A scientific exploration of scenario planning, thinking, and cognitive biases

  • Megan Michelle Crawford

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Scenario planning, as a recognised practice, is approaching the better part of a century. In this time it has experienced broad application across various industries and, as of late, growing popularity as an academic discipline. In stark contrast to its prolific use in the field and academia, is the lack in scholarly work that brings verifiable and robust knowledge regarding the efficacy of the practice. In order to understand the impact of scenario planning interventions, it is first necessary to understand scenario thinking.The importance of investigating scenario thinking lies in the notion that scenario planning has less to do with forecasting (i.e. aiming for facts) and more to do with futures-thinking (i.e. working with perceptions). The mental models, experiences, and abilities of scenario teams largely dictate the efficacy of a scenario planning intervention. At this time, however, scenario thinking remains a black box. The present investigation, first, provides a discussion on how to understand scenario thinking.A gestalt perspective is offered, where discrete cognitive features are defined, which comprise the structure of scenario thinking. The motivation to this discussion is understanding the level(s) of influence scenario thinking may succumb to, in the face of changes to external information. Next, three higher-order cognitions (creative, causal, and evaluative thinking) are explored, in depth, and tested against the Intuitive Logics model of scenario planning to help determine i) the robustness of scenario planning against ii) the influence of the cognitive experience.A multi-attribute approach is taken, borrowing methods from cognitive psychology, behavioural economics, and management science. A form of the traditional framing manipulation is used to measure for biases in scenario thinking. Results suggest that even the smallest change in information can lead to several biasing effects across the tested cognitive features of scenario thinking. Understanding the nature of influences on scenario thinking helps reveal the efficacy of scenario planning for management and organisations.
Date of Award28 Jul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorGeorge Wright (Supervisor)

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