A usage editor notes that “the over-use of the word ‘scenarios’ in various loose senses has attracted frequent hostile comment” (Oxford English Dictionary 2011). Indeed, in technology forecasting, the term often is used too loosely. However, scenarios is a technical term that refers to a specific family of techniques. It is therefore more useful, and certainly more consistent with current usage, to attempt a clear and unambiguous definition of how scenarios are created and used.
The Oxford English Dictionary provides three definitions of uncertainty. The second is the one with which the remainder of the chapter will be concerned (OED Online 2011):
A sketch, outline, or description of an imagined situation or sequence of events; esp… . (b) an outline of an intended course of action
Scenarios are a natural outgrowth of efforts to help organizations adapt to their rapidly changing environments. In assisting organizations in making decisions, forecasters face several problems. Qualitative techniques, such as checklists, often fail in the important tasks of engaging decision makers and facilitating organizational learning. On the other hand, solely quantitative approaches often are not appropriate. Moreover, narrow assumptions about the future can result in overly rigid prescriptions for future actions. Recognition of these issues has led to development of several distinct scenario methodologies.
Strength, Weakness, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analyses were some of the ...