Fortune Teller

Royal Dutch/Shell spent decades pioneering a system of scenario planning called TINA (There Is No Alternative) to anticipate dramatic changes in the world. Now your company can come up with its own TINA.

Read the main story: There Is No Alternative to ...

Betty Sue Flowers, editor of the Shell scenarios, says that every organization could benefit from having its own TINA. "Sit down and ask, What are the predetermined elements in my business? Where is the TINA? There is no alternative -- just saying it elicits alternatives that people may not have thought about before. TINA gets you out of the box that you've put yourself in."

Shell's scenario leaders have spent three decades honing their scenario-planning techniques. Here are their tips on how to find your TINA.

T: Tackle it yourself. Draw inspiration from the outside world, but don't ask someone else to give you the answers. "External facilitators have their uses, but only you know your business, and the more of the scenario work you do yourself, the more benefits you'll get back," says Ged Davis, the vice president of Global Business Environment (GBE), Shell's scenario unit.

I: Isolate certainties. Form a team to determine the critical issues facing your business, says Davis. "What are the uncertainties? What are the predetermined elements? Then rank them from predetermined to least certain."

N: Name it. "If you have a genuine insight, something that you think is very powerful, give it a name, an acronym, or an image," says Davis. "Find the simplest, most powerful way to communicate it."

A: Act on it. "The whole point of scenarios is to trigger a debate about strategy," says Roger Rainbow, the now semiretired head of GBE. "Scenarios make no sense in the absence of a specific strategic problem."

Ian Wylie (iwylie@fastcompany.com) is a Fast Company contributing editor based in England. Read the Shell scenarios on the Web (http://www.shell.com/scenarios).

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