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Scenarios in five words or fewer

“Off-roading on the moon”
 
“Carbon fasting”
 
“Ocean-front property in Arizona” (chorus from a 1973 George Strait song by that name)
 
These are short phrases that evoke possibilities. Like the Framers’ phrasing in the United States Constitution or the language of Shakespeare or Cervantes, they are open to ongoing and varied interpretation. And that is their value and power.
 
I started to collect such headlines and phrases because they stand out and evoke new thoughts. Being able to put words together like this is a great boost to communicating about the future. This may be more true than ever in the age of soundbites and Twitter.
 
These phrases are scenarios. They evoke a future you can think and discuss much more about. What would it mean to go off-roading on the moon? It might be powerful enough to just sit down for a discussion of a phrase like the one’s above.
 
Perhaps Sir John Browne meant to start that when he declared at Stanford, in the late 1990s that BP now stood for “Beyond Petroleum.” BP people I met with at that time agreed that most of what that phrase meant was aspirational, and yet to be determined when Brown uttered it in a speech in 2000. It used to mean, after all, British Petroleum.
 
Our work in foresight shouldn’t be dumbed down, made too clever or too terse, but consider the power of a phrase, or a short headline. It may be the critical piece you need to get people to pay attention, to think, to discuss and share. 
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