Since the mid-1970s, the Hawaii Research Centre for Futures Studies, under the direction of Jim Dator, has been using a workshop forecasting technique that Dator named ”incasting.” In this process, participants are presented with scenarios to explore. The scenarios are deliberately written very generally, and participants are asked to add details to the scenarios, using their creative imaginations and the rule of logical consistency to the described characteristics of each scenario. With organizations, participants may be asked to consider how they would redefine, reinvent, or otherwise transform their mission, activities, services, or products to succeed in the conditions of each scenario. This futures tool is designed to increase the flexibility with which people plan for the future, and to increase their creativity in making use of both opportunities and challenges emerging from change.
The original scenarios were derived from a content analysis of futures research and forecasts available in the seventies. Six general ”families” of scenarios emerged from this analysis: Business as Usual (sometimes called ”Continued Growth”), Environmental Sustainability (the ”Green Politics” scenario), Ideological Exclusionism (originally called the ”Disciplined Society” -- essentially, variants of conservatism and fundamentalism), High Technology Transformation, Spiritual Transcendence, and Collapse.
As technology has caught up with both the Continued Growth and High Technology Transformation scenarios, their descriptions have had to be updated. Indeed, all the scenarios require some tweaking as the certainties of what human society is carrying into the future, and what it is discarding, shift over the decades.
In using incasting over the past two decades, I have made two observations: 1., while I often tell people they can engage in incasting using any scenario they find – whether a product of research and analysis, or a product of art (e.g., ”Blade Runner”) – generally, the six scenarios first codified by Dator et al., stated in the most basic terms, work best; and 2., the ”disaster du jour” changes over time.