Strategic foresight and scenario planning is the discipline of uncovering and analyzing the nuances of potential future outcomes in order to better equip businesses to recognize and adapt to unprecedented change. The scenarios outline the impacts of key uncertainties and they help scenario participants confront their personal blindspots in how they believe the path ahead will be laid out.

ATB’s Innovation Lab began our foresight and scenario planning journey in 2019 and we’ve seen how much value this initiative can give to business leaders. Building out realistic scenarios that reflect how markets evolve helps us understand an increasingly competitive future. Scenario participants are encouraged to embrace change, be flexible, and seize new opportunities.

Our scenarios were developed to explore beyond the bounds of possibilities not probabilities. In order to break out of our individual and collective blindspots surrounding the future, we wanted to map what could happen tomorrow, extended to extremes. We utilized the archetype scenario methodology to map out understandable, accessible, and usable future scenarios. We wanted to prioritize simplicity while pushing boundaries in order to open up our minds to uncomfortable and disagreeable potential realities.

The archetypes we chose were:

  • Baseline: This future follows an expected and predictable trajectory, what the average person would describe the future to be.
  • Transformation: Here, everything is working together for a relatively positive outcome for all players.
  • Collapse: This archetype is the opposite of the Transformation archetype where disaster strikes and the future is leading to a negative outcome
  • New Equilibrium: The archetype which balances all of the other three paradigms to showcase a tension of positive and negative forces.

We know our future will not be a picture-perfect replica of any one scenario. Instead, each scenario will include some threads of truth along with details from our actual future that won’t have been outlined in any scenario. Our scenario archetypes were also optimized to recognize the key roles played by the government, the people, and technology. Additionally, we defined key assumptions based off of attributes that were considered certain and/or not a significant area of interest. These givens include: accelerating climate change; relative stability with no major economic crises or new/significant wars; demographic changes, including widespread diversity, increased migration and an aging population; gentrification; and no wildcard events such as nuclear disasters, terrorist events, or asteroid impacts.

From these givens and frameworks, we created our scenarios. In our Baseline scenario, the government and people are mostly reactive to change, while technology development continues to accelerate. Emerging from this scenario is global economic stagnation, isolationist trade policies, the pressures of climate change, the varied impacts of technology, private corporations as systemic players, and a “new world divide” pitting environmental interests against economic needs.

In our Transformation scenario, we see continued social, economic, and technological progress stemming from the struggle between the objectives of the government, the people and technology. Proactive regulation and advanced technology development have increased prosperity and diversity; ethical considerations are incorporated into all aspects of life and technologies; and the proactive attitude of citizens has encouraged thriving competitive ecosystems, improved corporate climate initiatives, and created social unity.

In our Collapse scenario, we focus on a future beset by little choice, freedom or potential. It assumes that Western governments are so reactive to worldly change that they lose control to Eastern powers, and due to highly controversial technology (like social credit scoring) people have lost all autonomy. On top of stark economic challenges, the world is facing extreme environmental disasters, and this society has never developed a culture of trust..

Our New Equilibrium scenario outlines a future that accelerates faster than the Baseline. The government implements the bare minimum of protection and most advancements reflect people’s purchasing and lifestyle decisions, and social movements. This reality is disrupted by climate change, an aging population, decentralized autonomous organizations, the housing crisis, and youth’s disillusionment from politics. In response, we are seeing neotribalism, new government superclusters, heavy taxation on travel and waste, and more radical change caused by the tension of imperfection.

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