The art of the long view is definitely a good start for people not too familiar with scenario planning. It covers the topic from start to finish in an example filled but also surprisingly comprehensive fashion, given the length. It will not provide you with concrete solutions to highly specific scenario design or analysis questions in the way that Sterman's Business Dynamics: Systems Thinking and Modeling for a Complex World with CD-ROM does for System Dynamics simulation (and scenario testing within the framework).
At the same time the author ensures that you get an overview of how to design compelling scenarios, on the appropriate number of them to the situation, on where and how to gather the appropriate data to populate the chosen scenarios, on how to compose a plot around them, how to interpret them or integrate them into a 'strategic conversation'... At the same time there are appendices with more information on the steps for developing the scenarios and a users guide to a strategic conversation, as well as a good bibliography and an index.
As mentioned, there are plenty of Schwartz' own, real world examples to demonstrate the concepts, which make the book read better, even if most of them are dated now (no less relevant for that). Some are truly fascinating in their foresight, while others played a bit differently (but then long term future gazing is not about point precise prediction); in all cases the effort of thinking about possible futures and what they mean for an individual, company, industry or country is definitely worthwhile, even if the specifically defined scenarios do not come to be exactly as laid out.
The 'remembering the future' aspect, allowing one to act very quickly and sustainably to rapid change simple due to prior preparation is an excellent practice, one many companies would do very well to adapt. The World in 2005 scenarios (the book itself was publshed in 1991) for instance are a fabulous demonstration of how the approach should be designed to work most effectively.
If you are new to the scenario planning world, this is definitely one of the books to go for. It is a good read even for people familiar with the approaches and long time scenario planners, as Schwartz also gives some good hints and arguments, on how to most compellingly present the pros and cons to outsiders to the scenario planning world.
And finally, even though it is a light advertorial for the author's own consulting company, this aspect largely falls to the wayside and does not have a detrimental effect on the enjoyment of the book, or its content.
Founder and chairman of the Global Business Network, Schwartz is one of the world's leading futurists. As also indicated in the more recently published The Long Boom, his writing is as clear and crisp as his thinking. Schwartz's comments and suggestions are anchored in extensive real-world experience. His objective is to explain the process of what he calls "scenario-building" which enables managers to "invent and then consider, in depth, several varied stories of equally plausible futures" so that they can make (in his words) "strategic decisions that will be sound for all plausible futures. No matter what future takes place, you are much more likely to be ready for it -- and influential in it -- if you have thought seriously about scenarios." Managers of companies (regardless of size or nature) are already aware of constant change within their competitive marketplace. Recent developments, notably use of the Internet to expedite globalization, suggest that change will occur progressively faster and have progressively greater impact, both positive and negative. Meanwhile, for obvious reasons, managers of companies face daily situations and circumstances which require immediate attention and, more often than not, they must quickly make decisions which have profound implications. As a result managers find it very difficult to see "the larger picture", to maintain a "long-term perspective." Schwartz suggests how. Like Drucker, he avoids making predictions. Rather, he helps his reader to formulate the degree of probability of certain events yet to occur...and then to prepare accordingly.
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I was really looking forward to reading this book after doing some research into scenarios and planning for the future.
However, it's fairly light on material and the author has a tendency to go off on weird and irrelevant tangents. Funnily enough, quite a few of his predictions are wrong as well (the book was originally written about 20 years ago).
I'd recommend it for a quick scan as an introduction to scenario planning, but it's not an indepth study at all.
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