There’s something inherently frustrating about good futures work in a corporate environment. Early 2006 several Melbourne based futurists including Peter Hayward (Swinburne Masters of Strategic Foresight program director), Rowena Morrow (teacher in the course), Susan Oliver and I facilitated the development of a set of scenarios for South East Water.
Working with a cross-section of SEW staff and a wide array of stakeholder representatives – so as to include the ‘whole system’ in the process – the three key scenarios that emerged brought clarity to how different value systems and thinking styles could drive social responses to water. In Spiral Dynamics terms, we explored the possible responses of mythic, individualist and pluralistic worldviews and their signature preferences for a regulatory/rules based approach, a market forces economisation approach and a community ‘values leadership’ approach respectively, to the increasing water crisis.
A year latter, with the future now in part our history, I am increasingly impressed by the process we used because of the realistic nature of the scenarios developed. Daily the developments, that can be cataloged via newspaper headlines, are proving out the three logics. The one thing we didn’t do was follow the process through internally with SEW as they developed their corporate strategy and ‘tested’ it inside these scenarios. I just don’t know how well they were engaged when it came down to it. If they have been, then any strategy they developed or will develop will be well placed to surf the conflicting signals form and moves by various actors in their operating environment: the federal and state government, general community sentiment/values based behaviour, and myriad businesses. They’d already know how the now pressing public issues can play out from various perspectives: revealing a strategic landscape with clear gradients, contours and resulting pathways.
So, you might expect this to be an analysis of SEW’s use of the scenarios. That would be interesting. But the most frustrating thing is that we’re not in a position to share this work in detail with anyone else. We know it was a good process for those involved through anecdotal evidence, and we also know that the outputs were good quality because we can see their features all around us at present. But, we can’t share these insights directly with others who could also greatly benefit from the strategic view because eof commercial practice by a government agency. Argh. Sometimes we humans really don’t do our best to serve ourselves.