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How Scenario-Based Design Can Help You Plan a Better Future

30. Sep 2021

At DDC, we use design, storytelling, and alternative futures to highlight complex issues from new perspectives

Long reads

Through scenario-based design, we can discover new ways to take action. It gives us the tools we need to build organizations that are flexible and ready for change. And it allows us to make better decisions, right here and now. 

Building the future

No one can predict the future. And the future isn’t given – which is exactly why we can shape it.

When we’re faced with major insecurity, we need to plan and build a safer and better future. It’s the same for corporations, organizations, individuals and it applies to our businesses, politics, and everyday lives.

In scenario-based design, we carry out extensive research into human behavior and interaction to explore different future outcomes. It’s a powerful methodology to navigate a rough sea when the future is uncertain. We can look at alternative futures and scenarios to get new perspectives and discover our blind spots.

Rafael Ramirez, Professor and Director of Oxford Scenarios Programme, considers scenario-based design a useful way of looking at how the future might compare to your existing planning: “If you’re unsure of what the future holds, compared to what it looked like in your strategy, scenario-planning is a very, very useful tool.” 

"The future will be shaped by the way people think and act today"

Sami Mahroum

Director of Strategy & Research, Dubai Future Foundation

A radical new tool

We live in complex and unpredictable times. Emerging technology, global trade wars, and new viruses make traditional methods of predicting the future outdated. Scenario-based design is a necessary and radical new tool.

Our Head of Program, Sara Gry Striegler has worked with scenario-based design in areas like healthcare, the future of work, and production: “By establishing tangible and likely future scenarios we’re creating a tool to analyze current changes in real-time.”

There has been a growing interest in the discipline from business leaders and decision-makers. That’s why Sara decided to make scenario-based design the focus of our Experimentation by Design conference in January 2020. More than 100 leaders from all sectors came together to explore and build physical scenarios for the future.

Sara witnessed the impact first-hand: “What we’ve seen is that scenario-based design can be used by all stakeholders across sectors. We use the future as a tool to inspire action and to make better choices in the present.”

Scenarios sparks our imagination

We’ve recently used the method in our work with defining and launching missions within the three societal transitions we’re focused on contributing to solving: digital, social, and green. By using scenario-based design for this challenging task, we’re able to mobilize our imagination – we have to imagine the future we want to create before we can design it. In that sense, scenario-based and speculative design makes the mission relatable and coveted.

A specific example of this ability is our use of the method in our project New Days (Nye Dage). The goal of this project is to contribute with new perspectives of how elders in our society live – and how the system around them handles and treats them. We’ll develop scenarios that are so specific in their shape and content that they’ll be used as a framework for debates, political dialogues, and innovative development processes.

The scenarios are the starting point for initiating experiments, that will release the potential that the scenarios point to. This method provides us and our partners with completely new solutions and puts the lives of our elders on the agenda.

Scenario Design: What We Offer

If you are interested in changing your organization through futures design and scenario design, we’ll gladly help you. We tailor the specific event to your exact needs and situation.

  1. Talk: Listen to the Future
    Book us for an inspirational talk, where you are invited into our scenario universe. The talk can be part of a conference or an independent event, and it can be physical or virtual. This type of event works as a great reference point for future discussions in your organization and as a first step in understanding how future scenarios can create value for you.
  2. Workshop: Touch the Future
    Use a half or full day to get an in-depth experience and new knowledge about your future organization. We’ll take you through relevant exercises and bring you forward in your process. The workshop can be physical or virtual.

Longterm investment

Furthermore, investors from The Danish Industry Foundation need skills to navigate the unpredictable. Every year, the Foundation provides up to €30 million to support projects that generate applicable knowledge, new competencies, and innovation that benefits the industrial sector.

To ensure Danish businesses keep their competitive edge in the future, the Foundation also uses scenario-based design in their work. Director, Thomas Hofman-Bang highlights their work with new technologies such as 5G, Internet of Things, and Blockchain as examples where scenario-based design has proved useful.  

As Sara Gry Striegler points out, our training and implementation of the scenario-based design is just the beginning: “Scenario-based design is a method we can apply to almost all our services. We’ve found an approach that combines the research of scenarios and horizon scanning with design and it’s worked across sectors and stakeholders.”

”No one can predict one defining outcome for these technologies. With scenarios, we can cover and plan according to several options”

Thomas Hofman-Bang

CEO, The Danish Industry Foundation

Can’t get enough of design and innovation? We hear you. And we have you covered.

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