I mentioned a few posts back that I’d had a couple of articles published but didn’t get round to mentioning the second one. The second article, written with Wendy Schultz, called “Roads Less Travelled” was a small futures research project to find out whether using different scenarios methods to develop scenarios from the same set of initial scan data would produce different outcomes. The full paper is published in the May 2009 Journal of Futures Studies (and can also be found on my Selected Articles page); and the answer to the question is yes.

Just a little more background here, since the professionally interested will no doubt turn to the (long!) article in due course.

  • Why the question? There seem to be quite a lot of comparative methods assessments out there, but none have applied different methods to the same core data. And there’s also an assumption which wanders around at the edge of the scenarios field which suggests that the same sorts of scenarios will emerge from futures projects – because there are only so many futures stories.
  • What base data did we use? The material was from the the Carnegie UK project on the future of civil society in Britain and Ireland. This is in the public domain, it’s a subject that most people have some knowledge of, Wendy and I had both worked on the project (and had access to background material if necessary), and the client was sympathetic.
  • What methods did we test? The 2×2 double uncertainty matrix, causal layered analysis, futures archetypes, and Manoa. (We started on morphological analysis, but ran out of time, and we weren’t trained in la prospective.)
  • How did we do the research? It was only a pilot. Two half-day workshops, two methods per workshop, with help from some of my Futures Company colleagues and some other interested practitioners.
  • What did we find out? The different scenarios methods didn’t just produce different sorts of scenario stories. They also generated different types of understanding and different types of participation. One of our conclusions was that should take more care in matching methods to desired outcomes; a second that there was more scope for mixing methods within projects to generate richer layers of insights.

The title, of course, comes from Robert Frost’s famous poem, The Road Not Taken:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

I noticed the other day that the language was similar to the opening section of The Four Quartets, where T.S. Eliot writes:

Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened.

Futures, of  course, has the luxury of taking the other passages to the other doors, of travelling down the more and less travelled roads, at least in the imagination.

The picture at the top of the post is from the Holton Lee blog, with thanks.