The Essence of Scenarios
The Essence of Scenarios
Learning from the Shell Experience
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Table of Contents
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Acknowledgements 7 Preface by Peter Ho 9 Introduction: The ŸGentle ArtŒ 13 Sources 17 I A Unique Legacy 19 II Shell Scenarios — A History, 1965-2013 25 Experimentation and Emergence, 1965-1981 25 Moving Closer to the Business, 1982-1990 44 Culture Change, 1990-1999 51 Cheaper, Deeper Thinking, 1999-2006 58 New Pathways to ‘Challenging and Heard’, 2006-2013 67 III The Essence of the Shell Art 75 1 Improving Intuition 77 2 Plausible, Not Probable 80 3 Striking the Balance Between Relevant and Challenging 84 4 Pragmatic, Not Ideological 85 5 Realizing the Role of the Future in the Present 88 6 Focused and Targeted 89 7 Engaging the Client in the Process 91 8 Memorable, Yet Disposable 93 9 Storytelling — the Heart of Strategic Conversation 95 10 The Necessity of Numbers 97 11 The Creation of a Scenario Team 101 12 Serving as Door-Openers and Adding Value to External Relationships 104 13 Fostering a Culture of Openness and Curiosity 106 14 Managing Disagreement as an Asset 108 15 Providing Value within a Broader Management System 109 IV Looking Ahead 113 From ‘Seeing’ to ‘Seeding’, Not Growing Better Futures 114 Beyond Products to Value-Added Services 115 The Future of Shell Scenarios 117 Business Lens 121 Reaching Out 122 V Conclusion 123 The Evolution Continues — the Essence Remains 127 Epilogue: Scenario Team Leaders 131 Afterword 135 A Timeline 137 B Summary of Scenarios 139 Index 167

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, when quantitative planning was much in vogue, Royal Dutch Shell started experimenting with a different way of looking into the future: scenario planning. Shell's practice has now survived for almost half a century and has had a huge influence on how businesses, governments, and other organisations think about and plan for the future. To produce this illuminating study, the authors interviewed almost every living veteran of the Shell scenario planning operation, along with top Shell executives through the years. They identify several principles that both define the process at Shell and help explain how it has thrived for so long. For instance, Shell scenarios are stories, not predictions, and are designed to help break the habit, ingrained in most corporate planning, of assuming that the future will look much like the present.

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.