It's important to understand from the outset that scenario development exercises are not intended to produce accurate predictions or models of the future. Professional strategic planners consider attempts to predict the future in any kind of detail to be futile at best and dangerous at worst. Nevertheless, even though the future is uncertain, our view is that we can not only plan for it but also influence it. The method of scenario development we used in the workshop is designed to aid planning under uncertainty. It is based on the premise that considering a number of different scenarios that might unfold (even though we don't expect any of them actually will unfold) sensitizes us to key drivers and thus results in more robust planning and more effective, proactive decision making.
One of our primary goals in the CHI Ten Year View Workshop was to develop and document three scenarios that describe alternative possible futures for the field of CHI and the CHI community. The method we used to do this followed a traditional approach in which scenarios are developed based on three projected future states for a small number of related indicators.
The indicators selected to drive the scenario development process should be related in a fairly basic way to the "health" or "success" of the organization or community under consideration. The indicators chosen do not need to be comprehensive. They also do not have to be metrics for which we have existing data or defined measurement techniques. What is important, however, is that everyone involved in the scenario development exercise have a good, shared understanding of what it means for an indicator to go up or down.
For our scenario development exercise, the organizers selected the following indicators:
To facilitate a good, shared understanding of these scenarios, we also offer some definitions: By "CHI professionals" we mean people who see their main job as helping to insure that products, services and systems based on computing technology are designed with appropriate consideration of and attention to the needs of the humans who use those artifacts. By "SIGCHI and related professional societies" we mean any professional societies that represent the interests of and/or contribute to the ongoing professional development of the people we've just described.
Using these indicators, the organizers then constructed three skeleton scenarios:
For the Baseline Scenario, we assume that the availability of jobs for CHI professionals in 2006 is about the same as it is today. (Note: This would require growth in the total number of jobs, since the rate at which people are entering the pipeline is greater than the rate at which they are exiting.) We also assume that the median (adjusted) salary and the general level of job satisfaction for CHI professionals in 2006 is about the same as it is today. Finally, we assume that membership in SIGCHI and related professional societies has grown only slightly.
For the Optimistic Scenario, we assume that in 2006 jobs for CHI professionals are plentiful, that the median (adjusted) salary for CHI professionals is higher than it is today, and that most CHI professionals find their work interesting and satisfying. We also assume that the membership of SIGCHI and related professional societies has grown significantly.
For the Low Scenario, we assume that jobs for CHI professionals are hard to come by in comparison to those for professionals with a comparable degree of training and experience. We further assume that the median salary for CHI professionals is lower than it is today, and that CHI professionals have low job satisfaction. We also assume that membership in SIGCHI has declined dramatically.
It will be obvious to the reader that other scenarios could be constructed by having some indicators go up while others go down. These scenarios might even be more plausible. We limited ourselves to the three scenarios described above in order to push thinking in different directions and, at the same time, keep the scenario development task tractable.
During the workshop, participants worked on fleshing out each of the three scenarios by describing a set of events, trends and circumstances that could give rise to his scenario and then addressing the following questions:
©Copyright 1996 Catherine R. Marshall and David G. Novick