INF 1006 Information Workshop: Futures Thinking

2017 Winter Term SECTION 2

Instructor: Chun Wei Choo

Site address:


Please check this site regularly for updates.

At the end of the class on March 7th, students form their own groups and agree on the focal issues to work on. Sign-up page is in the course wiki.


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 Outcomes

At the end of this course, students should be able to:

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).

Recommended Texts

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.

Instructor Availability

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 integrity

Please 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.

Accommodation of students with disabilities

Students 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 support

The SGS Office of English Language and Writing Support 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.


Please consult the iSchool's official interpretation of letter grades and the University's policy on Graduate Grading and Evaluation Practices. These will form the basis for grading in the course.


Week 1 (Feb 28, 2017)

Week 2 (Mar 7, 2017)

Week 3 (Mar 14, 2017)

Workshop (1): Environmental scanning

Students come to class having completed an initial environmental scan for the focal issue. Each student in a group scans in one of four environmental sectors (STEP).

During the workshop, each group:

Assignment 1 due Mar 21, 2017.

Week 4 (Mar 21, 2017)

Workshop (2): Scenario construction

During this workshop, each group of students:

Week 5 (Mar 28, 2017)

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 due Apr 3, 2017.

Week 6 (Apr 4, 2017)

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.

The environmental scan report is to emailed to the instructor as a PDF file by the end of day, March 21, 2017.

The environmental scan report is 40% of the course grade, and will be evaluated according to these criteria:

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 strategic implications and leading indicators.

After Workshop (3), each group prepares a scenario planning report as follows:

In the Week 6 class, each group presents their scenario analysis.
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 presentation slides are to be emailed to the instructor as PDF files by 12 noon on April 3rd, 2017.

The scenario planning report and the presentation together is 50% of the course grade, and will be evaluated according to these criteria:


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 from ERIC]

Chermack, T. J. (2011). Scenario planning in organizations: How to create, use, and assess scenarios. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers. [Author's site]

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.

Conway, M. (2014) Foresight: An Introduction. Melbourne, Australia: Thinking Futures.

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]

Hannabuss, S. (2001). Scenario planning for libraries. Library Management, 22(4/5), 168-176. [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]

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. [Google Scholar link]

Ramirez, R., Mukherjee, M., Vezzoli, S., & Kramer, A. M. (2015). Scenarios as a scholarly methodology to produce "interesting research". Futures, 71, 70-87. [DOI link]

Ringland, G. (2002). Scenarios in Public Policy. New York: John Wiley. [UT link]

Rohrbeck, R., & Bade, M. (2012). Environmental scanning, futures research, strategic foresight and organizational future orientation: a review, integration, and future research directions. Paper presented at the ISPIM Annual Conference, Barcelona, Spain. [Research Gate link]

Scearce, D., & Fulton, K. (2004). What if? The art of scenario thinking for nonprofits. Emeryville, CA: Global Business Network. [Monitor Institute 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]

Wade, W. (2012). Scenario Planning: A field guide to the future. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. [Wiley book site]