The Scenario Planning Paradox

Matthew Jon Spaniol, Nicholas James Rowland

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

Abstract

For more than a decade, futures studies scholars have prefaced scholarly contributions by repeating the claim that there is insufficient theory to support chaotic scenario methodology. The strategy is formulaic, and the net effect is a curious one, which the authors refer to as the scenario planning paradox. Contributing fresh theory supposedly attends to the “dismal” state of theory, while contributing new typologies purportedly helps bring order to methodological chaos. Repeated over time, the contribution strategy breaks down. Effort to resolve the theoretical and methodological issue, which motivates re-statement of the claim in the first place, ultimately fails. In actuality, the field is distanced from its purported goals. The “dismal” state of theory encourages scholars to adopt theory that is not necessarily tethered to a common core, which does not contribute to a shared, foundational theoretical perspective in futures studies. Perceived chaos gives way to typologies, which, as they mount, contribute to the chaos they were meant to resolve. The end result, intended by no one, is that theory remains dismal and methods remain chaotic. This direction for the field is indefensible and untenable; either the field accepts this claim as a statement of truth, for which the solution is substantially enhanced empiricism, or rejects the claim and re-interprets the bounty produced by said claim to be a kind of richness in theory and method rather than the implicit paucity, poverty, and imperfection that they oft signify to the field now.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFutures The journal of policy, planning and futures studies
Volume95
ISSN0016-3287
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Keywords

  • dismal theory
  • methodological chaos
  • Scenario planning
  • paradox

Cite this

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title = "The Scenario Planning Paradox",
abstract = "For more than a decade, futures studies scholars have prefaced scholarly contributions by repeating the claim that there is insufficient theory to support chaotic scenario methodology. The strategy is formulaic, and the net effect is a curious one, which the authors refer to as the scenario planning paradox. Contributing fresh theory supposedly attends to the “dismal” state of theory, while contributing new typologies purportedly helps bring order to methodological chaos. Repeated over time, the contribution strategy breaks down. Effort to resolve the theoretical and methodological issue, which motivates re-statement of the claim in the first place, ultimately fails. In actuality, the field is distanced from its purported goals. The “dismal” state of theory encourages scholars to adopt theory that is not necessarily tethered to a common core, which does not contribute to a shared, foundational theoretical perspective in futures studies. Perceived chaos gives way to typologies, which, as they mount, contribute to the chaos they were meant to resolve. The end result, intended by no one, is that theory remains dismal and methods remain chaotic. This direction for the field is indefensible and untenable; either the field accepts this claim as a statement of truth, for which the solution is substantially enhanced empiricism, or rejects the claim and re-interprets the bounty produced by said claim to be a kind of richness in theory and method rather than the implicit paucity, poverty, and imperfection that they oft signify to the field now.",
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The Scenario Planning Paradox. / Spaniol, Matthew Jon; Rowland, Nicholas James.

In: Futures The journal of policy, planning and futures studies, Vol. 95, 2018.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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