4 APF Compass | April 2015
In the late summer of 1991,
the Hawai’i Oﬃce of State Planning (OSP)
engaged the Hawai'i Research Center for
Futures Studies (HRCFS) to assist in
developing a scenario-design component
for OSP's ongoing Environmental
Scanning Project (note: ‘environmental
scanning’ is in this case synonomous with
As is often the case with scanning
projects, government oﬃcials found the
monthly reports fascinating – but were at
a loss as to what they should do with the
information: the ‘so what?’ was
inadequately addressed. Consequently,
OSP asked HRCFS to design and facilitate
a scenario building workshop that would
integrate the emerging issues identiﬁed
into alternative possible futures for
Hawai’i. This initial use of the Manoa
approach was followed two years later by
two scenarios workshops for the non-
proﬁt Hawai’i Community Services
Council (Schultz, 1994).
At the same time in a
business far far away, Peter Schwartz
was drawing upon his own experience and
that of colleagues (Jay Ogilvy in particular)
to write The Art of the Long View, which has
since become one of the best-selling books
on scenarios speciﬁcally, and future
thinking generally. In its appendix, it
describes building scenarios by identifying
two key uncertainties and using them to
deﬁne four possible alternative futures.
This method has since essentially
colonized the practice space of scenarios
construction worldwide. It is not without
The best known, Richard Slaughter (2004),
fo#ows Ken Wilber in describing the
approach as creating what he ca#s
“ﬂatland”; a set of future worlds in which
“current ideologies … were insuﬃciently
problematized and seen as natural”. (Curry
and Schultz, 2009)
But this approach was speciﬁcally
designed for business and government
decision-makers – it takes what some
perceive as the risky business of thinking
about the future, and makes it more
palatable by focussing on an immediate
business decision, and couching the
enterprise in a narrative of ‘managing
The Manoa approach is more a case of
revelling in the opportunity spaces that
How did the Manoa approach emerge? As
a staﬀ researcher at HRCFS, I was
working to respond to the initial request
from the Oﬃce of State Planning.
The design criteria for this scenario process
stipulated that it had to be participatory;
ﬁrmly based in data; map the steps by which
change diverged %om the present; include
multiple drivers of change; and depict
diﬀerent surprising outcomes with a time
horizon of approximately a generation.
(Curry and Schultz, 2009)
Futures studies was still
evolving in technique. Most of the
provocative images of possible futures
existing in the ﬁeld were the result of
‘genius forecasting’ – the intuitive process
of one disciplined, well-informed mind
grasping insights from a cloud of data
about emerging change. Working with Jim
Dator, I witnessed genius forecasting as a
daily occurrence – but not as an easily
transferrable skill, much less as a codiﬁed
participatory process. The challenge was
to document what was happening in all
those bright and insightful minds.
My best option seemed to be taking a
page, loosely, from expert systems
research. I started asking various senior
scholars what they were thinking – what
their internal process was, as much as it
could be explicitly articulated as distinct
from the intuitive. In reading books
depicting alternative futures, I looked for
the bridge from evidence through insight
What did they all seem to be doing?
They were all chasing chains of impacts,
and they were all seeing potential
interconnections that both ampliﬁed –
and in some cases accelerated – change by
forming ecologies of emerging changes.
Genius forecasters had an intuitive grasp
that multiple, often disparate and
disconnected changes generated
implications that would intersect and
interconnect further down the timeline,
often with both ecstatic and catastrophic
results. As a facilitator, how could I
duplicate that explicitly?
Manoa: The future is not binary
by Wendy Schultz
The Manoa method, developed by
Wendy Schultz, is one of the many
innovative futures methods that has
emerged from Hawai’i’s Futures
Studies center. It is a method that is
designed to maximise difference and
to explore the impact of emerging
issues. Until now, however, the
Mānoa process has not been well
documented. I am delighted that
Compass is able to publish here the
first practitioners’ guide to Manoa.
APF Compass | April 2015 5
The result was a process that
triangulates on initial diﬀerence to
maximize resulting diﬀerence: each
scenario begins with at least three
emerging issues from diﬀerent STEEP
(social, technological, environmental,
economic, political) sectors. The greater
the diﬀerence in the seed changes, the
better – highly orthogonal starting points
generate greater creativity via bisociation.
Participants then explore each issue on its
own, exploring what impact cascades it
might generate – primary impacts, which
themselves would generate an array of
secondary impacts, which would in turn
generate a range of tertiary impacts, and
Because each scenario has at its heart
sets of impact cascades, it contains an
inbuilt narrative of change over time – and
in-built tensions, conﬂicts, and sudden
opportunities at points where those
impacts are intersecting. The two Hawai’i
beta tests demonstrated it was easy to
facilitate and generated rich results. The
section which follows oﬀers a step-by-step
The matrix of uncertainties method, as
described in The Art of the Long View,
begins with a focal question for decision-
makers: what’s keeping you awake at night? In
contrast, Manoa scenario building does
not require a focus issue or critical
question. Its aim is to create a growing
library of alternative futures as context
within which users could explore whatever
issues they like. Manoa does require an
awareness of change, particularly emerging
issues of change. It explores the primary
and long-range impacts of emerging
change, and elaborates the possible
outcomes of those impacts in collision.
The scenario of an alternative future
emerges from the gestalt of all of those
changes: it emerges as a complex structure
from the chaos of turbulence.
One. Identify three
emerging issues of change
and state them as mature
conditions 20-30 years out,
1. Personalized anti-cancer vaccines
available (science / technology)
2. Soaring economic inequity and
3. Hot and dry climate now common
across much of the former
temperate zones (environment)
These three changes should each
represent a DIFFERENT “STEEP”
category. The more orthogonal the
changes are in topic and direction, the
more surprising and creative the results.
Two. Create a futures
wheel based on each
Take the changes one by one. Brainstorm
ﬁve to seven primary impacts of each
change; make sure you push changes to
their extreme, if logical, conclusions,
assuming at least 30 years of development.
Then, for each primary impact of each
change, brainstorm an additional three
secondary impacts. Finally, if any tertiary
impacts immediately spring to mind, list
those as well. Do any of the impacts
support or link to each other?
Three. Map the inﬂuences
Review the futures wheels
from all three trends for
two or three minutes.
Post the wheels from all three trends
where the whole group can see them.
Cluster groups of impacts of particular
interest (see Figure on next page).
Trace how the various impacts you’ve
identiﬁed for each trend might interrelate
with those on the futures wheels of the
other two trends – creating an inﬂuence
or systems map:
•What changes might amplify or
accelerate other changes?
•What changes might balance or
constrain other changes?
•What causal loops emerge as a result?
Creating a cross-impact matrix can
assist in thinking through impacts of
change collisions and synergies.
Four. Probe more deeply.
Has your group listed a
wide range of impacts,
covering di"erent aspects
•Arts and leisure
•Vices and crimes
•Ecology and the environment
•Media and community
•Religion and myths
•Core values, worldviews, and
Use these as probes when you are
brainstorming possible impacts, cross-
impacts, and details.
Five. Characterize your
•Imagine two or three headlines that
sum up the tenor of its times
•Compose a bumper-sticker phrase that
captures its essence
•If this were a ﬁlm or documentary,
what would its title be?
6 APF Compass | April 2015
Six. Build the emerging
narrative – a ‘day in the
life’ is easiest.
Take at least ﬁfteen minutes to evoke a
vivid image of the future scenario your
group has constructed (if the process may
run beyond the workshop, appoint a
volunteer to draft a narrative). The
narrative should loosely link the scenario
to the current present by discussing the
emergence and unfolding of the initial
seed changes and their impacts. Tracing
the impact cascades in the futures wheels
forward in time lets the scenario evolve
along a timeline.
Many of the brainstormed impacts will
seem to contradict each other; where
possible, if they are related in some
consistent fashion, a few contradictions
should be allowed to remain -- because our
present reality also contains
contradictions. The simplest story for
most people to draft is depicting a ‘day in
the life’ of a character.
Seven. Doublecheck the
The Manoa approach to scenario building
focusses on maximizing the degree of
diﬀerence from the present, in order to
obliterate blindspots created by stale
assumptions, and potentially to identify
what are now often called ‘black swans’.
The process is directly attributable to
Dator’s Second Law of Futures Thinking –
the only useful ideas about the future should
appear to be ridiculous. The process is also an
engine of creativity, and so also draws on
key creativity processes identiﬁed by
Edward de Bono (de Bono, 2009)
•Have you exaggerated the possible
impacts to the point of absurdity?
•Have you challenged your current
assumptions about present conditions
•Have you combined changes or
impacts in a way that distorts
something familiar in the present?
•Have you reversed constraints or
threats that presently exist – or
reversed strengths or opportunities
you currently take for granted?
Use these questions as provocations
during brainstorming to deepen the degree
of change imagined and explored.
Eight. Ask the practical
Even without starting by asking ‘what’s
keeping you awake at night?’, futures
research must at some point connect to
action. If not, it strays into the valuable
but distinctly diﬀerent realm of
speculative ﬁction. So the ﬁnal set of
Figure 1: Sample Emerging Change diagram.
Source: Wendy Schultz
APF Compass | April 2015 7
questions re-connect the futures
imagination to the needs of the day, and
the people involved.
•How would you describe your current
activities, plans, mission, and vision?
•How would they play out in the
diﬀerent futures you have imagined?
•What patterns or themes in each of
these scenarios most aﬀect your
mission and vision?
•Which scenario oﬀers you the most
opportunities? Which presents the
•How would your organization or
community need to evolve or
transform to thrive in each scenario?
What new allies or resources would
This last step is the critical bridge from
potentially outrageous, imaginative, risky
futures to innovation and creative present-
Since those two early projects in Hawai’i, I
have used the Manoa approach hundreds
of times in workshops, training, graduate
futures methods seminars, and large
conferences. At its most basic, it simply
asks people to create at least three futures
wheels from three very diﬀerent changes,
and then to stand back and imagine
themselves in a future where all the
impacts from all three wheels exist
simultaneously. The feedback is uniformly
that the process is lively, buzzy, creative,
fun, thought-provoking, challenging – and
helps people understand the wealth of
potential in the changes emerging around
us. Various evaluative works agree:
Manoa – highly elaborated, creative, lots of
detail; Manoa and systems scenarios –
futures wheel, cross-impact, and causal
[loop] models require some training and
experience to do we#. (Bishop, Hines,
The participants also noted that the process
itself energised the room, in contrast to the
2x2 matrix work that immediately preceded
it. As participants created the futures wheels
by standing up around a ﬂipchart-covered
table and working simultaneously to draw
in their proposed impacts on the futures
wheel, the process generated a buzz of energy
and cross-talk as people added items,
compared ideas, and expanded on each
other’s insights. It was later described as
‘playful.’ (Curry and Schultz, 2009)
It is better suited to the RD&I folks in a
corporation than to the strategic planners,
as its immediate focus is divergence and
assumption challenge, and not strategic
The process has evolved over time. The
ﬁrst two trials were extremely basic, with
impacts for each change simply
brainstormed as a list, and the
interconnections brainstormed using a
cross-impact matrix. The next
improvement was the inclusion of futures
wheels to generate impact cascades. While
teaching both the futures methods
seminar and the systems thinking seminar
in the futures grad program at the
University of Houston, I began thinking
about formalising the systems mapping.
Christian Crews took a leap beyond that,
and in his master’s thesis created and
trialled an extension of Manoa, “Systemic
Scenarios,” that used explicit
identiﬁcation of causal loops across the
futures wheels to solve the problem of
Figure 2: A cross impact matrix. Source: Wendy Schultz
Manoa is better suited to the
Research & Development and
innovation teams, as it creates
divergent thinking and challenges
8 APF Compass | April 2015
creating narratives for each scenario
Subsequent work has added the Verge
General Practice Framework (Lum, 2014)
to ensure integral depth in the futures
wheel explorations, by probing for how
changes aﬀect how we deﬁne ourselves and
our world, how we relate to other
components of our reality, how connect
with other people and things, how we
create things, how we consume them, and
how and why we destroy aspects of our
reality. More recent examples of the
Manoa/Systemic Scenarios approaches
added the hero’s journey archetype to
elaborating the narrative, in projects for
Pepsico (Schultz, Crews, Lum, 2012) and
the Industrial Research Institute.
In sum, Manoa and its variants oﬀer a
creative, energising, and robust platform
for scenario building that is compatible
with many other futures techniques: it is
an excellent base for futures method
mash-ups. More critically, it comes closer
to modelling how our alternative futures
are actually unfolding: as emergent
properties of the turbulent collisions of
myriad changes and their impacts, and our
complex adaptive responses to the results.
The future is not binary. Our explorations
of it deserve more than two axes. ◀
Bishop, Peter, Andy Hines, and Terry Collins
(2007) “The current state of scenario
development: an overview of techniques, ”
Foresight, Vol. 9, No. 1, 2007. pp. 6-25
Crews, Christian (2003) ‘‘Systemic scenarios:
creating synergy through scenarios and
systems thinking,’’ unpublished Master’s thesis,
University of Houston-Clear Lake, Clear Lake,
Curry, Andrew and Wendy Schultz
(2009) “Roads Less Travelled:
Different Methods, Different Futures”,
Journal of Futures Studies, Vol. 13,
No. 4, pp. 35-60. Taiwan: Tamkang
University. Accessed 3 April 2015.
De Bono, Edward (2009) Lateral
Thinking. London: Penguin.
… (with Christian Crews and Richard
Lum) (2012) “Scenarios: A Hero’s
Journey Across Turbulent Systems,”
Journal of Futures Studies, Vol. 17, no.
1, September 2012, pp. 129-140.
Taiwan: Tamkang University. Accessed
3 April 2015.
… (2006, 6 October). Foresight and creativity:
lead by mining change for innovation.
Presentation at the Chartered Management
Institute’s National Conference, Leeds, UK.
… (2005, 30 July). Extreme scenarios: Manoa
scenario building and provoking creativity.
Special plenary session at the World Futures
Society Conference, Chicago, USA.
… (1997, November 10). The foresight fan.
Presentation to King’s Fund European
Symposium, London, UK, Health futures: tools
to create tomorrow’s health system. Retrieved
27 March 2009.
… (1994). The future of Hawai’i: introduction
to Hawai’i scenarios. Manoa journal of fried
and half-fried ideas (about the future), 4.
Retrieved 3 April 2015.
… (with Sharon Rogers, Christopher B. Jones,
and Sohail Inayatullah) (1994) Ofﬁce of State
Planning Services (The Hawai’i Scenarios).
Manoa journal of fried and half-fried ideas
(about the future), 4. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
Schwartz, Peter. (1991). The Art of the Long
View. New York, NY: Doubleday Business.
Slaughter, Richard. (2004). Transcending
‘ﬂatland’. In Futures beyond dystopia: creating
social foresight. London, UK: RoutledgeFalmer.
Dr. Wendy Schultz is Director of Inﬁnite
Futures, a futures consultancy based in
Oxford, England. She is an APF
member, and a Fellow of the World
Futures Studies Federation.