Discovering alternatives is a part of the causal layered analysis (CLA) method, which aims to explore alternative myths, worldviews, social structures and visible reality and show how things could be otherwise. This technique usually comes after exploring the layers 'vertically' to find the root causes of present issues through the process of uncovering causality. CLA was developed by Sohail Inayatullah.


  1. Frame this technique as a part of causal layered analysis, where new possibilities and scenarios are uncovered in response to a current (undesirable) situation.
  2. Identify an issue, system, worldview and/or myth that is constraining or problematic in the present. Consider doing this by following the steps outlined in uncovering causality.
  3. This step can involve two alternative approaches:
    1. Horizontal alternatives: Take one layer at a time and ask: How could we look at this (issue, system, worldview, myth) differently? What other points of view or perspectives could we take? How could it be otherwise? What would have to change to make this happen? What would happen if these alternatives prevailed and became dominant? Identify what relevant alternatives there might be on different layers.
    2. Diagonal scenarios: Begin with the myth layer that you identified in step 2 and create an alternative story or image that reflects the wishes of the group. Build the new scenario from the myth layer upwards. Ask which worldviews this myth would give rise to. Which systems and social structures would be shaped by this worldview? For example, what would the news or current affairs look like in this world – which issues, solutions and facts would be reported?
  4. Reality check: If the purpose of your scenario building is to identify what you can do in the present to begin changing an undesirable situation, go through each of the layers of your new scenario and look for:
    1. Instrumental solutions and quick fixes (Litany)
    2. Policy-oriented strategies, different STEEP approaches (Systems and Causes)
    3. Ways to change prevailing values, worldviews, mindsets and behaviours (Discourse/Worldview)
    4. New or different metaphors, stories, images, myths that could provoke alternative emotional responses (Myth/Metaphor)


  • futurist_fieldguide/discovering_alternatives.txt
  • Last modified: 2015-05-21 08:00
  • by alkan