Scenario analysis to support decision making in addressing wicked problems: pitfalls and potential

George Wright, George Cairns, Frances A. O'Brien, Paul Goodwin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Citations (Scopus)
25 Downloads (Pure)


This paper provides a review and evaluation of the use of scenario methods from the Intuitive Logics (IL) school to address so-called ‘wicked problems’. Scenario planning has been widely advocated by its practitioners and its popularity has increased in the practice arena since the Millennium. However, some academics have described the technique as an ‘art’ that lacks theoretical and methodological rigour. Over recent years, academics have responded to this critique, drawing on both empirical and conceptual studies. This has led to a multiplicity of augmented IL scenario methods. Here, we review these developments and compare them to soft OR methods as a means of tackling wicked problems, drawing, in particular, on Churchman’s moral imperative that we must address the whole problem, not merely ‘carve off’ one part. We conclude that IL scenario planning can be a useful tool in the OR practitioner’s tool kit and that it can complement many of the established soft OR methods
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-19
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Issue number1
Early online date29 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


  • decision making support systems
  • wicked problems
  • soft operational research methods
  • intuitive logics


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