"Genius is in-born, may it never be still-born."

"Oysters, irritated by grains of sand, give birth to pearls. Brains, irritated by curiosity, give birth to ideas."

"Brainpower is the bridge to the future; it is what transports you from wishful thinking to willful doing."

"Unless you keep learning & growing, the status quo has no status."

Saturday, February 28, 2009


[Extracted from the 'Optimum Performance Technologies' weblog.]

While reviewing this book, my curious mind somehow retrogresses to the early eighties, which had given me my first exciting encounter with strategic management, more specifically, the domain of planning & forecasting.

I was then involved in corporate planning & research of a Malaysian conglomerate based in Singapore.

I recall my first introductory book, among a few others (including George Steiner's 'Strategic Planning'), to help me understand & appreciate the basics of horizontal scanning, was actually Francis Aguilar's 'Scanning the Business Environment'. It was in fact my excellent field guide for many years.

Since then, I had become very fascinated by the subject of planning & forecasting, venturing into new ancillary fields like futurology or future studies, trend tracking, even after I had left the corporate world in the early nineties.

I had even joined the World Future Society & other learned institutions to gain more access to available resources.

From that subsequent period onward, all the way right up to even today, as part of my own strategy consulting as well as personal development, I began to develop a deep interest in state-of-the-art stuff like anticipatory management & developing strategic foresight.

Over the ensuing years, I have amassed, read & digested a whole gamut of good books as well as interesting articles, including watching webcasts & listening to podcasts.

It has never dawn on me that all the books on exploring the future & intelligence gathering, which I have now acquired in my personal library, could be placed on a continuum, just for the purpose of seeing where all the books stand syntopically, until recently:

- at one end, I have acquired the books that pertain to the broader methodologies of "exploring the future & scanning the horizon", e.g. 'The Art of the Long View' (Peter Schwartz), 'Strategic Foresight: Standing in the Future' (Nick Marsh), 'Futuring: The Exploration of the Future' (Edward Cornish), 'Thinking about the Future' (Peter Bishop), & including the works of Alvin Toffler, John Naisbitt, James Canton, Kees van der Heijden, Edie Weiner & Arnold Brown, Richard Slaughter, Peter Drucker, Joel Arthur Barker, Jennifer James, Margot Cairnes, Chantell Ilbury & Clem Sunter, just to name a few;

- at the other end, I have acquired the books that pertain to the tools of "sculpting information into informed decisions, & in turn, shaping the latter into incisive actions, with the effective use of technology", e.g. 'Information Management for the Intelligent Organisation' (Chun Wei Choo), 'InfoThink' (Mary Park), 'Info-Sense' (Keith Devlin), 'The Warning Solution' (Kristan Wheaton), 'Inside Information' (DVL Smith), 'Hearing the Voice of the Market' (Vincent Barabba), & including the works of Benjamin Gilad, George Day, Paul Schoemaker, Bob Johansen, Alain Martin, Frederick Timmerman, Thomas Buckholtz, just to name a few;

Standing back, with 'Future Savvy' right in front of me, I somehow feel very strongly that the author, Adam Gordon, has done a great job of more or less plugging the imaginary gap between the two perceived extremes, & thus pulling & tugging the twain together, resulting in an offering with the best of both worlds, so to speak.

More signifcantly, the author has provided us with a deliberate & disciplined critical thinking routine for coping with a rapidly-changing world.

I have really enjoyed perusing 'Future Savvy', especially for its battery of critical tests to evaluate the validity - also, exercise quality control & ensure 'future-fit' (between our strategic initiatives & the world out there) - of information from the torrential myriad of sources, like newspapers, economic insights from TV stations, conference presentations, industry papers, etc.

For me, I have found my favourite chapters to be those towards the second half of the book, from chapter 7 to 11.

As a matter of fact, I reckon that the last chapter, Chapter 11, offering the well-thought 'forecast filtering' checklist, together with the preceding chapter, Chapter 10, covering many case examples of application, is actually worth the price of the entire book.

I also appreciate the author's many fine distinctions, e.g. future-aligning vs future-influencing forecasting, point forecasts vs multiple scenarios, the dynamics of system variables in a forecast, maintaining a wise balance between uncertainty/complexity & quantitative modeling, etc.

In a nut shell, the author has shown in great detail how to come up with realistic predictive statements, so as to dovetail or resonate in some way with our particular circumstances, fortuitous timing & even good fortune, which often play into eventual outcomes.

The book is almost written like a scholarly exposition, but the author, fortunately, doesn't bother the reader with historical facts & theoretical perspectives often found in forecasting books.

With succinctness & clarity, he goes straight into the jugular to help readers to identify the factors that most often derail the potentially good predictive process.

His principal premise is very clear from the start: "Forecasts are a crucial decision-making success resource . . . but these forecasts are often badly done or done with a purpose to influence the future (i.e. not to neutrally predict it.) . . ."

He argues that, as decision-makers, we "need to be able to judge how good a forecast is – so as to know how to or whether to factor it into our world view".

Also, again as decision makers, we "need to be able to critically judge which predictive statements are worth planning for & investing in".

To end this review, I must qualify that this book does not supercede or diminish the importance of all the other book resources I have highlighted earlier. Those mentioned books are worth pursuing on their own, especially if you are like me, always wanting to have a clearer view of the future.

To take a creative cue from creativity guru Michael Hewitt-Gleeson from Down Under, a BVS (better view of the situation) > (greater than; which is measured as a ten times by this author;) CVS (current view of the situation).

From my perspective, both as a consumer & a practitioner, Adam Gordon's 'Future Savvy' is definitely a highly useful & much-needed addition to the strategy repertoire of a 21st century manager.

[Incidentally, more information about Adam Gordon & his work can be found at his corporate website or personal weblog.

Also, very interestingly, he has acknowledged in his book that Peter Bishop, author of 'Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight', another wonderful book from my perspective, especially for its 115 superb guidelines, as his teacher & mentor for many years.

More information about the latter book can be found at this link.]

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