Social foundation of scenario planning

Nicholas J. Rowland, Matthew J. Spaniol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


In this article, the authors establish that models of scenario planning typically involve a series of phases, stages, or steps that imply a sequenced (i.e., linear or chronological) process. Recursive models, in contrast, allow phases to repeat, thus, incorporating iteration. The authors acknowledge the concerns voiced in futures studies that while models based on practical experience are common in the literature, forming a theoretical basis for why those practices work is often considered elusive. This includes models that imply linearity and those that accommodate iterativity. With theory from science and technology studies (STS) on knowledge production, the authors explain transition from one phase to the next and iteration between and within phases based on social negotiation. To this end, the authors examine the interplay between the “scenario development” phase and the “scenario use” phase of a planning process with a non-governmental organization in Denmark. The upshot for facilitators is practical insight into how transition between phases and phase iteration in scenario planning can be identified, leveraged, and, thus, managed. The upshot for scholars is a related insight into why scenario planning is a kind of laboratory for futures studies wherein the future is experimented upon.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6-15
Number of pages10
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
StatePublished - Nov 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Business and International Management
  • Applied Psychology
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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