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Date: November 15, 2012

Author: JT

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What I’ve Read Lately: Think Like a Futurist

“Think Like a Futurist”

Author: Cecily Sommers
ISBN: 978-1-118-14782-5

Refreshing.  A book that does not follow today’s push to be ‘innovative’ just to snag attention because of the current hot trending keyword.  Matter of fact, Cecily Sommers’ book works to get us away from simply identifying and going for a ride on the latest trend(s) in our respective industries.

Quite the contrary, rather than avoid a scientific or tactical discussion of trend identification, she works to give us the ability to go beyond trends and into the future.

Cecily has drafted a book providing a nice blend of practical reality, philosophy, and practical execution.  It speaks well to current discussions about how to drive ‘innovation’ or, better, creativity within your businesses—however large or small.

All in, this is a book 254 pages long, including index, that is written at a practical level that, after closer study following an initial read-through, provides a methodology for anticipating the future and taking action to meet it.

Provides a methodology for anticipating the future and taking action to meet it.

Part One: Know—The Four Forces of Change

Sommers identifies four forces of change that influence every aspect of our lives and where they, and our businesses, will go.  They are *Resources, *Technology, *Demographics, and *Change.

Think Like a Futurist spends a full chapter discussing each force of change, how it can be interpreted with an eye toward the future, mixed with historical examples plus leading contemporary figures as case studies.

Part Two: New—The Zone of Discovery

The Zone of Discovery (ZoD) is the meat of the book.  Part Two opens with discussion of how the two parts of our brain work, left being the rational side (and where we spend most of our time), right being emotional (and not used enough at work).

Sommers spends time laying out the reasoning for why we need to exercise both halves of our brain.  Being ‘creative,’ figuring out the ‘future,’ is not solely a discussion of getting the ‘right’ side tuned in.  In every case where we imagine a new idea, we need to reach a point where the ‘rubber meets the road,’ and left-brain thinking is required.

For instance, she writes, “The futurist uses a different sort of ritual (compared to spiritual) to unlock the creativity stuck between our conscious and unconscious minds.  That in-between thinking is a key component in what neuroscientists qualify as intelligence: the ability to solve complex problems and make predictions about the future.”

There are three core phases in the Zone of Discovery: Define, Discover, and Distill.  These all focus around key questions such as Who Are You? Where Are You Going?  Before, trying to figure out, what you are going to do, and, how.  In particular, she emphasizes the importance of turning the overall creative process up-side down, and approaching it in reverse.

Part Three: DO—The 5 Percent Rule

Here, Sommers looks at how to introduce ongoing ‘futurist’ thinking into the workplace.  Everybody has ‘things they need to do’ every day.  Unfortunately creative and strategic thinking typically gets short shrift.  No one has time to ‘be creative’ when there’s a report ‘due out tomorrow.’

By committing only 5% of the organization’s energy to such futurist thinking, she demonstrates how the process really can become embedded.  One of the case studies she uses is the food producer, General Mills.

Part Four: What’s Next Toolkit

I will admit, Part Four is my favorite part of the entire book.  (Yes, it happens to be the shortest, too<g>).

As a person continually looking to the future, she points out that, “…one of the core responsibilities of a futurist is to question assumptions…”  And, “…the harder task of letting go of ideologies…a different kind of assumption that runs deep and influences perception in unconscious ways.”

Think about it.  How can you truly become a futurist if you constrain yourself to contemporary thinking?

This is why she emphasizes the need to avoid discussing the ‘How’ aspect of your dreams, your creativity, too early on.  How often have  you thought of something new, only to see it dashed by a realization you do not know how to do it (today, at least)?  Save HOW for last.

Think Like a Futurist is a good read for anyone struggling with how to move their organization forward.  Business leaders, product and program managers, service providers will all find the concepts Cecily introduces to be well laid-out with a reasonable amount of supporting content.

(In the interest of full disclosure, the publisher made this book available to me in consideration of a possible review.  No monetary interest exists, direct or indirectly.)

Image credit:
Ford Headlight Cowl – Andrew Bejerle

6 Responses to “What I’ve Read Lately: Think Like a Futurist”

  • @Midmarket November 20, 2012 at 9:59 am Reply

    RT @jtpedersen: “Think Like a Futurist”: good read 4 anyone struggling with moving their organization fwd.” http://t.co/lsgaiPLR @books_publicist

  • Sam T Magama December 22, 2013 at 10:31 am Reply

    Think like a Futurist: A must read and practice for leaders of any organisation, being both a business and Parents Teachers Association leader myself, the book fits so well with my blended experience in the field of leadership..

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