Matthias Schranner comments: “Reality is worse than a worst-case scenario.”

When concerned with difficult questions, people often think in scenarios. That is, a “best case”, a “worst-case” and a probable case are discussed. When accompanying difficult negotiations, we have found that the “best case” is quickly formulated. The “worst-case” on the other hand is discussed reluctantly. If someone talks about a dramatic consequence, it is immediately dismissed and labeled as exaggerated and hysterical. An agreement is also swiftly reached when assessing the “realistic” scenario with a high probability of occurrence.

This, however, is precisely the problem: reality is perceived from one’s own perspective and with one’s own set of values. Everyone has their own understanding of what values such as fairness, violence or cooperation exactly comprise. Since these values are then projected onto the counterpart, there is an expectation that the counterpart recognizes one’s own values as correct and binding.

In the assessment of Putin’s attack plans, there were “worst-case” scenarios presented by the U.S. based on intelligence information. They were dismissed by many governments and labeled as exaggerated and hysterical. People focused on probable scenarios and used their own set of values as a basis for decision-making. The result is well known, Putin has exceeded the negative consequences of the “worst-case” scenarios.

When designing further action, it is important to focus new assessments on “worst-case” rather than “probable” scenarios.

In police operations, the assessment of the situation is always based on the “worst-case”. One prepares for an emergency and, for example, puts snipers in position. As soon as the crime scene is cordoned off and the snipers are in position, the negotiation begins. One has to tighten sanctions and build up as much military power as possible. This should not be done gradually, but right now. Then the negotiation can begin.

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