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Combine Crowdsourcing and Scenario Planning for Unique Insights into the Future

by Hank Barnes  |  February 18, 2014  |  2 Comments

Scenario planning has long been recognized as an innovate way to plan for the future.  The basics of this approach is to target a future point in time and then explore, with a small group of people, what things could look like, based on their experience of how their market, business, or speciality has evolved from the past to the present.  Some information on scenario planning can be found here.

My colleague, Frank Buytendijk (an incredibly innovative thinker, fantastic speaker, and funny man), recently added a new test to scenario planning for a project he calls “Datatopia.”  The idea-rather than use a handful of experts to explore scenarios, he crowdsourced opinions, inviting anyone who was interested to share their perspective on what the future of data might look like.   The result can be found here—a free e-book that you can download.  It is a great read.


From simply scanning the material, it is easy to see that the topic that was explored–data–has broad implications.  The responses actually described future societies and how people and machines may interact in the future.  I was struck by both the breadth of the ideas generated as well as the commonality within the ideas.

What does this mean for Go-to-Market Strategies?

At a minimum, you can explore this look at the future from the context of “How would this scenario impact me and my business?”.   But you could also take it farther.

Consider adding scenario planning as a part of your strategic planning efforts.  Explore the Future of Sales (one of the reports from the series was on this topic exactly (subscription required) – Tech Go-to-Market: Test Future Sales Models With Scenarios to Prepare for Changes Ahead), the Future of Marketing, or the future of your particular market and business.  Consider the impact of choices you are making right now as a result of the impact of the Nexus of Forces or Digital Business.   Set a few parameters to focus the discussion around areas that impact your business, but don’t constrain thinking by imposing to many assumptions.

You could even crowdsource the opinions like Frank did.  Where could you go to invite people to participate?   Your employees, your partners, or even your customers could have fantastic insights that would provide intriguing perspectives on your business–both today and in the future.   You could go even broader with market studies and sponsor this broadly in partnership with an organization that has a community of people focused on the market.    At a minimum, I would recommend you include a few people that are not part of the inner circle of management—you want perspectives that aren’t jaded by biases or coming from the same frame of reference. (This outside perspective is something that clients tell me they value the most when I work with them on their positioning and messaging.)

The opportunities are broad, the impact could be significant.

Why?  And this may be the most important part of all.

As Frank describes, it has been proven that simply thinking about the future makes you better prepared to deal with it effectively.

Start planning your future today.


Hank Barnes
VP Distinguished Analyst
4+ years at Gartner
29 years IT Industry

Hank Barnes provides research and advisory services on go-to-market strategies for technology providers. He focuses on issues related to positioning, storytelling, the technology customer life cycle, and customer experience. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Combine Crowdsourcing and Scenario Planning for Unique Insights into the Future

  1. JMI says:

    Really interesting Hank, thanks​!​

    I think that you would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across explaining crowds, open innovation, and citizen science.​ ​In particular I feel you may find these two emerging pieces of research very relevant:

    – The Theory of Crowd Capital

    – The Contours of Crowd Capability

    And you may also enjoy this blog about the same too:

    Powerful stuff, no?

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