Friday, October 20, 2006

The Proteus Project — Scenario-Based Planning Methodology for Advanced Concept Formulation

Pamela H. Krause,,
Proteus is an advanced concepts futures research effort that seeks to pull out innovation drivers and new concepts by looking broadly and deeply across plausible alternative futures and developing an understanding of uncertainty in the future problem space. The analytical techniques underlying the research have come from two sources. The scenario-based planning technique utilized was based on commercial best practices designed to manage uncertainty as developed by The Futures Group (now part of Deloitte Consulting). The technology planning technique is based on the former Futures Group's original work for the federal government in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Adhering to the principle of future “plausibility” versus “probability,” four fundamental precepts have guided the research thus far: avoid uncritical extrapolation from today, avoid reductionism, challenge conventional thinking, and do not necessarily drive for early consensus. The project has evolved in two parts: (1) An examination of the future national security problem space using scenario-based planning and (2) The development of several approaches to the solution space (what should the organization do about the problems uncovered). The discussion will touch on both aspects of the work (problems and transition to solutions). Framing a challenging and perhaps nontraditional problem space to explore possible outcomes, then engaging in planning workshops set in those future operating environments, has given us a number of macrolevel insights into future customer needs in general. The discipline of the methodology along with “team pioneering spirit” and leadership support is credited in the publication of the insights work, “Proteus: Insights from 2020.” These insights span all of the five worlds studied. They help the organization learn about the dynamic forces for change in these worlds and what they might mean for the future. In order to understand these new worlds, one must think about change in multiple dimensions across multiple venues — physical, virtual, biological, temporal. Thinking in new ways about the future operating environment along with an understanding of emerging future technologies helps research planners develop a solid basis for investments. Work in progress involves a deep probing into specific organizational implications of the future insights across a range of possible solutions. In part, those solutions will involve defining potential new systems and building alternative path technology networks to foster sound AR&D investments now in order to prepare for tomorrow's systems and technological applications.

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