Focus on a Few
Too many scenarios will complicate your process and take more resources. It will also tax your participants. Three to four scenarios is a good number. While you might have pressing reasons to do more, ask yourself whether each one will really deliver significant new information.
For the purpose of generating useful discussion, scenarios should be significantly different from each other. Scenarios that are too similar will be harder for stakeholders to understand and, more importantly, discussion will generate feedback that isn’t well differentiated.
While we might use a spreadsheet to model scenarios of future traffic growth, typically the wide range of uncertainties and potential responses with new mobility are too many to fit well in a black box. Instead, starting qualitatively reduces the risk of oversimplification and allows for a more accurate representation of future uncertainty. That said, quantitative analysis and forecasting may be an appropriate next step following initial scenario planning.
Identify Common Responses
Given that development and presentation of scenarios is only the first step in scenario planning, an important next step is developing potential responses to the issues identified in the scenarios. Responses can range from gathering more information to developing policies to making new investments. The most powerful and resilient actions will be those that apply to the most scenarios. This can be the ultimate value of scenario planning: identifying those actions that are responsive to as many futures as possible.
Understand Your Audience
Because qualitative scenario planning is an interactive exercise, it’s important to build in an understanding of how real people might react and respond.
- Using personal stories – such as describing an individual’s unmet transportation needs and how new mobility could address them – helps people see outside their own experience.
- For participants, engaging in a future scenario requires letting go – putting aside opinions and assumptions and reacting to the scenario as stated.
- While animations or other visualizations aren’t required, they can help people more easily envision scenarios that are unfamiliar.
Scenario planning assumes multiple possible futures. Illustration developed by WSP for connected and automated vehicle scenario planning process conducted by the Minnesota Department of Transportation.