The effects of scenarios on decision-making quality in early design – an empirical study

DS 122: Proceedings of the Design Society: 24th International Conference on Engineering Design (ICED23)

Year: 2023
Editor: Kevin Otto, Boris Eisenbart, Claudia Eckert, Benoit Eynard, Dieter Krause, Josef Oehmen, Nadège Troussier
Author: Parolin, Giácomo; McAloone, Tim C.; Pigosso, Daniela C. A.
Series: ICED
Institution: Technical University of Denmark (DTU)
Section: Design Methods
Page(s): 3375-3384
DOI number:


Scenario planning is often used in design practice to foster futures thinking, reduce uncertainties and improve decision-making. Scenarios are especially relevant for innovation activities in manufacturing companies, such as technology development, a particularly uncertain process where many trade-offs occur. This study is, to the authors knowledge, the first to empirically measure the effect of scenarios in decision-making quality, in the context of technology development. In a quasi-experiment, engineers from a manufacturing company and university students were independently asked to analyse a trade-off situation between environmental and financial aspects of a technology concept, with and without scenarios. The quality of decision-making quality for control and experiment groups was measured through a standardized questionnaire. The results show that scenarios had a positive impact in 6 of the 7 quality decision-making practices (QMDP), although the effect size is small. The results suggest that both expert and novice designers may benefit from using scenario planning when performing early-stage design activities by having awareness of the decision context, a more structured decision process, and clearer decision criteria.

Keywords: Futures studies, Technology Development, Sustainability, Decision making, Early design phases

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