Scenario planning is a popular form of strategic planning that explores plausible views of possible futures for a business, based on a combination of known factors and potential trends. It is frequently used with other tools in the formation of business strategy. It works by sketching out a small number of stories about how the future may unfold, which gives you a clearer picture of the decisions you must make today to prepare for these eventualities.
Scenario planning is an excellent application of mind mapping, according to Tony Buzan and Chris Griffiths, co-authors of the new book, Mind Maps for Business: Revolutionise Your Business Thinking and Practice, because it gives you a rich, visual medium upon which you can map out future scenarios, identify potential risks and opportunities, and generate ideas to prepare for them.
To create a future scenario mind map, start with a central topic related to your area of strategic focus, and then add first-level branches entitled external forces, scenarios, patterns, strategies and signals. Next, let’s take a closer look at each of these factors as we add details about them to our mind map:
External forces: What external forces may affect your business in the near future (e.g., changes in technology, regulations and the demographics of your customers)? Add them as sub-topics to the main topic, external forces. Next, add any relevant details about these changes to your map. Finally, prioritize them with icons or symbols, based upon which ones are most relevant to your organization.
Scenarios: For each of the major changes you predicted in external forces, explore 3 different future impact scenarios on your organization if they were to come to pass: best case, worst case and status quo. Highlight the scenarios that are most likely to affect your organization.
Patterns: Based upon the external forces and scenarios that you have mapped out, it should now be easier to see patterns emerging – common considerations that you ought to be aware of and prepare for, regardless of which future scenario actually occurs. Make a special note of these patterns on this map branch, to call attention to them.
Strategies: Use this branch to explore potential future strategies that your company may pursue, based upon the scenarios and patterns you have explored. This is one of the strengths of mind mapping, of course: Enabling you to compare and contrast different elements within your visual map, and identifying related pieces of information. This non-linear planning format also makes it easier to see “white space” opportunities – ideas that may exist in areas between or outside of your company’s current markets and industry segments. Highlight the most reasonable strategies you can follow for each scenario.
Signals: Identify the early warning signals – the things, if they should occur, that may give you an early indication that one of the scenarios you have explored is starting to unfold.
The future is unpredictable and frustratingly non-linear, of course. But working through some likely future scenarios in a visual mapping format can help you to think ahead and better prepare your organization for the future, no matter what form it takes.