Sunday, July 1, 2007

Trip to a Museum and Building Robust Futures through Scenarios

Amongst the many awesome resources at Stanford is the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts located close to the Quad. A truly remarkable museum that we visited on our penultimate day at Stanford, we found it to be a hidden gem well worth a visit even though we could spend just a few hours there. I do wish every visitor to the Stanford campus would find some time to visit this place and spend some time there.

It started as the Leland Stanford Jr. Museum way back in 1894, around the same time as the formation of the university itself, but in 1999 it re-opened after extensive modifications as the Cantor Center for Visual Arts.

The Rodin collection and the Rodin Sculpture Garden are truly remarkable. We also saw an exhibition of artifacts depicting the life of the Tuareg, a nomadic tribe of North-western Africa. The good news is that Cantor Museum allow visitors to take pictures, except in their Photo Gallery. So, thanks to the versatility, portability and unobtrusiveness of the digital camera, we landed up taking a lot of pictures.

However, we had a major disaster that I should have been better prepared for. While we managed to take loads of pictures inside the Museum, our camera battery died on us when we came out into the Rodin Garden. I was reminded of the usefulness of Neil Jacobstein's Robust Futures and Scenarios Workshop in which he taught us to think of the worst-case and best-case scenarios that our projects might encounter and then prepare strategies for handling them and build robust organisations. A pity, I hadn't thought of carrying a spare camera battery while visiting a museum. I had a spare high capacity memory card and was confident I would have adequate storage capacity for the entire day but forgot a basic fact that modern mobile devices have finite battery life!!

So Neil's workshop on planning for robust futures and a visit to the Cantor Museum brought home to me the importance of scenario planning for any major activity that we wish to undertake. While intuition is good, it can always be improved through formal structure and scenario planning. Thanks Neil, for the wonderful workshop that I will always remember and for exposing us to a different way of thinking about the future.


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