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We looked forward to this new year with great anticipation

That there would still be the necessary challenges and uncertainties, we already described in our Outlook 2021, but still… There was light at the end of the tunnel. Vaccines, a Brexit deal and a Biden administration that would provide some peace of mind. 'Then 2020 decided to record some bonus tracks', loosely translated to the American late night comedian Stephen Colbert.

Plenty of knowledge ...

For those who don't know me, I studied American Studies and Political Science. I also studied, lived in that country for a while, and went on vacation and study trips numerous times (the counter is at 31 states). It is a country that is close to my heart (love-hate to be more precise, but mainly the latter). A country that I studied about for years and probably know more about it than the average Dutch person. I never expected that I would ever witness the assault on the Capitol by right-wing extremist terrorists (incited by the sitting president). Many heard you say on the news that you were 'shocked but not surprised'. Of course, it was not completely out of line with expectations in recent years, it fits in a consistent pattern, but I never expected, like many other 'experts'. In the US, there are certain red lines in the culture that you do not cross. Lines that have lasted for about two centuries.

And yet you are wrong

You may already see where I want to go. I stepped into an important psychological trap: the hubris myopia (see linked article for our article on myopia). In this case, it was my alleged knowledge / expertise that limited my thinking. Given the country's history and (political) culture, I did not see a storming of the Capitol as a plausible event. Something for a novel or a sci-fi movie, perhaps. I saw the performances from the past as a guarantee for the future. So I was completely wrong.

Stretch your thinking

In retrospect, we can undoubtedly explain why we (read: I) did not see something like this coming, but afterwards it is nice to live ... When you think about strategy and analyze the future afterwards, you have to look ahead. An important personal lesson I drew from this black page of American history is that, as a scenario planning (and America) expert, I still regularly fall into pitfalls that I always try to protect clients from. Perhaps precisely because of my 'expert role'. 'That will never happen'… A statement that I will pay more attention to this year and try to say as little as possible. Reality can sometimes be weirder than fiction. Therefore regularly organize contradictions and keep each other sharp. If you make scenarios, maybe make them a bit more extreme and look for the edges even more. You are sometimes quickly overtaken by reality.

Know more about scenario planning or questions about this article? Please contact Jeroen Toet (j.toet@jester.nl, +31 6 11 45 13 11)

Jeroen Toet

Jeroen is a senior consultant at Jester Strategy. He is an expert in the field of scenario planning. From Jester Strategy he advises a wide range of organizations within the (semi) public sector in the field of scenario planning and vision determination. The focus is on municipalities, provinces and housing associations. In addition to his work for Jester Strategy, Jeroen is a guest lecturer in scenario planning at the Rotterdam School of Management of Erasmus University.