INF 1005 Information Workshop: Futures Thinking
2020 Winter Term SECTION 4
Instructor: Chun Wei Choo
Site address: uoft.me/inf1005
Please check this page regularly for course-related announcements.
This workshop introduces students to concepts and methods related to futures thinking - a systematic approach for organizations and their stakeholders to seek information and reflect on major future changes that can affect the growth and development of the organization. The workshop discusses the theory and techniques of environmental scanning and the development of strategic foresight that will enable organizations to navigate uncertainty and position themselves for the future. Students will have an opportunity to apply scenario planning as a structured methodology to illuminate and stimulate dialogue about complex issues that affect the futures of organizations in the public, private, or nonprofit sector.
Course Learning OutcomesAt the end of this course, students should be able to:
- Understand how organizations seek and use information to develop foresight and knowledge about the future;
- Identify and address information challenges and pitfalls that organizations face in the development of organizational foresight;
- Apply environmental scanning as an approach to seek and analyze information about major forces of change in their environment;
- Apply scenario planning as a structured methodology for organizations to think creatively about their futures.
Relationship to MI Program Learning Outcomes
This course helps students to understand the concepts and practices in the development of organizational foresight as an information-intensive activity of organizations (Program Outcome 1, 4). The knowledge and values imparted in the course enable students to exercise leadership and care in the imagination and evaluation of alternative future scenarios and how they could shape information services (Program Outcome 2). Through their scenario planning projects, students learn to carry out research and and analysis that would deepen our understanding of major issues confronting organizations and instituions (Program Outcome 3). Finally, students learn to anticipate the broader consequences of new technological developments as a key element of developing organizational foresight (Program Outcome 5).
See Readings List.
Students form six groups of four to work on selected FOCAL ISSUES. There are two assignments.
In the first asssignment, students conduct an environmental scan to identify major factors and forces of change in the external environment that can significantly influence how the focal issue develops and what the outcomes will be. [40%]
In the second assignment, students develop, write up, and present four scenarios based on the major factors and forces of change identified in the environmental scan. They analyze each scenario to derive strategic implications and leading indicators. [50%]Participation accounts for 10% of the course assessment. Students are encouraged to participate actively during the in-class workshops, and it is important that students complete their individual and group work within the time frames defined.
Students should feel free to discuss course-related matters with the instructor at any time. Chun Wei's office is Room 628; telephone 416.978.5266; e-mail . Office hours TBA.
Academic integrityPlease consult the University's site on Academic Integrity. The iSchool has a zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism as defined in section B.I. 1. (d) of the University's Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. You should acquaint yourself with the Code and Appendix A Section 2. Please review the material you covered in Cite it Right and consult the site How Not to Plagiarize. Cite it Right covers relevant parts of the U of T Code of Behaviour on Academic Matters. It is expected that all iSchool students take the Cite it Right workshop and the online quiz. Completion of the online Cite It Right quiz should be made prior to the second week of classes. To review and complete the workshop, go to the Inforum Orientation Workshops site.
Accommodation of students with disabilitiesStudents with diverse learning styles and needs are welcome in this course. In particular, if you have a disability or health consideration that may require accommodations, please feel free to approach me and/or the Accessibility Services Office as soon as possible. The Accessibility Services staff are available by appointment to assess specific needs, provide referrals and arrange appropriate accommodations. The sooner you let them and me know your needs, the quicker we can assist you in achieving your learning goals in this course.
Writing supportThe Graduate Centre for Academic Communication provides writing support for graduate students. The services are designed to target the needs of both native and non-native speakers of English and include courses, workshops, individual writing consultations, and online resources. Please avail yourself of these services.
- iSchool's Grade Interpretation Guidelines
- University Assessment and Grading Practices Policy
- Guidelines on the Use of INC, SDF, & WDR
These documents will form the basis for grading in the course.
Week 1 (Jan 7, 2020)
- Course outline. Overview of workshop project on futures thinking.
- Introduction to futures thinking, environmental scanning, scenario planning, and organizational foresight (1).
Week 2 (Jan 14, 2020)
- Introduction to futures thinking, environmental scanning, scenario planning, and organizational foresight (2).
- Selection of focal issues.
- Groups organize for environmental scanning to identify major forces of change.
Week 3 (Jan 21, 2020)
Workshop (1): Environmental scanning
Students come to class having completed an initial environmental scan for the focal issue. Each student in a group scans one of four environmental sectors (STEP).During the workshop, each group:
- Discusses their initial sectoral scans and collectively identifies and labels major factors and forces of change.
- Evaluates forces of change in terms of their uncertainty and impact on the focal issue. Construct an IMPACT table.
- Identifies predetermined elements and critical uncertainties.
Assignment 1 (Environmental Scan report) due end of day Jan 27, 2020.
Week 4 (Jan 28, 2020)
Workshop (2): Scenario constructionDuring this workshop, each group of students:
- Reviews the findings of the environmental scan of Workshop (1).
- Selects and tests a pair of critical uncertainties for scenario development.
- Constructs four contrasting, plausible scenarios based on critical uncertainties, predetermined elements, and other drivers.
- Assigns each group member a scenario to develop.
Week 5 (Feb 4, 2020)
Workshop (3): Scenario analysis
Students come to class having developed and written up draft versions of the scenarios they have been assigned in Workshop (2).In this workshop, each group:
Assignment 2 (Scenario Planning report) due by 5pm on Feb 10, 2020.
- Reviews and refines individual scenarios to ensure that scenarios are diverse, plausible, and consistent.
- Discusses the strategy implications for each scenario.
- Identifies the leading indicators for each scenario.
- Plans for the scenario presentation and summary report.
Week 6 (Feb 11, 2020)Groups present and discuss their scenario analyses.
Assignment 1: Environmental Scan
The objective of this assignment is to conduct an environmental scan to identify major factors and forces of change in the external environment that can significantly influence how the FOCAL ISSUE develops and what the outcomes will be.
After Workshop (1), each group of students prepares an environmental scan report that:
The report should also include as appendices the initial scans of environmental sectors conducted by individual group members. Each appendix should include the student's name, the sector scanned, a set of 3 major factors identified in the scan, a short description of how each factor might develop and affect the focal issue, and a list of references.
- Identifies major factors or drivers of change in the external environment that can significantly influence how the focal issue develops and what the outcomes will be;
- Describes each factor with a short title, an account of how that factor could change in the future, and how these changes could affect the focal issue;
- Evaluates each factor according to its degree of uncertainty and impact on the focal issue; summarize the evaluation in an IMPACT table;
- Identifies predetermined elements and critical uncertainties, and explains the reasoning behind these choices.
The environmental scan report is to be submitted on Quecurs, with a copy emailed to the instructor, by the end of day Jan 27, 2020.
The environmental scan report is 40% of the course grade, and will be evaluated according to these criteria:
- the report addresses all the requirements set out above;
- major environmental factors or drivers of change have been identified that are relevant to the focal issue;
- factors have been evaluated to arrive at a logical determination of predetermined elements and critical uncertainties.
Assignment 2: Scenario Planning
The objective of this assignment is to construct scenarios based on selected critical uncertainties, predetermined elements and other forces of change, and to analyze these scenarios in order to derive strategy implications and leading indicators.
After Workshop (3), each group prepares a scenario planning report as follows:
- State the focal issue that is being explored;
- Define a pair of critical uncertainties as the basis for developing scenarios; explain the choice of critical uncertainties;
- Describe the four scenarios that have been constructed by the group;
- For each scenario, provide a memorable title, a short summary of the end-state in that scenario (~50 words), and a longer narrative explaining how the scenario develops (~300 words);
- For each scenario, state the strategic implications for the organization;
- For each scenario, identify the leading indicators that should be monitored;
- Explain how the scenario analysis has deepened your understanding and perception of the focal issue.
In the Week 6 class, each group presents their scenario analysis.The scenario planning report and presentation slides are to be submitted on Quercus, with a copy emailed to the instructor, by 5pm on Feb 10, 2020.
The presentation should cover the following: focal issue and user organization; critical uncertainties; each scenario and its strategic implications. The presentation should take 20 minutes.
The scenario planning report and the presentation together is 50% of the course grade, and will be evaluated according to these criteria:
- the report addresses all the requirements set out above;
- scenarios constructed offer multiple contrasting perspectives that deepen our understanding of the focal issue;
- strategic implications and leading indicators are developed logically;
- an effective in-class presentation and discussion of key elements of the scenario analysis that has been undertaken by the group.
ARL (Association of Research Libraries). (2010). The ARL 2030 Scenarios: A User's Guide for Research Libraries. Washington, DC: Association of Research Libraries. [Full-text ERIC link]
Chermack, T. J. (2011). Scenario planning in organizations: How to create, use, and assess scenarios. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. [Preview]
Choo, C. W. (2002). Information Management for the Intelligent Organization: The Art of Scanning the Environment (3rd ed.). Medford, NJ: Information Today, Inc. [UT link]
Choo, C. W. (2005). Environmental Scanning as Information Seeking and Organizational Learning. In E. Maceviciute & T. D. Wilson (Eds.), Introducing Information Management (pp. 83-97). London, UK: Facet Publishing. http://InformationR.net/ir/7-1/paper112.html
Conway, M. (2014) Foresight: An Introduction. Melbourne, Australia: Thinking Futures. [PDF]
Giesecke, J., Cawthorne, J., & Pearson, D. (Eds.). (2015). Navigating the Future with Scenario Planning: A Guidebook for Librarians. e-book. Chicago, IL: ACRL. [ALA store link]
Haigh, Narida. (2019). Scenario Planning for Climate Change: A guide for strategists. London: Routledge. [Book full text UT link]
Kahane, A., and Kees Van Der Heijden. (2012). Transformative scenario planning: Working together to change the future. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. [SSIR link]
Konno, N., Nonaka, I., & Ogilvy, J. (2014). Scenario planning: the basics. World Futures, 70(1): 28-43. [Scholars Portal link]
Lindgren, M., & Bandhold, H. (2003). Scenario Planning: The link between future and strategy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [UT link]
Muhammad, A., Tugrul, U. D., & Antonie, J. (2013). A review of scenario planning. Futures, 46, 23-40. [Scholars Portal link]
NSW State Library (2009). The Bookends Scenarios: Possible futures for NSW public libraries in the year 2030. New South Wales, Australia: Library Council of NSW. [PDF]
O'Connor, S., & Sidorko, P. (2010). Imagine your library's future: scenario planning for libraries and information organisations. Oxford, UK: Chandos. [ScienceDirect link]
Ogilvy, J., and Schwartz, P. (2004). Plotting Your Scenarios. Emeryville, CA: Global Business Network. [Meadowlark Institute full-text link]
Oliver, J. J., & Parrett, E. (2018). Managing future uncertainty: Reevaluating the role of scenario planning. Business Horizons, 61(2), 339-352. [Scholars Portal link]
Ramirez, Rafael & Angela Wilkinson. (2016). Strategic Reframing: The Oxford Scenario Planning Approach. New York: Oxford University Press. [Book full text UT link]
Ringland, G. (2002). Scenarios in Public Policy. New York: John Wiley. [UT link]
Scearce, D., & Fulton, K. (2004). What if? The art of scenario thinking for nonprofits. Emeryville, CA: Global Business Network. [Wallace Foundation full-text link]
Schoemaker, P. J. H. (1995). Scenario Planning: A Tool For Strategic Thinking. Sloan Management Review, 36(2), 25-40. [UT link]
Tsoukas, H., & Shepherd, J. (Eds.). (2004). Managing the Future: Foresight in the Knowledge Economy. Oxford, UK: Blackwell. [UT link]
van der Heijden, K. (2005). Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. [UT link]
Voros, J. (2003). A generic foresight process framework. foresight, 5(3), 10-21. [Scholars Portal link]
Wulf, Torsten, Christian Brands & Philip Meissner. 2011. A Scenario-based Approach to Strategic Planning. Tool description: Impact/Uncertainty Grid. Leipzig, Germany: HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management, Center for Scenario Planning.