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Modern Casting

Anticipatory Organizations Know the Future, and So Can You

If you could learn a business method that let you know the future with greater certainty, would you be interested? We’re not talking about the kind of predictive analysis that sounds more like fortune telling by your local psychic with the carnival images on the hand-painted sign out front.

If certainty about the future interests you, consider The Anticipatory Organization by Daniel Burrus.

Burrus’ approach is valuable because of his analysis of hard and soft trends. Since Burrus assumes exponential change is already at work in your industry, he explains why we need to be looking past the usually frenetic present and into the future.

Agility is about the present, and it is, emphatically, not enough. Agility is reactive, and the anticipatory organization must be proactive. To be proactively looking at the future, you must know how to analyze the right data, the right way.

We’re talking about knowing the future based on reason and data.

That’s the purpose of this book.Burrus offers new lenses through which to see the future of your business, with certainty. That’s a brash assertion, considering that uncertainty has been lurking around every corner for companies big and small for at least the past decade.

Burrus, a technological futurist, has worked with large companies, including Microsoft, GE, Deloitte, IBM, ExxonMobil, and Visa. In the interest of full disclosure, I have read Burrus’s TECHNOTRENDS newsletter for years, and almost always found it valuable. 

From the first pages, this book resonates of other futuristic analysts, such as Ray Kurzweil, Salim Ismail, and other high-profile technology futurists.

Since the book is written in the context of unstoppable exponential technological change, Burrus argues that his anticipatory method, properly applied, will allow a greater degree predictability than you’ve ever had before.

Does he make his case? The short answer is yes.

Burrus makes it clear from the beginning that he is challenging an existing mindset. Death and taxes are not the only two certainties. Another certainty is the speed of change, also known as exponential change. Companies that fail to intentionally plan with an eye on exponential technological change will find their planning will fail them.

At the heart of the anticipatory method are hard trends that will happen, and soft trends that might happen. The three categories of hard trends are technology, demographics, and government regulation. Technology is going to continue developing at full throttle, the 78 million Baby Boomers will keep aging, and government regulations will continue expanding.

Because of these inescapable hard trends in technology, demographics, and government, no industry will remain static.

Think about what mobile phones were like 15 years ago. Now look at the super-charged computer in your hand you call your cell phone. That’s the exponential growth of the hard technology trend, and that trend is going faster and faster. We know that exponential growth is certain.

Soft trends are trends that might happen. Burrus cites Facebook, which is the dominant platform now, but wasn’t always, and could be knocked from its perch by a rival platform. Social media and its uses might be a hard trend, but within the category, what’s hot, like Facebook, is a soft trend. You must learn to tell the difference between hard and soft trends. 

The book is clear and direct, but the mindfulness of the writing is not as exacting as the thinking about ideas. The terms “game changer” or “game changing” are used on both dust flaps, for a chapter title, and at least 26 more times in the text. Okay, we get it. Anticipatory thinking is a fresh, energizing way to approach business.

One of my favorite parts comes in section three, “Shape the Future - Transform Culture.” Burrus talks about “Futureview,” a term for which he has a registered trademark.

“How you view the future impacts much more of the present than many of us realize. In developing and leveraging an Anticipatory Mindset, it’s important to understand that the future doesn’t function in a vacuum. Rather, it’s something of a two-way street. While how you act in the present determines your future, so, too, does your view of the future impact how you think and act in the present,” Burrus writes.

Our futureview determines how we will live today, and who we will be in the future (a place we will all be spending a lot of time).

A key to managing an Anticipatory Organization is persuading employees toward the same shared futureview, instead of looking in the rearview mirror and focusing on just the present.

I recommend this book. Because of my own “futureview,” I’ll probably read it again.   

Click here to see this story as it appears in the December 2017 issue of Modern Casting

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