Author: Manu Steens
In this article I am
writing my own opinion, not that of any organization.
Recently I read the book “Bruggen
naar het onvoorspelbare (Bridges to the unpredictable)” ( Aimé Heene ,
2016), and now I don’t know whether to write a review or a blog piece. For
the time being I will stick to a blog, because it inspired me together with the
previous book that I read (“Handboek Scenarioplanning”, Mario van Rijn and René
van der Burgt , 2019) and with the situation of the corona
crisis. A review is still possible later.
My personal idea is that we
have to deal with a very clear unpredictability that may be turning negative:
support from the population.
Let me make a comparison:
In the 1700s AD there was a
lot of hunger in England. There was therefore a lot of theft of
food. The punishments became more and more cruel, and after a few years
the death penalty for stealing a loaf of bread became something banal. It didn’t
scare people, many hungry street children died on the scaffold.
Covid 19 , stricter punishment and more original checking will not
help to create intrinsic support. (Fines of 4000 € for a party organizer?
So why not the death penalty :-)) Moreover, the comparison indicates that
extrinsic support will no longer work in the long term. As a result, I had
the idea to do stakeholder management by
involving stakeholders more.
” How ?” you
a vision for the future in a more scientific way
with the aim of exploring how we should tackle the problem with
public support. Not so much by inventing new techniques, there are
already enough of them. More to make the right recommendations for
creating a motivated support base. In the future that depends on that same future. That
can only be addressed according to me by involving the stakeholders.
So ‘how’ is the
question . Prof. Heene’s book gave me inspiration in this
by reminding me of the possibility of future scenarios. By means
of strategic stakeholder dialogue. Difficult term.
Futures explorations with
stakeholders are needed in 2 ways: (not necessarily both with the same
- A stakeholder dialogue in the breadth that explores the wider society.
- An in-depth stakeholder dialogue that explores the most relevant
unpredictabilities and extracts strategic alternatives.
The purpose of the survey
is to increase knowledge of the ecosystem in which the target group operates,
and thereby to identify key uncertainties and unpredictabilities. As the
target part of their own ecosystem within society, they must actively
In a first phase, the group
identifies the key factors that can determine society: trends, evolutions,
environmental factors of all kinds.
In a second phase, the
organizer of the exercise quantifies the impacts of the uncertainty of all
kinds of environmental factors with scores. The key unpredictabilities
(potentially greatest impact and with greatest unpredictability) are retained
for the in-depth dialogue. This in-depth dialogue continues with these key
unpredictabilities from the broad outlook for the future.
stakeholder group should be reconsidered now and limited to a relevant
group because of a smaller focus in terms of themes to be looked
at. The experts who must do the deepening of themes should sit at the
table. The target group should also be at the table in this
regard. The situation of similar problems in neighboring countries can
also be examined. After all, “when it rains in Paris, it drips in Brussels”,
etc. Scenario planning is a useful method for this in-depth
The two most important key
unpredictabilities each form an axis for a total of four quadrants, each with a
participants work out the scenarios together based on their
background and knowledge. In this way 4 distinct visions of
the future arise from the experience and knowledge of the
can follow from this.
- The no- brainers that apply to all scenarios.
- The thinkers that are scenario dependent.
These recommendations may
or may not be implemented as measures.
A possible reason for this
approach is the (rapid?) change in the situation of the support base. That
support is unpredictable and therefore forces us to look ahead.
“ Wait and see ”
is no longer an option. The current social changes also require a more 360
° view of this situation. By involving stakeholders (the target group),
the government anticipates the gaps it has (now and in the future) in
order to know the substance of this matter.
As an extension of this, any
organization that takes itself seriously (and has the resources to do
so) could try to set up a crisis anticipation team ,
which looks further into the future, to explore a number of possible futures so
that there are fewer unexpected turns.
One problem I already see
after all is that the countries are at times in other phases. Suppose
hypothetically that a country gets the problem solved, then the situation in
the EU is such that the chances are realistic that the infections will
just be coming back from another country.
So we have to look
ahead. Anticipate. Collaborate and explore futures.
Hence my motto is
“anticipate, anticipate, anticipate!”
Some additional topics
for further anticipation are:
- The economic consequences for society and the state
finances of current and future generations.
- The psychological impact of this crisis on youth and
possibly future generations, and those who can give support starting now. Also
by analyzing matters scientifically.
- The restart for the hospitality & catering industry:
what drastic measures are further needed for the survival of this
sector. What can they do to redefine themselves?
- The approach to vaccinations and associated
(communication) strategy after the crisis, because in my opinion
there is almost no other option than to make a regular new corona injection
against new variants compulsory in order to keep the disease at bay. So one
must think beforehand how to tackle this.
- Crises in the periphery that can develop further
unseen, because all the focus of awareness (too much for many) is now on
Covid19. How about drought? Terror threat? Climate in
general? Other illnesses? You hardly hear anything anymore.
- What other themes may be relevant, they must not be forgotten in the
aftercare phase. The aftercare phase itself should also not be
forgotten and one should start thinking about it now. It
may not take that long operationally, because a new normal situation is coming,
but it is all the more important to continue to guide the aftercare of the
strategic crisis, because we do not yet know that new normal.
- All organizations must start to see and recognize and use opportunities
in the crisis. At the moment there is a lot of focus on the negative,
that is human. But that should not be / remain the only thing.
anti-fragility will be the new resilience in the new normal.
In order not to
lose relevance, I quote here a quote from the movie “Mr Brooks”:
“… Give me the
serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, courage to change the
things that I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” (Evans)