Convert uncertainty to possibilities with scenario analysis, is the fourth tool in my grab bag of tools and tricks.

Convert uncertainty to possibilty.

Our world has changed. We don’t know how things will turn out and its frightening and stressful. So, with this level of uncertainty, how can we possibly plan for a future that we don’t know. The trick is to shift the thinking to possibilities rather than trying to find the one correct answer.

In the words of Edward De Bono:

“In the future, instead of striving to be right at a high cost, it will be more appropriate to be flexible and plural at a lower cost. If you cannot accurately predict the future, then you must flexibly be prepared to deal with various possible futures.“

Sorting through possible futures and making plans to deal with those outcomes comes more naturally to some than others.  With a bit of practice though, it’s a simple process to implement by following a few steps. Below are some tips and tricks to work through uncertain outcomes and create some plans.

Tip 1. Be less fearful of adverse events – they are going to happen anyway!

What stops us from scenario planning is fear. So, the first step to Scenario planning is to move from fear toward acceptance that there are several possible futures, some which are brilliant and others which are less pleasant. COVID-19 is here and its dangerous if public health is not well-managed. Once we accept that, we can move on to possibilities.

Tip 2. Use what you know to plan for the unknown

Let’s take the example of planning for a business reopen. The key steps are

  1. Assess the current situation-We are shut, we know our financial position.
  2. What are three situations that could occur? Let’s use 3 different time frames of being closed.
  3. What do we know about the odds of those three scenarios occurring? That’s our judgement call that can be made with the help of information (see Tip 3).
  4. What outcomes could arise from those situations?
  5. What do we need to plan for if it’s Scenario A, B or C
  6. At regular intervals, repeat the process.

Tip 3. Use tools and resources to validate gutfeel

Information and data are key to Steps 3 to 6 above. For example, the health department COVID statistics and press releases on likely lock down stages and timeframes combined with financial modelling can really help paint the picture of the possible futures.

A warning though, sometimes intuition can lead us astray, particularly if we are “tired and emotional” and our flight and fight response steers us in the wrong direction.  Good information helps engage the rational side of the brain.

The level of validation required depends on the size of the prize. Small decisions may not need a formal process, but when dollars, livelihoods or lives are at stake, it is wise to test the gutfeel. 

Stay tuned for my next BLOG – Weathering the Storm, using personal power to steer yourself and your community through uncertain times – a grab bag of tools and tricks – Part 6, where we can delve deeper into Own less stress.