Discovering what Innovation is made of// Scenarios & Wild Cards

Was genau ist eine Innovation? Wie entstehen Trends und wie können sie in der Praxis eingesetzt werden? In ihrem Buch Road Trip to Innovation stellt Delia Dumitrescu die wichtigsten Begriffe der Trend- und Zukunftsforschung vor und gibt eine Übersicht der verschiedenen Methoden der Branche. In 4 Teilen möchten wir Ihnen Auszüge aus dem Buch vorstellen.

Teil 4: Scenarios & Wild Cards

I am in home-office mode for the rest of the week, so I decided first to take a short walk to the Turkish market by my house, a place of oriental enchantment and culinary endeavors before I got started on the all-consuming yet enjoyable next chapter of this book. I arrived back home with my arms full of goodies, dropped them on the table, sat down and started typing away. The theme of the week is scenarios and wild cards. I slowly dive into the topic and feed my brain with the basics. There’s this article I discovered by journalist Giselle Weiss in The Global Investor issue 2.09 Focus_04 in which she asks Richard Watson, publisher of What’s Next, the key question “Trend research only analyzes developments that are already apparent in the present. How do you get from the present to the future?” Watson’s answer was as insightful as possible. He said “Imagination and curiosity. You have to constantly be asking questions: How might things intersect? Where could things go? In a way, it’s very speculative. A lot of what I do is extremely silly. But the more serious end of it is scenarios. You should never believe a futurologist who says, ‘The future is X’. The future is by definition uncertain because it hasn’t happened yet. According to that logic, there must be multiple futures. Scenario technique is a wonderful strategic tool because it actually acknowledges the fact that there are multiple futures”.

The scenario technique, an ideas generator and long-term look-into-the-future strategy tool, dates back as far as men have been fighting wars. While working for the RAND Corporation in the 50s, Herman Kahn – a preeminent futurist of the 20th century – brought the scenario technique previously used for analyzing the likely consequences of nuclear war and adapted it to the business world. But the most famous company identified with scenario planning is Royal Dutch, Shell’s Group Planning Scenario team. In the 70s, Pierre Wack, an unconventional French oil executive, saw the need for long-term planning to anticipate changes in volatile oil and gas markets. When the first oil crisis hit home, the value of Shell’s futuristic approach was realized. The oil embargo caught most companies by surprise, but Shell had already considered the impact of an increase in oil price as a possible future scenario and thought of the actions they should take if it happened. By practicing on this scenario they managed to avoid the worst shocks; Shell even emerged after the oil crisis as the strongest player in the field.
What is really amazing and useful about the scenarios tool is that it allows the inclusion of factors that are difficult to understand, such as new insights about the future (e.g. wearable technologies), deep shifts in values, unprecedented regulations (laws) or inventions (e.g. the bionic eye). Somehow, the relationship between these complex factors becomes obvious. To paraphrase from Wikipedia: when disclosed years in advance, certain weaknesses can be avoided or their impacts can be reduced. A company may discover that it needs to change contractual terms to be protected against a new class of risks, or save money to purchase anticipated technologies.
I dug further and, from crowd-sourced Internet platforms, I found out that the scenario technique works with at least two types of information: the things we believe we know something about and elements we consider uncertain. The things we know are the trends in whatever shapes they come: micro, macro or mega. As the scenario technique is a method for looking into the long-term future, megatrends are the main type of trends used in the process. By looking at them, we can safely make assumptions about demographic shifts and technological developments. The uncertainties could be anything from the context that surrounds our topic to the outcomes of political elections, innovations, fads, fashions and so on. “The art”, as Richard Watson spoke about in his interview, “lies in blending the known and the unknown into a limited number of views” (aka scenarios).

                                                             Auszug aus “Road Trip to Innovation”, Kapitel “Ideation”, p.144-145

Auf den weiterfolgenden Seiten beschäftigt sich Delia Dumitrescu damit, wie Szenariotechniken funktionieren, wie sie in Zukunft wirken werden und welche Aufgabe Wild Cards in diesem Kontext haben. Werfen Sie hier einen Blick in das Buch!


Road Trip to Innovation – How I came to understand Future Thinking ist die Geschichte einer neugierigen Persönlichkeit, die sich auf einen Road Trip begibt, um herauszufinden, was Innovation wirklich bedeutet.

Delia Dumitrescu ist die Autorin des Buches. Mit unserer Unterstützung hat sie in ihrem Projekt viele spannende Interviews mit Unternehmen aus der Zukunfts-, Innovations- und Trendforschung realisiert. Ihre Erkenntnisse über angewandte Theorien und Methoden der Branche fasst sie in einer leicht verständlichen Sprache und anhand vieler farbiger Illustrationen zusammen.

Das Buch ist für 29,90 € bei Amazon erhältlich.