Apr 012017



As mentioned in the 11-Step VBP Part 2, the future is about potential and possibility, not a regurgitation of the past. This is the most important and least understood, part of the VBP workshop process. Planning is not about making the future look like the past, it’s about possibilities and potential, and that requires creativity and imagination. To do this we need to think futuristically and definitely out-of-the-box. In this article we describe a very small selection of the many techniques we use – more details are given in the book. We use the general rules of brainstorming, with particular emphasis on “No criticism.”

Semi-Analytical Techniques Requiring Subjective Judgment

These are techniques that are often based on both analysis/data of the past and subjective judgment for the future. They are generally used to assess the magnitude of issues of concern to the participants, or dilemmas facing their organization for which there has been no detailed analysis performed. We either ask the participants to prioritize the importance or urgency of the concern or issue under consideration or to rate it on a scale of 1-10 or 1-100.

Critical Issues and Dilemmas


Energy Centers


Pinwheel: Assessment of Capabilities


Identifying the Essence

BCG Matrix

Development Curves

Nth Order Effects

Intuitive/Creative Techniques

These are techniques that are not based on data or analysis but on imagination and creativity, and it is from these that many extremely successful ideas for new business, new technologies, and new businesses have come.

Teamwork: Guided Imagination

Futuristic Guided Imagination

The Metaphor

The “Ideal If”

Science Fiction

Wild (Low-Probability/High-Impact) Ideas

Advice to the Vision Makers—Brief Synthesis

Energy Centers

Energy Centers are filters through which the participants are asked to look at the organization throughout the rest of the workshop. These “filters” may come from reframing the nature of the organization’s business or from a discussion of the issues and particularly the dilemmas. They are so-called because we want the participants to focus on the one they feel the most passionate about and into which they are willing to put a lot of energy. Once the participants have decided on energy centers and have given them names, we post them at intervals around the room. Then we ask the participants to walk to the one on which they want to work. If there is an imbalance, we ask for volunteers to move so the centers have approximately equal numbers of participants. We also ask for one person to volunteer to champion each Energy Center—to plead for it and its importance to the organization.


There are several definitions of Reframing. In this context, it is a technique that refers to a frame of reference: internal (beliefs, values) or external (rules, policies). It is the process of seeing, hearing, or feeling the object, situation, or circumstance differently—from different perspectives, through different lenses. We have spoken about reframing earlier in the context of identifying the nature of an organization’s internal and external environments. It is useful to think about reframing before conducting the analysis as, in the example we gave, if we are considering a house of the future, we will be thinking about very different things than if we consider a home of the future.

The reason that this is an important concept is that, very often, we see something so clearly that there is no doubt in our mind that we know exactly what it is, what it looks like, where it came from. We focus on it so intently that, when someone else sees something different, we think they are crazy. We think they just don’t “get it,” whereas we may be the ones not getting it. Or one of us may be seeing a symptom of something rather than the underlying cause.

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CHRISTINE MacNulty has forty years’ experience as a consultant in long-term strategic -planning for concepts as well as organizations, futures studies, foresight, and technology forecasting, technology assessment and related areas, as well as socio-cultural change. For the last twenty years, most of her consultancy has been conducted for the Department of Defense and the Services, NATO ACT, NATO NEC, the British Army’s Force Development & Training Command, and the German BBK. Prior to that her work was in the commercial arena where she had Fortune Global 500 clients. During the last thirty-five years Christine MacNulty has contributed methods and models for understanding social and cultural change through people’s values. She was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in 1989. She is the coauthor of two books: Industrial Applications of Technology Forecasting, Wiley, 1971 and Strategy with Passion – A Leader’s Guide to Exploiting the Future, August 2016. Her paper: “Method for minimizing the negative consequences of nth order effects in strategic communication actions and inactions” was published in NATO Defence Strategic Communications Journal, p 99, Winter 2015. Two monographs “Truth, Perception & Consequences” (2007) and “Transformation: From the Outside In or the Inside Out” (2008) were published by the Army War College. Perceptions, Values & Motivations in Cyberspace appeared in the IO Journal, 3rd Quarter, 2009, and The Value of Values for IO, SC & Intel was published in the August 2010 edition of the IO Journal.  ContactFacebook LinkedIn Twitter

Photo Credit – geralt