Amsterdam University Press
The Essence of Scenarios
The Essence of Scenarios
Learning from the Shell Experience
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Reviews and Features

"This is a major case study of scenario planning, something that is not easily available to the student of scenario planning." - Kees van der Heijden, Director and co-founder of the Global Business Network (GBN) in the United States. Emeritus Professor, Strathclyde University. Former head of the Business Environment Division in Group Planning at Royal Dutch/Shell and author of the bestselling business book 'Scenarios: the Art of Strategic Conversation'

"With unique access to all the Shell players, this study, should be extremely useful for all those companies and governments that have already introduced or that will be introducing scenario planning in the near future. It will help their managers to learn much more quickly how to improve their planning procedures and better deal with the unknowable future. The book shows the value of scenario use as a sustained practice, rather than as a one-off exercise." -- Arie de Geus, Former Corporate Planning Director at Royal Dutch Shell.

"Shell stands as birthplace of business scenarios. While the Shell method has been extensively covered as a tool, what is needed is a broader appreciation of the contexts of scenario development As someone who teaches scenario planning at the graduate and undergraduate level, I would definitely start with this story as a frame to talk about the diverse practices that have sprouted up around and since Shell's landmark practice."-- Cynthia Selin, Assistant Professor, School of Sustainability, Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, Arizona State University

"For anyone interested in following the history of Shell's work on developing and seeking to apply scenarios, this is an essential read." -- Michael Jefferson, ESCP Europe Business School, London

Roland Kupers, Angela Wilkinson

The Essence of Scenarios

Learning from the Shell Experience

In 1965, Royal Dutch Shell started experimenting with a new approach to preparing for the future. This approach, called scenario planning, eschewed forecasting in favor of plausible alternative stories. By using stories, or Ÿscenarios,Œ Shell aimed to avoid the false assumption that the future would look much like the present“an assumption that marred most corporate planning at the time. The Essence of Scenarios offers unmatched insight into the company’s innovative practice, which still has a huge influence on the way businesses, governments, and other organizations think about and plan for the future.

In the course of their research, Angela Wilkinson and Roland Kupers interviewed almost every living veteran of the Shell scenario planning operation, along with many top Shell executives from later periods. Drawing on these interviews, the authors identify several principles that characterize the Shell process and explain how it has survived and thrived for so long. They also enumerate the qualities of successful Shell scenarios, which above all must be plausible stories with logical trajectories. Ultimately, Wilkinson and Kupers demonstrate the value of scenario planning as a sustained practice, rather than as a one-off exercise.
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Roland Kupers

Roland Kupers is an associate fellow in the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford.

Angela Wilkinson

Angela Wilkinson, PhD (Physics), is Associate Fellow, Said Business School, University of Oxford and former Director of Foresight for the OECD. She is a recognised and respected global leading scholar and practitioner in scenario planning and foresight. She spent a decade in Shell's global scenario team.