April 12, 2012

What We Are On About Here

Patrick Marren

Few people think more than two or three times a year. I've made an international reputation for myself by thinking once or twice a week. - George Bernard Shaw

The Nobel-winning economist and psychologist Daniel Kahneman published a book late last year entitled Thinking, Fast and Slow. In it, he distinguishes between two modes of thinking used by humans. The first is System 1: fast, automatic and intuitive. It suffices for the vast majority of our everyday purposes. We don't need to think deeply about not touching hot stoves, which leg to put our pants on first, or...Read more

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November 04, 2010

Recession, Recovery and Scenario Planning: Which Way Now?

by Patrick Marren and Peter Kennedy  

Alas, we are not manufactured, in our current edition of the human race, to understand abstract matters — we need context.Read more

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January 25, 2010

McKinsey, Scenarios and Us

by Patrick Marren

The November 2009 issue of the McKinsey Quarterly includes an article by Charles Roxburgh entitled “The Use and Abuse of Scenarios.” It includes a number of good tips about scenario-based strategic planning, based on his experience in building scenarios over the past 25 years. It also highlights some important distinctions between his understanding of scenarios, and the way in which FSG has gone about creating and using them over the past few decades. And finally, it brings to the surface the urgent concerns of executives as they go about leading their organizations under uncertain conditions.Read more

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August 15, 2009

The Big Mistakes Obama Has Already Made

by Patrick Marren

As the economy fails to recover instantaneously, and foreign enemies bluster, President Obama is taking increasing heat from expert critics. It is clear that his administration has made many missteps already in its handling of the economy, foreign policy, and virtually every other area. Some of these mistakes will take years, if not decades, for the United States to recover from.

All that remains uncertain is exactly what those mistakes will turn out to have been.

Even those considered great presidents make big mistakes. FDR tried to pack the Supreme...Read more

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August 12, 2009

Scenario Planning Bookshelf: Chasing Black Swan Tails

by Patrick Marren

Much has been made lately of “long tails” and “Black Swans.” The latter is a formulation of Nassim Nicholas Taleb, an options trader and academic whose book, The Black Swan, lays out what Black Swans are and why just about everyone but him in the financial world is a fool. Read more

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June 15, 2009

Crisis Scenario Planning in an Eventful Year

by Peter Kennedy

It’s early April – not even 100 days into the Obama administration – and already it’s been a turbulent year.

At this moment, a modest rally is buoying Wall Street and investor hopes that maybe – maybe – the worst may be over, as leaders of the G-20 nations meeting in London pledge hundreds of billions more dollars and coordinated action in the face of the greatest financial mess since the Great Depression.

Right now, the big US banks are grateful for new financial accounting regulations easing “mark-to-market” rules. That is apt to make their...Read more

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November 19, 2007

The Wisdom of Scenario Crowds

by Peter Kennedy

The strategic decisions that corporations have to make are of mind-numbing complexity. But we know that the more power you give to a single individual in the face of complexity and uncertainty, the more likely it is that bad decisions will be made.

  James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds            


The Wisdom of Crowds (Doubleday, 2004) is a compelling argument for the benefits of collective thinking and problem-solving. Across a range of...Read more

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January 01, 2007

Meet the Metrics: The New Math of Measuring Effectiveness

by Patrick Marren

One of the more interesting things I have found in my life and business experience is that numerical measures, or “metrics,” as we consultants are forced by law to call them, start to lose their usefulness on the day they are dreamt up.

In baseball, for many decades, batting average was seen as the ultimate measure for batters, and earned run average (ERA) served the same purpose for pitchers. For decades, no one complained, and awards were given to the top performers in both categories. The best pitcher had the lowest ERA; the best hitter had the highest...Read more

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