Tuesday, February 27, 2007

DeLeon: Scenario Designs, an Overview

More from RAND. There has been surprisingly little written about scenario design, and the best piece I have found so far is Peter deLeon's Scenario Designs, an Overview. It's not even 20 pages, and it was written in 1973, but it covers a lot of important ground. And it's available for free online in .pdf format.

Some points I found particularly relevant:
"Although the political/military game can portray a nation's response as the result of the interplay between a number of actors... it cannot hope to capture the full richness of the bureaucratic models that have been increasingly coming to the fore... [he specifically mentions Graham Allison's Models II and III, the Organizational Behavior and Governmental Politics models from Essence of Decision, which I hope to discuss in more detail in a future post].... However, it can help isolate the decision process from extraneous bureaucratic noise."

DeLeon also describes two ways the control team can involve the participants in the action of the scenario. The first, which he calls the "scenario goad," utilizes the scenario to place the teams in a decision setting where they are in effect forced to act. This forecloses options the teams might have had earlier in a crisis, and posits the building crisis as a part of the scenario itself. The second, which he calls the "control goad," turns decision making over to the teams in the earlier stages of a crisis, allowing them more freedom of action. However, if a team proves to be too "reticent or cautious" this requires the control team to "structure and manipulate the game environment in order to provide... incentives" for the team to act in such a way as to advance the game situation. I suppose the literary analogy here is that the "scenario goad" is starting the participants' game experience in media res, while the "control goad" is more of an ab ovo beginning. DeLeon sees the "scenario goad" as a more useful tool for less skilled or less knowledgeable participants (he mentions university students), while more skilled/knowledgeable participants (professionals) might "bring enough prior knowledge to the game that they can promote their own actions and, with the prompting of control, intensify the crisis."

One possibility DeLeon mentions is providing "a menu of options or actions that a team might choose to exercise while playing the game. The explicitness of these 'handles' is largely dependent upon the sophistication of the players. However... the scenarist must be careful not to bias his scenario unconsciously so as to make some options more attractive than the others. Also, such a menu might possibly limit a team's capability and incentive to devise new and novel options. That is, the scenario should present a situation that permits - indeed, encourages - the exploration of a wide variety of levers, old and new."

For a short paper, there's a lot here.

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