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Global Business Network (GBN) is a strategy consulting firm and member of Monitor Group, that helps businesses, NGOs, and governments use scenario planning to plan for multiple possible futures. GBN is based in San Francisco, and has offices in New York City, London, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
GBN was founded in Berkeley, California in 1987 by a group of friends including Peter Schwartz, Jay Ogilvy, Stewart Brand, Napier Collyns, and Lawrence Wilkinson. The company grew to include a core group of "practice members", and over a hundred "network members," provocative thinkers from a diverse number of fields, such as social media expert Clay Shirky, anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson, economist Aidan Eyakuze, musician Brian Eno, biotechnologist Rob Carlson, and China scholar Orville Schell. For its first 15 years, corporate clients would pay up to $40,000 annually in order to gain access to this network of advisers through a private website, attend meetings on emerging trends and training seminars, and receive a selection of literature about future issues each month. GBN no longer offers this membership service, concentrating instead on scenario-based consulting and training.
Before GBN, Peter Schwartz had been employed at SRI International as director of the Strategic Environment Center; following that, he took a position as head of scenario planning at Royal Dutch/Shell, from 1982 to 1986, where he continued the pioneering work of Pierre Wack, in the field of scenario planning.
Unlike forecasting which extrapolates past and present trends to predict the future, scenario planning is an interactive process for exploring alternative, plausible futures and what those might mean for strategies, policies, and decisions. Scenario planning was first used by the military in World War II and then by Herman Kahn at RAND (“Thinking the Unthinkable”) during the Cold War, before being adapted to inform corporate strategy by Pierre Wack and other visionaries at Royal Dutch/Shell in the 1970s. The key principles of scenario planning include thinking from the outside in about the forces in the contextual environment that are driving change, engaging multiple perspectives to identify and interpret those forces, and adopting a long view.