The Essence of Scenarios: Learning From the Shell Experience | Wilkinson, Kupers

Angel Wilkinson, Roland Kupers; The Essence of Scenarios: Learning From the Shell Experience; Amsterdam University Press; 2014-02-18; 185 pages; Amazon:9089645942; kindle: $36, paper: $30+SHT.


  • History and context is given.
  • Who
  • The Scenarios are cataloged: their names, dates, sketch-summaries.
  • Everyone has scenarios.
  • Everyone is a futurist.
  • Can’t tell the charlatans from the poets from the punters.
  • One must Hack the Spew consider¬†On Bullshit, of Harry Frankfurt
Arm Thyself

With automated scenarios filtering grinding against automated generation of scenarios.

  • Reflective Control Theory, separately filled.
  • Weaponization of Information, separately filled.
  • Firehose of Falsehood, separately filled.


The Outline of Chapter 3, The Essence of the Shell Art

  1. Improving intuition
  2. Plausible, not probable
  3. Striking the balance between relevant and challenging
  4. Pragmatic, not ideological
  5. Realizing the role of the future in the present
  6. Focused and targeted
  7. Engaging the client in the process
  8. Memorable, yet disposable
  9. Storytelling – the heart of strategic conversation
  10. The necessity of numbers
  11. The creation of a scenario team
  12. Serving as door-openers and adding value to external relationships
  13. Fostering a culture of openness and curiousity
  14. Managing disagreement as an asset
  15. Providing vlaue within a broader management system


And this is substantially what is occurring today.

Quoting verbatim from Chapter 4, Looking Ahead, pages 121-122

We conclude, in the spirit of Shell scenarios, by offering thumbnail summaries of two possible scenarios for the future of the global scenarios in Shell that might arise from the interplay of the [above changes, some points, not shown].

Business Lens

Shell has finally moved on from the consensus-driven culture of its past to a more focused delivery culture in which scenarios continue to play a strategic role. The availability of market-based futures studies and foresight services, including a proliferation of global foresight hubs and publically available scenarios, leads Shell to concentrate on using a mix of outsourced and homegrown scenarios to present real business dilemmas. Inputs on the social, political, technological, and economic changes are detected using two filters – strong trends and weak signals – and e-harvested from high quality foresight initiatives and scenario studies done elsewhere. Automated web-crawls and online Delphi surveys of an increasingly extensive network of worldwide experts are combined to enable the development of scenario building blocks. This practice allows the scenario team to glean the best insights from many and varied source and also helps to maintain the ‘outsider’ perspective that is so important to the traditional scenario function of engaging with remarkable people.

In this future, the investment in building global scenarios is shifted to undertaking regular reviews of the proliferation of available scenarios and foresight studies done elsewhere and coupling those more closely with bespoken, in-house models. This focus enables Shell to conduct more rigorous and comprehensive environmental scanning and to draw on ‘big data’ sets an existing futures reports and scenarios studies to more rapidly detect and analyze longer term system risk.

Shell scenarios continue to provide the basis of the firm’s global early warning and tracking systems, fed again in real-time by a range of global dashboards and monitoring systems established by others.

Reaching Out

Dramatic changes in the energy landscape, coupled with inertia by governments in addressing the integrated risks of connectivity, such as the resource security-climate stress nexus, unleashes an era of new social movements and bottom-up changes. As a result, Shell reinvents its scenarios practice in order to reach out and establish linkages with many communities on which it depends to produce and buy its products. A new ‘open source’ scenario practice emerges in which social media technologies combined with workshop-based dialogs explore the futures of energy in the context of planetary ceilings and social foundations.

Nested scenarios – sets of scenarios focused on different scales and dimensions – are developed to appreciate nexus issues. Shell harnesses social media technologies to navigate parallel paradigms in a multi-polar world and develop new insights into multi-scale resiliency.

‘Scenario-Plus’ methods are developed, combining visioning, scenarios, and design to inform transition pathways and innovation domains. In the process Shell gains a deeper understanding of new business opportunities stemming from interactions among energy, water, and food systems, as well as from the linkages resulting from changes in governance, technology, and consumer behaviors.

By continuing to attend to the role of intuition and interpretative frames, and by linking in-house modeling to open-source modeling contests, Shell scenarios provide the means of evergreen sense-making and market shaping by building rapid social capital in a world where relationships determine flexibility and new ideas are only as effective as the wider networks that will make change happen.

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