“…combinations and permutations of fact and related social changes are called "scenarios." The scenarios usually include plausible, but unexpectedly important situations and problems that exist in some small form in the present day. Any particular scenario is unlikely. However, future studies analysts select scenario features so they are both possible and uncomfortable. Scenario planning helps policy-makers to anticipate hidden weaknesses and inflexibilities in organizations and methods.
In the past, strategic plans have often considered only the "official future," which was usually a straight-line graph of current trends carried into the future. Often the trend lines were generated by the accounting department, and lacked discussions of demographics, or qualitative differences in social conditions.
These simplistic guesses are surprisingly good most of the time, but fail to consider qualitative social changes that can affect a business or government. Scenarios focus on the joint effect of many factors. Scenario planning helps us understand how the various strands of a complex tapestry move if one or more threads are pulled. When you just list possible causes, as for instance in fault tree analysis, you may tend to discount any one factor in isolation. But when you explore the factors together, you realize that certain combinations could magnify each other’s impact or likelihood. For instance, an increased trade deficit may trigger an economic recession, which in turn creates unemployment and reduces domestic production.”