How Structural Dynamics

 Puts Learning and Fun Together


People from a variety of professional backgrounds have attended Art of the Future's Introduction to Structural Dynamics workshops.  Representatives from health care, higher education, financial services, automotive manufacturing, management consulting, international liaison builders, spiritual and environmental NGO's, public schools and others have gotten behind the headlines of their field in order to understand the deep structure beneath the surface of current events.  In a day packed with exercises, conversations and concepts, the participants use facts from a case study as a springboard to discover and live in plausible future worlds in order to select strategies to begin to implement in the present.

The workshop is comprised of three space, each representing several steps in the Structural Dynamics process: 


  • The Vistico Case study provides participants with a common focus: a company whose growth has been leveling off somewhat wanted to understand why this was happening and what strategies it should adopt to insure continued growth over the next ten years regardless of what the future might bring.

  • Groups brainstorm a range of events that might drive change in Vistico’s situation ranging from disruption in the flow of materials for manufacturing to a growing level of organizational agility in Vistico’s industry generally to the demand that all organizations communicate in more than one language, e.g., Chinese and English.

  • After discussing the distinction between uncertainty and criticality, the entire group identifies several Critical Uncertainties (Organizational Agility, Supply Chain Resilience and Strength of Intellectual Property Protections).  Small groups track the recent history of each of these forces.  Some counter-intuitive insights provoke useful discussion.  For example, one group concluded that, as the world becomes a more global economy and more players want to remove uncertainty, disruptions in supply chains are actually decreasing in spite of headlines that scream about problems in the flow of goods and services.

  • Groups use systems thinking to find causal connections between a few driving forces and the critical uncertainty they were analyzing.

  • Then, the groups looked for linkages between the set of connections they mapped separately and--Viola!—they produce a basic Structural Dynamics Model (SDM).

  • Using the SDM, they generate a set of scenario worlds and elaborated them into initial plot lines using a scenario blueprinting tool.  After narrowing the scenario set down to the most distinct, they live in their worlds, exploring what life is like in their scenario world  and what sort of business prospects Vistico might have in their world. 

  • Using this analysis, they generate a set of strategies that work for Vistico in their particular world and then they stress test those strategies by visiting other worlds to see how they work there.  The results are intriguing.  For example, the idea of the democratic workplace, which has immediate appeal to many, clearly doesn't work in some possible future worlds.  Thus, some strategies are robust and work across a wide variety of worlds, while others are contingent and work only in some possible future worlds. 

  • With robust and contingent strategies in hand, participants are able to think about how Vistico might implement and monitor action plans.


for more on  > Structural Dynamics

Art of the Future's article on Structural Dynamics
published in Strategy & Leadership magazine can be found by clicking >  Creating Strategic Advantage with Dynamic Scenarios.

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