APEC CTF Foresight and Strategic Planning Seminar
James L. Morrison, Seminar Facilitator

National Science and Technology Development Agency
Yothi Building, Room 101A
73/1 Rama VI Road
Rajhevee, Bangkok
September 2, 2003

We are being bombarded by tumultuous forces for change as we go into the 21st Century: global communications, global economies, increasing economic competition, increasing pressure for accountability and so on. In order to plan effectively in this environment, we must be able to anticipate new developments that will affect the economy of Thailand  in the coming decade.


This workshop is designed to assist participants to anticipate the future more effectively and, therefore, plan more effectively. The specific objectives are to:

  • identify potential events that could affect the economy
  • gain experience in using the probability-impact matrix and impact networks to deepen our collective insights on the implications of events

The purpose of this session is to gain experience in using analytical forecasting tools that can inform strategic planning.


The publications below provide information on methods and approaches to anticipating the future. Please review these materials prior to attending the seminar.

1. Morrison & Wilson. (1996). Strategic management in the context of global change. In Didsbury, Howard (Ed.). Future Vision, Ideas, Insights, and Strategies. Bethesda, MD: The World Future Society.

2. Ashley, W. L. & Morrison, J. L. (1996). Anticipatory management tools for the 21st century. The Futures Research Quarterly, 12 (2), 35-49. 

3. Ashley, W. L. & Morrison, J. L. (1997). Anticipatory management: Tools for better decision making. The Futurist, 31(5), 47-50.

And if you have time. . .

4. Morrison, J. L., Renfro, W. L., & Boucher, W. I. (1984). Futures research and the strategic planning process. ASHE/ERIC Clearinghouse on Higher Education Research Report Series Number 9. [Although focusing on higher education, the foresight tools described herein are applicable to any industry.]


September 2, 2003

0900-0915    Introduction/Orientation

0915-1015    Anticipating the Future [Introduce and discuss Joel Barker video, Discovering the Future: The Business of Paradigms]

1015-1045    Break

1045-1145    Identifying Potential Events

1145-1215    Reportbacks

1215-1315    Lunch

1315-1415    Using the Probability-Impact Matrix

1415-1445    Reportbacks

1445-1515    Break

1515-1545    Impact Network 

1545-1615    Reportbacks

1615-1630    Use of scenarios in strategic planning

Exercise: Potential Events That Can Change the Future of Thailand's Economy 

Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event identification and analysis is critical in anticipatory planning.

It is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not helpful in the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by the statement (i.e., different people may understand the statement differently) and (b) we have no clear target that allows us to derive implications and action steps. For example, consider the following event statement: There will be significant changes in political, social, and economic systems in Thailand. Each person on a planning team may agree with this statement, but may also interpret it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a statement like: A suicide bomber successfully detonates a bomb at the next APEC conference in Bangkok. Or NAFTA incorporates South America in a free trade zone. The latter statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could impact Thailand's economy. Event statements are headlines that could appear in the local newspaper.

We will use the Nominal Group Process for this exercise. Each group will select a facilitator, flip chart scribe, reporter, and paper hanger. When this is accomplished, the group facilitator will pose the question: What are the potential events that would change the future of Thailand's economy if they occurred? Take five minutes to think about the question, remembering to think broadly through the STEEP sectors, locally through globally. Then begin the round robin process to post nominations from individual group members to the flip chart. Spend 20-30 minutes on this part of the exercise. Then go to the discussion/clarification phase, where the facilitator will ensure that group members understand and agree with the event statements (prepare for some rewriting!). 

The final part of this exercise is to select those events that may have the most impact on Thailand's economy in the next decade. We will use the paste-on dots for this exercise. Group members will be given four green dots to indicate their selection. Voting criteria are as follows:

  • Vote for four of the most critical events for the future of Thailand's economy that have some probability of occurrence within the next decade. Do not be concerned about the event being high or low probability; be concerned only about the severity of the impact (positive or negative).
  • Do not put more than one dot on one event statement.
  • Put all dots by the beginning of the event statement (so that we can quickly see the frequency distribution of dots)

Prepare a  reportback consisting of the top five events that, if they occur, will change the future of Thailand's economy.

Exercise: Using the Probability-Impact Matrix

The probability-impact matrix is a relatively simple tool to assist us develop a shared view of the probability and impact of a potential event that could affect the future of Thailand's economy. It consists of taking the top event identified in the event identification exercise and asking three questions: 

1. What is the probability of this event occurring in the next 10 years?
2. If the event occurs, what is the degree of positive impact on Thailand's economy?
3. If the event occurs, what is the degree of negative impact on Thailand's economy?

Each person in each group will estimate the probability of occurrence and the degree of negative and positive impact on the form provided and then will use the green dots to post his or her votes on the flip chart form. This is a poll. The group facilitator will then lead a discussion of these votes, asking for the rationale underlying the extreme votes. After this discussion, each group member will revote, this time using the red dots. The discussion and revote constitutes a Delphi. The reportback will consist of a discussion/analysis of the use of this matrix.

Exercise: Using the Impact Network

The final exercise is an impact network, also known as a futures wheel or as an implications wheel. It is generated by identifying the possible effects of a given event. Any impact that is likely to result from the event's occurrence, whether negative or positive, is a "acceptable impact." The question is one of possibility, not probability. The flip chart scribe will write the second most critical event in the middle of the flip chart and circle it. Group members will then identify what the first-order impacts would be if that critical event occurred. These impacts would be circled and linked to the initial event by a single line.

When five or six first-order impacts have been identified or when the space around the initial event is occupied, the process is repeated for each first-order impact. Again, the task is to determine the possible impacts if this event were to occur. The second-order impacts are linked to their first-order impacts by two lines. These steps are repeated for third- and fourth-order impacts, or as far as the group would like to go. Typically, third- and fourth-order impacts are sufficient to explore all of the significant impacts of the initial event. Usually a group identifies several feedback loops; for example, a fourth-order impact might increase or decrease a third- or a second-order impact. The value of impact networks lies in their simplicity and in their potential to identify a wide range of impacts very quickly. In effect, an impact network is an elementary scenario. For an illustration of how such networks are used, go to and use the "find" command to locate "Impact Networks."

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