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Scenario planning, also called scenario thinking or scenario analysis, is a strategic planning method that some organizations use to make flexible long-term plans. It is in large part an adaptation and generalization of classic methods used by military intelligence.

The original method was that a group of analysts would generate simulation games for policy makers. Shell for example, scenario planning was viewed as changing mindsets about the exogenous part of the world, prior to formulating specific strategies.

The method also allows the inclusion of factors that are difficult to formalize, such as novel insights about the future, deep shifts in values, unprecedented regulations or inventions. Systems thinking used in conjunction with scenario planning leads to plausible scenario story lines because the causal relationship between factors can be demonstrated. In these cases when scenario planning is integrated with a systems thinking approach to scenario development, it is sometimes referred to as dynamic scenarios. These combinations and permutations of fact and related social changes are called “scenarios”.

The scenarios usually include plausible, but unexpectedly important situations and problems that exist in some small form in the present day. Any particular scenario is unlikely.

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