beliefs within a management team. The construction of multiple futures holds open airtime for differing opinions about the nature of the future, and provides a forum for the debate, questioning, and synthesis of complementary, contrasting, and conflicting viewpoints.

Essentially, scenario interventions within organisations construct multiple frames of future states of the external world, only some of which may be well-aligned with current strategy. Scenario thinking can facilitate "vigilance" in strategic thinking – in that alternative futures are thought through and strategic options can subsequently be evaluated against these futures.

Key themes

  • improving scenario development methods
  • Delphi methods
  • strategic foresight
  • cognitive basis of scenario thinking
  • effective facilitation of scenario development in management teams

Our areas of research 

  • Delphi method
  • Scenario methods
  • Group-based facilitation
  • Futures thinking

Editorial roles

Members of the group hold the positions of Editor-in-Chief of “Futures and Foresight Science” (Wiley), Editor-in-Chief of “Journal of Behavioral Decision Making” (Wiley), Senior Editor of “Decision Support Systems” (Elsevier), Associate Editor of “International Journal of Forecasting” (Elsevier), and Associate Editor of “Journal of Forecasting” (Wiley).

Research group members

Our PhD students

  • Stephanie Bryson
  • Mariam Al Mansouri
  • Megan Grime

Recent publications

McKiernan, P., Prospective thinking: Scenario planning meets neuroscience, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2016.10.069 (ABS 3 star)

McKiernan, P., Bowman, G., MacKay, R., Masrani, S., Storytelling and the Scenario Process: Understanding success and failure for special issue of Technological Forecasting & Social Change, July 2012

WRIGHT G, CAIRNS G and BRADFIELD R  "Scenario methodology: new developments in theory and practice. Introduction to the Special Issue" Technological Forecasting and Social Change , 2013, 80, 561-565.

WRIGHT G, BRADFIELD R and CAIRNS G "Does the intuitive logics method - and its recent enhancements - produce "effective" scenarios?"  Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2013, 80, 631-642.

CAIRNS G, AHMED  I, MULLET J and WRIGHT G "Scenario Method and Stakeholder Engagement: Critical reflections on a climate change scenarios case study"  Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2013, 80, 1-10.

DERBYSHIRE J and WRIGHT G “Preparing for the future: Development of an ‘antifragile’ methodology that complements scenario planning by omitting causation”, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2014, 82, 215-225.

BRADFIELD R, CAIRNS G and WRIGHT G ”Teaching scenario analysis – an action learning pedagogy”, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2015,100, 44-52

CAIRNS G, GOODWIN P and WRIGHT G “A decision-analysis-based framework for analysing stakeholder behaviour in scenario planning”, European Journal of Operational Research, 2016, 194, 323-335.

CAIRNS G, WRIGHT, G and FAIRBROTHER, P “Promoting articulated action from diverse stakeholders in response to public policy scenarios : a case analysis of the use of ‘scenario improvisation’ method “ Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 2016, 103, 97-108

DERBYSHIRE, J and WRIGHT G. “Augmenting the Intuitive Logics scenario planning method for a more comprehensive analysis of causation” International Journal of Forecasting, 2017, 33, 254-266.

BRADFIELD, R, DERBYSHIRE, J and WRIGHT G. “The Critical Role of History in Scenario Thinking: Augmenting Causal Analysis within the Intuitive Logics Scenario Development Methodology” Futures, 2016, 77, 56-66.

BOLGER, F and WRIGHT, G. “Use of expert knowledge to anticipate the future: issues, analysis and directions” International Journal of Forecasting, 2017, 33, 230-243.

CAIRNS, G, WRIGHT G, FAIRBROTHER P and Phillips R, “Branching scenarios: seeking articulated action for regional regeneration – a case study of limited success”  Technological Forecasting and Social Change, in press.

ROWE,E, WRIGHT, G and DERBYSHIRE, J, “Enhancing horizon scanning by utilizing pre-developed scenarios: analysis of current practice and specification of a process improvement to aid the identification of important 'weak signals' Technological Forecasting and Social Change, in press.