Causal mapping and scenario building with multiple organisations

Thinking and planning for the future is critical in a competitive business world. Scenarios are a common technique for investigating the future, but can be time-consuming and challenging to develop, particularly when more than a single organisation is involved. An approach is presented here which shifts the focus of scenario building from the company level to the sector level, whereby a range of organisations engage collectively on a topic of mutual importance. A rapid technique was developed, with simple scenarios being constructed in 2 to 4 hours. This process was implemented in 13 multi-organisational workshops with participants from the construction and building industries, sectors which are traditionally short-term and reactive in their outlook. The resulting feedback, observations and experiences are discussed, together with examples of how the resultant scenarios have been applied. An example of causal map reflection (exposing an individual’s causal map to others) is also presented, described and critiqued. It was found that the process was successful in engaging participants in thinking about and discussing the future, appreciating the interconnectivities of the related issues, and understanding the collective implications of their potential decisions, as well as facilitating the socialisation of participant thinking and the construction of collective futures.