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Manoa: The future is not binary

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Manoa: The future is not binary

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The article describes the origins and process of Manoa scenario building. Manoa scenario building is designed to create narratives of alternative futures that maximize provocative but useful difference from the present. This stands in contrast to the 2X2 axes of uncertainty approach, which instead maximizes focus on a strategic question, which may leave strategists, planners, and decision-makers vulnerable to blind spots and surprises. The Manoa approach builds on impact cascades and systemic interconnections emerging from at least three contrasting emerging changes for each scenario.
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METHODS
4 APF Compass | April 2015
In the late summer of 1991,
the Hawai’i Oce 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
‘horizon scanning’).
As is often the case with scanning
projects, government ocials 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
critics:
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 insuciently
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
uncertainty.’
The Manoa approach is more a case of
revelling in the opportunity spaces that
uncertainties reveal.
Design
How did the Manoa approach emerge? As
a sta researcher at HRCFS, I was
working to respond to the initial request
from the Oce 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
dierent 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
to narrative.
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.
(AC)
METHODS
APF Compass | April 2015 5
The result was a process that
triangulates on initial dierence to
maximize resulting dierence: each
scenario begins with at least three
emerging issues from dierent STEEP
(social, technological, environmental,
economic, political) sectors. The greater
the dierence 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
so on.
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 oers a step-by-step
guide.
Process
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,
e.g.,
1. Personalized anti-cancer vaccines
available (science / technology)
2. Soaring economic inequity and
polarization (economy)
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
change.
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
and interconnections.
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
of reality?
Family structure
Community
Economy
Governance
Work
Arts and leisure
Vices and crimes
Ecology and the environment
Media and community
Transportation
Education
Subcultures
Religion and myths
Core values, worldviews, and
paradigms
Use these as probes when you are
brainstorming possible impacts, cross-
impacts, and details.
Five. Characterize your
infant scenario.
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?
METHODS
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
imaginative ‘stretch’.
The Manoa approach to scenario building
focusses on maximizing the degree of
dierence 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
continuing?
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
questions.
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 dierent realm of
speculative fiction. So the final set of
Figure 1: Sample Emerging Change diagram.
Source: Wendy Schultz
METHODS
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
dierent futures you have imagined?
What patterns or themes in each of
these scenarios most aect your
mission and vision?
Which scenario oers you the most
opportunities? Which presents the
most challenges?
How would your organization or
community need to evolve or
transform to thrive in each scenario?
What new allies or resources would
you need?
This last step is the critical bridge from
potentially outrageous, imaginative, risky
futures to innovation and creative present-
day problem-solving.
Feedback
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 dierent 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,
Co#ins, 2007)
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
focus.
Evolution
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
assumptions
METHODS
8 APF Compass | April 2015
creating narratives for each scenario
(Crews, 2003).
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 aect 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 oer 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.
Citations
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,
TX.
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.
Schultz, Wendy...
… (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.
... This "Mānoa mash-up" combines an adaptation of the Mānoa approach for generating scenarios (Schultz 2015) with the Three Horizons Framework ( Curry 2015, Sharpe et al. 2016). Bishop et al. 2007, Schultz 2015) and is distinct from the Mānoa method described by Dator (2009). Its underlying rationale is based on working with emerging issues, or weak signals, to explore their primary and long-range impacts, and the possible interconnections and outcomes of those impacts ( Schultz 2015). ...
... Bishop et al. 2007, Schultz 2015) and is distinct from the Mānoa method described by Dator (2009). Its underlying rationale is based on working with emerging issues, or weak signals, to explore their primary and long-range impacts, and the possible interconnections and outcomes of those impacts ( Schultz 2015). It is a method that maximizes difference from the present, in contrast to the more well-known "double uncertainty matrix" approach associated with traditional scenario planning that focuses on key unknowns. ...
... It is a method that maximizes difference from the present, in contrast to the more well-known "double uncertainty matrix" approach associated with traditional scenario planning that focuses on key unknowns. The Mānoa scenario method is designed to generate divergent, surprising scenarios that evolve from changes and impacts proliferating over several decades, and is best suited for creative, innovative, and transformational thinking ( Schultz 2015). We adapted the Mānoa method by using selected seeds initiatives from the SOGA project database as a starting point for generating scenarios, instead of using weak signals as per the traditional Mānoa method. ...
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... In Press). The Mānoa Mash-up scenario building approach is a combination of the original Mānoa method for building scenarios (Schultz 2015) and the Three Horizons Framework method which investigates transitions between current states and future visions (Sharpe et al. 2016). The approach was selected with the intention of creating a transformative space in which participants can think creatively and 'outside of the box' to create inspired and powerful set of visions, grounded in existing 'Seeds'. ...
... For each of the seeds, the teams used hexagonal postit notes that fitted together like the cells in a beehive to create a 'Future Wheel', with the core being the key theme to emerge from the seed, and the surrounding post-it notes representing the related effects and impacts this seed would have, from first order to secondary and tertiary implications. The discussion on implications was structured by using the STEEPV analysis (Schultz 2015) and VERGE framework (Lum 2015). Using the STEEPV analysis participants considered Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political and Value implications of each future wheel. ...
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... This dissenting strand never went away, but perhaps disappeared from mainstream view in the 1980s and 1990s. In these decades it is associated with the work on values and on theories of social change seen in the Hawai'i school under the leadership of James Dator (from 1971Dator (from to 2014, and in methods such as alternative futures (Dator, 2009, Bezold, 2009, Causal Layered Analysis (Inayatullah, 2004), images of the future, the Manoa method (Schultz, 2015), Schultz's (1995) visioning methods, integral futures (Slaughter, 1998) and, more recently, post-normal futures (Sardar, 2017). Anticipation Studies (Poli, 2010(Poli, , 2011 Locke, are associated with probable futures and can be summarized as "something is changing". ...
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... These plausible futures are often mapped out along two main axes of uncertainty, to arrive at a number of distinct, alternative future visions (Oteros-Rozas, Martin-Lopez, et al., 2015;Peterson, Cumming, & J o u r n a l P r e -p r o o f Carpenter, 2003). The process used here instead draws heavily on the Mānoa method of scenario planning (Bishop, Hines, & Collins, 2007;Schultz, 2015), which is an inductive approach based on the exploration of the impacts and interactions of emerging issues of change or "weak signals" (in this case, seeds), and is designed to maximize differences from the present. The facilitated visioning process, undertaken with a diverse group of participants at a workshop in Cape Town, South Africa, is described in detail by Author et al. (2018). ...
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... Descriptions of the mature versions of the seeds were placed at the center of a Future Wheel. Then, the first-, second-, and third-order implications of the initiatives on environmental, sociocultural, and economic aspects of the social-ecological system were described around the center (Fig. 5; Schultz 2015). Again, the positive implications of the seeds had to stay within the basic boundaries of the scenarios assigned to each group, even if some of the characteristics of these scenarios were seen as negative. ...
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Key methods discussed in this chapter Double uncertainty matrix, Mānoa, scenario archetypes, La Prospective, causal layered analysis
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Scenarios and participatory scenario planning, futures wheels, three horizons framework, design/experiential futures, horizon scanning, Delphi, trend impact analysis, emerging issues analysis, causal layered analysis, appreciative inquiry, gaming (also known as ‘gamification’ or serious gaming), future workshops, visioning, back-casting, road-mapping
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Systemic scenarios: creating synergy through scenarios and systems thinking
  • Christian Crews
Crews, Christian (2003) ''Systemic scenarios: creating synergy through scenarios and systems thinking,'' unpublished Master's thesis, University of Houston-Clear Lake, Clear Lake, TX.
The future of Hawai'i: introduction to Hawai'i scenarios
… (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.
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
  • Dr
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.
She is an APF member, and a Fellow of the World Futures Studies Federation
  • Dr
  • Wendy
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.