In thinking about how to facilitate strategic discussions in a not face-to-face environment, it is easy to treat the exercise as simply translating in-person activities into an online environment. I believe that is a trap. The reality is that even in person we don’t often conduct good meetings, and we rarely leverage the full diversity of the people at the table. For complex and messy we substitute simple and easy. In discussing strategically important questions online, that is a potential recipe for disaster.
Scenarios are a way to challenge; they call into question viewpoints, they confront ideologies and they prompt broader perspectives. Within that expansive perspective, it is hoped that new opportunities and necessary actions emerge. The scenarios that I presented last week were very much intended to do just that. They reinforce that while we are all in the same storm, we are not in the same boat. The boat that we find ourselves in will define—or curtail—our options. Mobilization, then, is in part making sure that the boat we find ourselves in is sufficiently sturdy, appropriately equipped and up to the task of the voyage that we find ourselves on.
We have all been wrestling with how the pandemic ends. There is so much that we don’t know. There are so many uncertainties and complexities. In the past few articles, I’ve explored various ways that scenarios can help us make sense of the world around us. In this article, I show rather than tell. Four scenarios of possible futures and potential outcomes of how re-entry unfolds.
The future is a challenging place to contemplate. There are many factors that we can’t control, and many circumstances that we can’t influence. Making meaningful choices about an uncertain future often feels overwhelming, impossible and ultimately futile. The articles of the last few weeks have both explicitly and implicitly explored the role of scenarios in considering possible futures. They can be invaluable tools to manage uncertainty and identify meaningful future choices.
As we respond to the chaos around us, it can be tempting to look forward to when we are past this and “things are normal again.” Our current environment feels overwhelming and uncertain. The most appealing thing is to hide under a blanket. The most strategically important thing might be to take action. The key challenge lies in defining the action to take, and figuring out how best to coordinate and lead in a time where nothing feels certain.
The future is a big, scary and uncertain place. It’s difficult to think about how things may play out. It’s even more difficult at times to define how we want things to play out. There are few scarier questions to be asked than, “Where do you want to be in five years?” Finding an answer to that is complicated and elusive. It’s also an unfair question, and one that begins at the wrong starting place.