Podcast: Scenario Planning to Drive Innovation

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Planning for future scenarios to build resiliency

In this episode of Innovation at the Edge, host Emmanuel Lagarrigue, Chief Innovation Officer at Schneider Electric shares a conversation with Dr Rafael Ramirez, Director of the Oxford Scenarios Program and First Professor of Practice at Said Business School, Oxford University. As one of the world’s leading experts on scenario planning, Rafael shares insights of his influential work to uncover collaboration opportunities, build resilience, and drive innovation. The in-depth conversation reveals the principals behind scenarios planning and details examples of how this approach supports strategic thinking and innovation.

Key points of the discussion include:

  • What is scenario planning?
  • Is scenario planning a way to stay more honest and objective with the future?
  • Why is it important in a crisis like Covid-19 to be resilient?
  • How does scenario planning and innovation work together?
  • Is today’s shift to resiliency going to impact how organizations respond to the climate crisis?
  • Advice for business leaders and decision makers?

Listen the full audio episode: 


Scenarios to drive future innovation

To set the stage, Ramirez describes simply what scenario planning is. This process starts by detailing the contextual assumptions of a given plan, and then proposes alternatives to the expected resolution in order to develop a more robust set of expectations. By analyzing and anticipating alternative scenarios, people and organizations are able to nimbly change course if the expected results do not happen. By developing scenarios, both opportunities and other emerging consequences can be detected earlier, such as possibilities for top line growth. For corporations, this may focus on the type of future collaboration to pursue, what kind of different sources of value and of wealth creation might arise, and how to engage with them.

Ramirez emphasizes that there is no way to be truly objective about the future because objectivity is born out of proven facts. Instead, it is much more important to be useful. The goal is not to plan for exactly what is going to happen, but to increase agility and resiliency. Scenario planning is a way of looking at the good and the bad we face in the future, think about new opportunities and partnerships that they may not have considered otherwise. It is the perfect blend of recognizing both the positive and negative possibilities and acting on them before the window of opportunity closes.

Resiliency in crisis and beyond

At this stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, Ramirez describes his recent co-authored Harvard Business Review article highlighting a heavier emphasis on resiliency over efficiency. Today’s environment may reduce the importance of maximizing shareholder returns and the role that CFOs play and increase investments in procurement strategies to make organizations more resilient.

“As we know that zero stock just in time efficiency is not resilient and when you are hit by something like COVID-19, resilience becomes a much higher priority compared to efficiency. Efficiency is less important. It’s not so much, am I going to pay 99 cents for a mask or 50 cents for a mask or $2 for a mask? It’s am I going to have masks?

In light of these changes, responses to Covid-19 may end up being a decisive crossroads when it comes to the climate crisis that the world is currently facing. Ramirez also share advice to business leaders and decision makers is to focus on collaboration and to challenge each other in order to bring innovations forward together. In these complex times, Ramirez closes by advocating for a more collaborative than competitive strategy in order to seize the opportunities that turbulence, uncertainty, novelty, and ambiguity offers to companies. Scenario planning is a very good platform to open up conversations that were otherwise unavailable

Watch the video version of the interview

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