January 28th 2020
Scenario Thinking – Interview with Dr. Kris De Meyer
Simulating scenario thinking is essential for any organising wanting to improve its forward planning. In this interview, we discuss with King’s College London neuroscientist, Dr. Kris De Meyer, how his Shutdown simulation, created for the Cabinet Office, uses immersive learning to improve people’s ability to imagine different scenarios and plan for them.
Kris De Meyer: So in shutdown, we wanted to help the Cabinet Office to find out questions that they had about how the public would respond if the national grid goes out for about a week. If there is a national power failure for a week and that's a really difficult issue because you can't just ask people how they will behave in that situation, because most of us have had no experience of that for a long time. And therefore, we cannot answer questions about situations or not easily answer questions about situations we don't have experience of. So the way the other organizations could be using the insights that we built into shut down is by taking the questions we have about the future and turning them into judgments about things that happened in the past.
Because our brains may not be very good in imagining the future, but we are very good at judging things and other people that happened in the past. That's one aspect to it. The second is by combining storytelling and scenario thinking with discussion and decision making, because what we are doing in shutdown is really switching back and forth between the two where we have a little bit of story that focuses the minds on a particular situation or question. And then we asked people to make decisions and to have discussions about the questions that we want to answer to. A third aspect that is crucial to what we did with shutdown is that if you really want to learn from the experience, if you want experience based learning, you don't only create an immersive experience. You also need to create the conditions for reflection on the experience. And that's what we usually do in something that we call a debrief, where after the experience we take people into sometimes even a different room and we get them to talk about what it felt like to be in that experience of disagreement or a difficult decision making. And so on and so forth.
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