Scenario planning is a common technique used in government, academia, and businesses in a variety of industries to identify new opportunities. Scenario planning is a special kind of brainstorming that structures assumptions and a perspective of the future (the scenario) so that a group of people can imagine, in detail, how that future might affect society, markets, and company opportunities. Scenario planning is nothing more than structured fantasy so it can be misused as much as it can be helpful.
Originally developed within the US Army and refined by Herman Kahn in the 1960s, Pierre Wack, a planner at Royal Dutch/Shell in the 1970s, refined the process even further and firmly established the practice within the company after the Oil Crisis in 1973. For more information, see the book, The Art of the Long View