University of Westminster Business School

‘Scandinavia Stories’ workshops are dynamic, engaging and interactive. They make complex and abstract topics such as innovation and creativity accessible to all participants and provide an excellent learning experience. After the workshop we could definitely use what we had learnt to address a range of practical business issues.’

Dr Sue Balint, MBA Programme Director

 

We designed and now deliver a series of workshops for Westminster Business School’s Full-time and Executive MBA programmes, as part of their Strategy Management and Change Management modules. Each session is a three and a half hour workshop, with a cohort of 20-25 students per class. Students typically come from a range of professional backgrounds, including healthcare, finance, technology and FMCG.

 

Workshop titles

‘Designing the Future’ – Participants identify the strengths/weaknesses of a product, chart how the world might change over the next 30 years, and design a blueprint for that product’s evolution.

‘Storyboarding Future Scenarios’ – Participants identify factors that impact a particular industry, tell a story about how those trends might play out over a defined period of time, and propose a strategy to address future challenges for a company in that industry.

 

‘Storyboarding Future Scenarios’ workshop outline

Participants work in groups of 4-5 people. Each group is given the same case study with background information about a company (in this case, Waterstones booksellers). Each group then participates in the same four activities.

Background information

A short brief provides each group (acting as the executive board of Waterstones) with news headlines that hint at present-day external opportunities and threats, and internal strengths and weaknesses. The aim of the session is to design a strategy that the company could begin to pursue today, in order to put them in a position to take advantage of a forecast future scenario.

Activity 1: What’s the Problem?

Each group identifies the most significant factors and trends that they believe affect the book retail industry. They draw a diagram of a ‘soft system’ that represents the industry and that visualises the key factors and trends that affect it, their interdependencies, and where Waterstones fits within this system. They summarise their analysis into a simple hypothesis that articulates the greatest threat to Waterstones over a defined period of time.

Activity 2: What Happens Next?

Using research and their informed imaginations, each group predicts how data trends that relate to their soft system could play out over the course of a defined period of time. Participants use post-its to quickly document their thoughts, and then, in their groups, they categorise the information they’ve collected to structure their thinking and together agree the most important trends. They check their thinking against the threat hypothesis they wrote in Activity 1, and adapt as needed.

Activity 3: What’s the Story?

Each of the four groups is given a different type of scenario to plan for – a possible scenario, a probable scenario, a preferred scenario (from the perspective of the company), and a wildcard scenario that goes against what the data might suggest. Each group then creates a storyboard to communicate how and why their scenario might materialise. Once again, they check their thinking against the threat hypothesis and trend forecasts they produced in Activity 1 and Activity 2.

Activity 4: What’s the Strategy?

Each group creates a strategic plan for future growth within the limitations of the company’s current financial and operational framework, as external events drive towards the forecast scenario. To conclude, the groups present their strategy to the wider cohort, walking through their analysis and storyboard from the previous activities to provide justification for the strategy.

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Article Name
Case story: University of Westminster Business School
Description
Scandinavia Stories designed a series of future-thinking and scenario-planning workshops for Westminster Business School’s Full-time and Executive MBA programmes. This article outlines the workshops.
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