"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."

Monday, July 6, 2009


Having read sociologist-turned-futurist Bob Johansen's earlier book, entitled 'Get There Early: Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present', about two years ago, I am naturally attracted to read his latest book, entitled 'Leaders Make The Future: Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World'.

Besides understanding the 'Foresight to Action' cycle as well as the proven anticipatory management methodology, originally developed by the Institute for Future (reportedly the only futures think-tank to outlive its forecasts), where he had served as President & CEO from 1996 to 2004, to deal with the challenges of a "volatile, uncertain, complex & ambiguous" (VUCA) world, I am impressed by his personal insights as well as professional wisdom on anticipating & making the future.

I certainly like the way he demystifies the forecasting process. On top of that, I also like his clear distinctions between problem solving & dilemma sense-making as well as flipping.

[Actually, his 'What's Different about Dilemmas?' & 'It Takes a Story to Understand a Dilemma' in the earlier book are marvellous pieces of original thought.

As a matter of fact, for me, the author's apt use of Frank Stockton's short story (1882), 'The Lady, or the Tiger', in the earlier book is a superb tale of dilemma & ambiguity.]

Although he continues to backtrack in his new book, i.e still touching on old grounds already covered in the earlier book, especially the VUCA perspectives, I nonetheless have enjoyed reading his artful exposition of the ten new leadership skills, which leaders need to create the future.

They certainly made my day.

Here is a quick summary:

1. Maker Instinct: The ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making.

2. Clarity: The ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot see. Leaders are very clear about what they are making, but very flexible about how it gets made.

3. Dilemma Flipping: The ability to turn dilemmas – which, unlike problems, cannot be solved – into advantages and opportunities.

4. Immersive Learning Ability: The ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environments; to learn from them in a first-person way.

5. Bio-Empathy: The ability to see things from nature’s point of view; to understand, respect, and learn from nature’s patterns.

6. Constructive Depolarizing: The ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down – and bring people from divergent cultures toward constructive engagement.

7. Quiet Transparency: The ability to be open and authentic about what matters to you – without advertising yourself.

8. Rapid Prototyping: The ability to create quick early versions of innovations, with the expectation that later success will require early failures.

9. Smart Mob Organizing: The ability to create, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic and other media.

10. Commons Creating: The ability to seed, nurture, and grow shared assets that can benefit other players – and sometimes allow competition at a higher level.

Interestingly, the author repeats his earlier innovative way of using the inside or flipside of the jacket cover to give a visually-appealing global overview of all the important stuff from the book.

For me, the last chapter of the book aka 'Conclusion: Readying Yourself for the Future' is my personal favourite, because he has included a full spectrum of probing questions to help the reader to personalise the ten new leadership skills.

I have one suggestion for the interested reader, prior to reading this book:

Please go to the 'Appendix' first, & rate yourself on each of the future skills [or go to this link to do it online]; then proceed to turn the jacket inside out to read the global overview, before actually settling down to read the book in its entirety.

In conclusion, I must say that this is a masterclass on strategic anticipation. If you are looking for a myriad of strategic tools to enhance your anticipatory prowess, for both career & daily life, this is one good book to read.

From the reading standpoint, the author's writing style is very clear, succinct & easy-going.

For companion reading, at least from my perspective, this book will go very well with Prof Howard Gardner's 'Five Minds for the Future', as well as strategist Bill Welter's 'The Prepared Mind of a Leader: Eight Skills Leaders Use to Innovate, Make Decisions, & Solve Problems'.

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