"A platoon commander who joins at the age of twenty-four is commanding a battalion fifteen years later. But we don't know what they will be asked to do in fifteen years so we have to train now for a deeply adaptive mind set."
But however big the Planning Machine was, it focused almost exclusively on financial information. Pierre Wack, and idiosyncratic French oil executive, regarded the forecasts that emerged from these systems as wholly inadequate, a dangerous substitute for real thinking because it was too easy to mistake financial models for reality.
Scenarios should focus less on predicting outcomes and more on illuminating the forces at work across the organization and the environments in which it operates. They must be relevant and challenging, pragmatic not ideological. And that means that they won't be tidy: like life, they are bound to be messy, patchy, full of paradox and contradictions.
Pierre Wack regarded computer modeling as the enemy of thought. Once quantified, he believed, models become too rigid, their makers so wedded to them as to become blind to disconfirming data.
Sterility and paralysis might be blamed on corporate cultures but I've encountered it when running scenario exercises for individuals who find it cognitively or emotionally impossible to leave their past behind. They can't imagine changing industries or jobs, learning a new skill, or enjoying more freedom. They don't love where they are, but fear of change and addiction to certainty traps them, making present misery more comfortable than future hope.
Scenario planning always surfaces conflict and there is always a moment when everything seems to fall apart. But getting the conflict out in the open, constructively, is critical; it's how and when people start to acknowledge and consider alternative perspectives.
"They looked in the mirror and said: 'We don't want to be that!'"
Kahane recalls a popular joke at the time that defined two options: the practical option, in which everyone went down on their knees and prayed for angelic intervention, and the miraculous option, in which people learned to walk and work together.
If you build a model of the world that excludes people, ideas, and forces you don't like or understand, of course your vision appears perfect to you. But nobody else inhabits that world or recognizes it as true.
"Making something binary seems simple but it is a way not to have a conversation . . . it's a form of bullying."
"nobody is an expert on what hasn't happened yet."
"The future is built from today. . . . There is no law of history that condemns us to be better or worse in 2030."
. . . much in the world is too complex to be predictable and that the future is too malleable to be revealed by hard data alone. Absolutely accurate forecasting is feasible, but only where everything is known and predetermined—and nowhere is that true.
-all passages culled from the chapter Go Fast, Go Far in Margaret Heffernan's Uncharted: How To Navigate The Future