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Plausibility and probability in scenario planning

Rafael Ramírez (Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)
Cynthia Selin (Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona, USA)


ISSN: 1463-6689

Article publication date: 4 March 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore extant distinctions between plausibility and probability in scenario planning and re-frame the either/or stance in the literature within a broader set of methodological choice possibilities.


The paper surveys the history of both terms in both the English language and more narrowly within scenario planning, critically assessing the confusions that have arisen. The paper questions the distinctions that have been made and offers a richer set of combinations to open up the methodological space available.


The paper suggests that the either/or stances that have been dominant in the literature – and even shaped distinctions between different schools of scenario planning – must be surpassed by a richer set of combinations that open up new methodological approaches and possibilities.

Research limitations/implications

This is a conceptual and exploratory paper. Therefore the findings are propositions and tentative.

Practical implications

The paper opens up new ways of producing scenarios and may dissolve some of the infertile distinctions that have plagued the field to now.


The paper dilutes distinctions that have been accepted for decades and opens up new possibilities in the scenarios field, which is growing and is now producing some 2,200 peer-reviewed articles/year in English alone as per the EBSCO database.



Ramírez, R. and Selin, C. (2014), "Plausibility and probability in scenario planning", Foresight, Vol. 16 No. 1, pp. 54-74.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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