Global Business Network
|Global Business Network|
|Founder||• Peter Schwartz|
• Jay Ogilvy
• Stewart Brand
• Napier Collyns
• Lawrence Wilkinson
|Type||• think tank|
• consulting firm
Global Business Network (GBN) was a consulting firm that specialized in helping organizations to adapt and grow in an increasingly uncertain and volatile world. Using tools and expertise in scenario planning, experiential learning, together with networks of experts and futurists GBN advised businesses, NGOs, and governments in addressing their most critical challenges and anticipating possible trends in the future. It was based in San Francisco, and had offices in New York City, London, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
GBN was founded in Berkeley in 1987 by a group of entrepreneurs including the futurist Peter Schwartz, Jay Ogilvy, Stewart Brand, Napier Collyns, and Lawrence Wilkinson. The company grew to include a core group of "practice members", and over a hundred individual network members from a range of different fields, such as:
- Wired (magazine) editor Kevin Kelly,
- social media expert Clay Shirky
- anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson
- economist Aidan Eyakuze
- musician Brian Eno
- biotechnologist Rob Carlson
- China scholar Orville Schell.
Before GBN, Peter Schwartz had been employed at SRI International as director of the Strategic Environment Center; following that, he took a position as head of scenario planning at Royal Dutch/Shell, from 1982 to 1986, where he continued the pioneering work of Pierre Wack, in the field of scenario planning.
For its first 15 years, corporate clients would pay an annual subscription of up to $40,000 to become members of GBN's "Worldview". In return, they received exposure to the network of experts, were invited to workshops and interactive meetings to explore emerging trends and alternative futures, while gaining access to training seminars, a private website, and the GBN Book Club, offering a selection of literature about future issues each month. After its acquisition by Monitor Group in 2000, GBN soon stopped offering this membership service, concentrating instead on scenario-based consulting and training.
Unlike forecasting which extrapolates past and present trends to predict the future, scenario planning is an interactive process for exploring alternative, plausible futures and what those might mean for strategies, policies, and decisions. Scenario planning was first used by the military in World War II and then by Herman Kahn at RAND (“Thinking the Unthinkable”) during the Cold War, before being adapted to inform corporate strategy by Pierre Wack and other business strategists at Royal Dutch/Shell in the 1970s. The key principles of scenario planning include thinking from the outside in about the forces in the contextual environment that are driving change, engaging multiple perspectives to identify and interpret those forces, and adopting a long view.
The GBN diaspora
Over the years, a number of people associated with GBN have moved on to other organizations, including:
- Monitor Institute: A social enterprise that surfaces and spreads best practices in public problem solving, led by Katherine Fulton.
- Monitor 360: A "Narrative Analytics+Strategy Company" that brings clarity to complex, helps solve cross-disciplinary strategic challenges, led by Doug Randall who is now leading Randall Consulting
- Worldview Stanford: A group at Stanford creating interdisciplinary learning experiences about the future to prepare leaders for the strategic challenges ahead, led by Brie Linkenhoker and Nancy Murphy
- Independent Scenario Consulting Practices: Long time scenario practitioners: Eric Best, Nicole-Anne Boyer, Jim Butcher, Lynn Carruthers, Oliver Freeman, Brian Mulconrey, Matt Ranen, Jonathan Star, Nick Turner, Steve Weber and others have created new firms focused on scenario planning and strategy.
A Document by Global Business Network
|Title||Document type||Publication date||Subject(s)|
- University of Chicago Press - Fred Turner - From counterculture to cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the rise of digital utopianism (2006) page 203