Scenario generation and scenario quality using the cone of plausibility

M.K. Dhami*, Lars Wicke, Dilek Onkal

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


The intelligence analysis domain is a critical area for futures work. Indeed, intelligence analysts’ judgments of security threats are based on considerations of how futures may unfold, and as such play a vital role in informing policy- and decision-making. In this domain, futures are typically considered using qualitative scenario generation techniques such as the cone of plausibility (CoP). We empirically examined the quality of scenarios generated using this technique on five criteria: completeness, context (otherwise known as ‘relevance/pertinence’), plausibility, coherence, and order effects (i.e., ‘transparency’). Participants were trained to use the CoP and then asked to generate scenarios that might follow within six months of the Turkish government banning Syrian refugees from entering the country. On average, participants generated three scenarios, and these could be characterized as baseline, best case, and worst case. All scenarios were significantly more likely to be of high quality on the ‘coherence’ criterion compared to the other criteria. Scenario quality was independent of scenario type. However, scenarios generated first were significantly more likely to be of high quality on the context and order effects criteria compared to those generated afterwards. We discuss the implications of these findings for the use of the CoP as well as other qualitative scenario generation techniques in futures studies.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102995
Number of pages11
Early online date15 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022


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