The Future Shocks: On the Role of Discontinuity in Scenario Development

Ph.W.F. van Notten, A.M. Sleegers, M.B.A. van Asselt*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Allegedly, an important function of scenario development is the exploration of potential discontinuity. However, there are indications that the approach does not deliver on its promises. This article investigates how discontinuity is addressed in futures literature, particularly those sources that focus on scenarios, and how the concept is used in scenario practice. A literature review reveals a multitude of terms, including wild cards and surprises, from which characteristics of discontinuity in the context of foresight can be derived. Insights from the review help investigate how discontinuity is addressed in contemporary scenario development. The investigation described in this article exposes a rather ambiguous approach to discontinuity in current scenario practice. The article closes with questions regarding scenario method where the investigation of potential discontinuity is concerned.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-194
JournalTechnological Forecasting and Social Change
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2005

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