Something Old, Something New: Two Books about the Future You Need to Read Today

January 16, 2017

The Future - Next ExitI often start reading new books in January (or in the holiday period just before the New Year). It’s a time of year when most of us are renewing our business plans and looking ahead optimistically to new beginnings.

This year I’ve focused in on two books about the future and the future of technology. One is “old” – first published in 2011 but still incredibly relevant – and one is much newer, having just become available in 2016. Both are stimulating and provocative; I’ll mention them briefly today and then share their lessons here a little bit at a time over the next several weeks.

Flash Foresight book

Image: Amazon.com

The “old” 2011 book is Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible, by Daniel Burrus. I read it when it first came out, enjoyed it thoroughly, and then let its lessons get lost in the shuffle as I was concentrating the last several years on my own book, Making Meetings Matter.

Burrus is an accomplished futurist who advises organizations all over the world, helping them overcome mental and physical barriers to achieve remarkable transformations in their business models, their operational effectiveness, and their bottom lines.

Flash Foresight is full of fascinating stories about organizational innovation and breakthroughs. More importantly, Burrus doesn’t just entertain you with stories showing how insightful he is; rather, he describes the mental processes and fundamental principles he has developed that make the future so much more predictable for his clients.

I’m still absorbing Burrus’s operating principles. They sound simple, but I’m convinced they are profound. Here are the seven principles around which the book is organized:

  • Start with certainty
  • Anticipate
  • Transform
  • Take your biggest problem – and skip it
  • Go opposite
  • Redefine and reinvent
  • Direct your future

Warning: you can’t really understand these principles by simply looking at their labels. You have to read the stories, think about the insights, and then adapt them to your own experience. Take it from me, however, that they are well worth digging into, soaking in, and mastering.

By the way, Burrus has an active website (http://www.burrus.com) and blog (http://www.burrus.com/blog/) , which I highly recommend. If you are the least bit interested in taking charge of your future, or leading your organization into the future, get to know Daniel Burrus.

The Inevitable, by Kevin Kelly

Image: Amazon.com

My other source of inspiration at the moment is Kevin Kelly’s latest masterpiece, The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future. Kelly is one of the most brilliant technologists on the planet. He is a co-founder of Wired Magazine; he was a founding board member at The Well, a very early online community founded in 1985 and still active today; he conceived of and edited several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog; and he is a founding member of the board of the Long Now Foundation, which is building a clock and a library designed to last for 10,000 years.

In short, if you want to know anything about how technology will evolve and affect our lives and our work, you need to listen to Kevin Kelly.

The Inevitable is a true tour de force; it takes a dozen different looks at the fundamental technologies we depend on these days, paying particular attention to how our experiences with those technologies are changing – and then Kelly adds powerful insight into how each of those changing experiences with technology transforms our understanding of the world and of each other.

Here are the twelve core chapters in the book; you will see they are not about technology per se, but rather each chapter identifies a human experience that is being transformed by technology:

  • Becoming
  • Cognifying
  • Flowing
  • Screening
  • Accessing
  • Sharing
  • Filtering
  • Remixing
  • Interacting
  • Tracking
  • Questioning
  • Beginning

In the coming weeks I’ll dig more deeply into these admittedly abstract concepts. But take it from me; they are powerful, impactful, and important. As just one example, Kelly describes in breathtaking detail how the experience of reading online (blogs, browsers, websites, shopping sites) is significantly different from paging through a printed book. Web-based text includes hyperlinks; it flows past you as you scroll or jump from one site to another. The net result is a qualitatively different kind of Knowing.

I would love to hear from you if you are familiar with either these books. They are meant to be savored, shared, and reflected on with friends and colleagues. Anyone interested in a book club conversation about flash foresight or the inevitable impact of new technologies?


Call me today (+1 510.558.1434) for a free exploratory conversation about how you can enable your organization to take charge of its future. I’d love to explore with you how the ideas in these two books could inform your strategic planning and achieve breakthrough innovation results.


Don’t face the future alone. Jim Ware is a workplace futurist, author, and consultant who has invested his entire career equipping organizations to thrive in a rapidly changing world. Contact Jim today to learn how his workshops, keynote presentations, and advisory insights can put the future to work for you.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mark de Roo January 17, 2017 at 7:18 am

Jim,

FYI. The Burrus blog URL says that this URL is either mistyped or out of date.

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