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The Sixth Sense

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The Sixth Sense

Accelerating Organizational Learning with Scenarios


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

The real reason to embark on scenario planning isn’t just to meet change head on — it is to survive as an organization.

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Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Innovative
  • Concrete Examples


This book disserves itself by purporting to be merely about scenario planning, although it covers that subject thoroughly. In fact, it’s one of the most lucid, interesting examinations of fortune and folly you will ever read. The recapitulation of disastrous episodes at a handful of once-great companies shows just how little inclined the gods are to spare the proud. Closed minds and entrenched habits of thought managed to afflict even such a venturesome New Economy firm as Yahoo! Originality and experimentation bless even companies in humdrum industries, such as packaging. Captivating anecdotes and illustrations are, in fact, the meat of the book. The scenario planning analysis, while solid, is less convincing than the cases themselves. At times, the book shows the weaknesses that are probably inevitable when so many authors share creation. It tends to meander and, now and then, loses its way in jargon-choked thickets. But, assures you, the clarity of the cases redeems it and makes it valuable.


What Are Scenarios?

Scenario thinking is a powerful method for clarifying perceptions, communicating, integrating quantitative and intuitive planning, forcing people to think, working through complexity and influencing an organization without micro-managing.

Simply put, scenarios are alternative futures. People often spin future scenarios unconsciously. Many companies have encountered severe problems because management "locked in" to certain scenario and failed to consider other potential outcomes. Conscious scenario planning forces managers to confront their unspoken assumptions and test them in the glare of a possibly adverse future.

Managers need to recognize that the way they think affects what they see. What they assume to be true can often blind them to what is, in fact, happening. To prepare your organization to use scenario planning, it is necessary to:

  • Understand that people always spin scenarios - Allow alternative scenarios to come forth for open discussion and debate.
  • Examine your assumptions - Determine how habitual behavior and thought patterns constrain your individual and organizational thinking.
  • Plan strategically - ...

About the Authors

Kees van der Heijden is director of the Centre for Scenario Planning and Future Studies at the University of Strathclyde Graduate School of Business in Glasgow, Scotland, where Ron Bradfield, George Burt, George Cairns and George Wright are lecturers. Der Heijden also wrote Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversations. Bradfield directs the school’s MBA program in Asia. Burt is a qualified chartered accountant and scenario researcher. Cairns is a fellow of the British Institute of Facilities Management, and Wright is founder and editor of the Journal of Behavioural Decision Making and author of Strategic Decision Making: A Best Practice Blueprint.

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