Last week, I sat in on a talk by Andrew Blau about Global Business Network’s scenario planning practice when he came by Adaptive Path as part of our Brown Bag lunch presentation series. I was struck by how his work relates to internal marketing practices, and am writing to share some of those connections. I should also say that my background is in marketing, and this is the focus of my work. I’ve recently joined AP and look forward to bringing some marketing related posts to this blog.
First, a word about scenario planning and internal marketing for those who are not familiar with these terms. The former is sometimes also referred to as “scenario thinking” and is a strategic planning method used to make flexible long-term plans. It is in large part an adaptation and generalization of classic methods used by military intelligence (I realize that may sound like an oxymoron).Internal marketing is an activity that is designed to align creative vision, purpose, processes, and culture in general. You can think of this as the Kool-Aid.
Andrew presented a scenario planning methodology that GBN uses to engage with organizations on a leadership level. The frame for this exercise was a ten year projection, which is far enough out as to limit the effectiveness of incremental visioning, but not so far out as to enter science fiction land. The process of building four divergent visions of the future helps the leadership get in touch with the culture within their organization, and understand how it will respond to different futures. It’s important to emphasize that the scenarios must be divergent from each other in order to address the broadest possible range of possibility. Andrew explained that each scenario becomes a caricature of sorts because it highlights predominant features within an organization that are teased out through specific scenarios.
This reminded me of Joseph Campbell’s mythological archetypes (The Hero with a Thousand Faces), because Campbell uses them to demonstrate that very similar features arise in creation myths across cultures. This approach was taken even earlier in Carl Jung’s use of archetypes as a psychological tool for individual analysis, and has also made it’s way into organizational psychology methods such as meta-analysis, which uses averages of individual assessments to represent larger groups. With this in mind, we touched on some common archetypes that arise within GBN’s scenario planning practice such as a disaster scenario, a utopian scenario, and a climate change scenario.
Internal marketing is relevant here because leadership teams must apply the knowledge that comes out of such exercises to their organizations in order to prepare for a myriad of possible futures. This practice recognizes that a culture of adaptation is key to success and must be fostered. I see internal marketing as an essential tool in cultivating adaptability because it distributes power throughout organizations while aligning resources with a larger cause. This leads to increased resiliency as well, not only because of its distributive nature but because it promotes multi-directional feedback from within an organization. At AP we embrace this approach by aligning our organizational purpose with employee behavior; this is represented through our conferences, Brown Bags, Open Design Sessions, management structure, and our commitment to the Designers’ Accord.