Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Scenarios for China’s Future: A One-Day Pre-Conference Workshop" at Penn State

Analysis has undergone a profound change over the last generation.  Where once planning was populated by individuals and the heroic notion of human activity, today the individual has been reduced to a single data set that produces meaning only as part of an aggregate and the behavior of collectives of people, like viruses, can be understood as a set of relational linkages that can be discovered and managed.  At the same time, the traditional forms of analysis grounded in extrapolation and linear thinking has been giving way to a more complex form of approaching challenges that make space not just to the non linear but also to the non-rational. 

From out of these trends, scenario planning has emerged as an increasingly important tool for organizing analysis. "Scenarios deal with two worlds; the world of facts and the world of perceptions. They explore for facts but they aim at perceptions inside the heads of decision-makers. Their purpose is to gather and transform information of strategic significance into fresh perceptions." (Pierre Wack, “The Gentle Art of Re-perceiving”, Harvard Business Review, September–October 1985)

"Scenario planning has been used by some of the world's largest corporations, including Royal Dutch Shell, Motorola, Disney and Accenture.  . . . According to Bain & Company's annual survey of management tools, fewer than 40% of companies used scenario planning in 1999. But by 2006 its usage had risen to 70%. As a result of its scenario planning, the New York Board of Trade decided in the 1990s to build a second trading floor outside the World Trade Centre, a decision that kept it going after September 11th 2001." (here).

It is with this in mind that I was pleased to play a small role in bringing a workshop on scenario planning to Penn State. That workshop, "Scenarios for China’s Future: A One-Day Pre-Conference Workshop" will take place on April 21, 2017, facilitated by Matthew Spaniol,  an Industrial PhD Fellow at Danish Maritime, a member-based organization representing the interests of the maritime industry in Copenhagen, Denmark and my colleague Nicholas Rowland. The workshop serves as an introductory event to the upcoming conference at Penn State: New International Trade and Rules Between Globalization and Anti-Globalization.

The Concept Note and announcement follows:

Scenarios for China’s Future: A One-Day Pre-Conference Workshop

Join us for the opportunity to participate in an authentic scenario planning experience April 21, 2017 at Penn State’s School of International Affairs. Our pre-conference workshop is facilitated by an invited guest, Matthew Spaniol, an experienced scenario planning and foresight expert, and, currently, Industrial PhD Fellow at Danish Maritime.

Topics of investigation focus on China’s future as it pertains to the general direction of the full conference event, namely, “New International Trade and Investment Rules between Globalization and Anti-Globalization.” As such, this event is appropriate for students and scholars with a general interest in China’s future, scholars interested in the world balance of globalization and anti-globalization, and those curious about learning about scenario-based planning.

In light of the unequal penetration of globalization in and between nation-states, questions to be addressed at the workshop include, but are not limited to:

· What is the future of the Chinese nation-state?
· What is the future of Chinese national and international diplomacy?
· What is the future of Chinese global trade and investment policy?
· What is the future of Chinese industry?

Below is the tentative schedule for the pre-conference event, background information on how scenario planning works, and details about our invited guest.

Tentative Schedule

This is the structure of a scenario planning process that lasts one day and will be the structure of the pre-conference workshop.

09:00-09:30 Introduction to scenario planning and orientation to the future
09:30-10:30 Engage in first iteration in the development of future scenarios
10:30-10:45 Coffee/Tea Break
10:45-12:00 Underpinning logic of the scenario method
12:00-12:45 Break for Lunch (provided)
12:45-14:00 Engage in second iteration in the development of future scenario
14:00-14:15 Coffee/Tea Break
14:15-15:45 Informal presentation of scenarios and discussion
15:45-16:00 Closing remarks and tentative answers to the grand questions

More on Scenario Planning

This pre-conference workshop presents a unique opportunity for scholars interested in China to cast themselves into the future to explore a range of plausible futures through the guided use of the scenario method. Also called “strategic scenario analysis,” scenario planning is a widely-used tool in all markets, sectors, and industries, though they were formerly reserved for national militaries and elite corporations. Scenario-based methods are increasingly adopted in academic settings as an exercise that reconfigures assumptions about the future and that result in new frames for understanding complex, global issues. Additionally, experience with scenario planning can inform and update working hypotheses about the future, and lead to insights and the identification of strategic options. Strategic scenario planning is a tool to simulate, foresee, anticipate, and structure the future in an uncertain world.

In the end, scenarios convert relevant concerns for the future into explorable landscapes. The method moves discussion to the established limits of knowledge, and provides a platform to explore what lies beyond. Because of their flexible design and participant-driven method, scenarios are valuable in their ability to deliver high-energy discussions and consolidate viewpoints. They are safe spaces for framing dialogue.

Space is limited; please reserve your seat by sending an email to:

About our invited guest and facilitator
Matthew Spaniol is a scenario planning and corporate foresight expert. He is an Industrial PhD Fellow at Danish Maritime, a member-based organization representing the interests of the maritime industry in Copenhagen, Denmark. He has published in Foresight and Technological Forecasting and Social Change. His research interests include philosophy, STS, anticipation, foresight, and applied futures methodologies. Matthew has experience working for the Oxford Scenarios Programme and as an analyst at the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies.


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