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Noted futurist John Naisbitt is ready to give up the secrets of his trade. The author of Megatrends and Megatrends 2000 has proved himself one of the most far-sighted and accurate prognosticators of our hi-tech world. In this book he reveals the 11 “mindsets”- or processes of thinking – that enabled him to make such accurate predictions about the direction of our culture and society.

This is not a book review per se. Here are the notes I made while reading and some short reflections.

Mindset # 1 – While many things change, most things remain constant

Mindset # 2 – The future is embedded in the present

The “News Hole” (P 18)

“Newspapers are forced choice in a closed system… [they] are great monitors of social change because, simply stated, the news hole – the space available for news stories in a newspaper – is a closed system. For economic reasons, the amount of space devoted to news in a newspaper does not change significantly over time, so when something new is introduced, something must be omitted or reduced. You cannot add unless you subtract.”

Naisbitt then suggest this as a template for personal observation. When you begin to monitor something new, drop something else. I immediately went to my bloglines account and deleted a few of the blogs I read and took out a few podcast feeds from my podcast aggregator as well.

I knew this needed to be done. I am an information junkie but a man can only take in so much. I need to have a “space budget”, but I also want to push as much into my brain as it can handle. And I’ve tried to practice this as I find new blogs to read and new podcasts to subscribe to. If I find a new one I try to take and old one off the list… a zero sum game.

“In the stream of time, the future is always with us” Naisbitt says in summary. We need to keep a distance and a clear eye to see things in the present rather than in retrospect. Newspapers are the first draft of history but since what is happening now will determine the future, they are also a glimpse into the future.

Mindset # 3 – Focus on the score of the game

In this chapter Naisbitt encourages us to keep sports as the model, since results do not change because of excuses, praise or explanations from the losing or winning team.

He also explores the dilemma of the non-expert, which applies to all of us in one way or another. He uses the issue of climate change as an example, noting that to be completely knowledgeable about the subject you could read the 963 books on global warming listed on Amazon.com and then in the interest of balance, you could read the 1,054 books on global cooling and the coming ice age. It is difficult to tell the score of the game since the “game” manifests itself as competing rhetoric. “Global warming has become a religion,” he says “and those who don’t buy into its gloom and doom scenarios are infidels who must be banished from any public forum.”

He follows this up with an affirmation of the necessity of regulation and protection of the environment, but only as much as is necessary as indicated by the real score of the game. “Exaggerating problems without any real idea of the score of the game,” he says “distorts society’s priorities and makes it hard for citizens and leaders to make the best decisions.”

There is plenty more here on the environmental war of rhetoric that is worth reading. The book is a worthy purchase or a good selection from the library.

“It is in the nature of human beings to bend information in the direction of desired conclusions.”

Mindset # 4 – Understanding how powerful it is to not have to be right

Mindset # 5 – See the future as a picture puzzle

Mindset # 6 – Don’t get so far ahead of the parade that people don’t know you’re in it

Mindset # 7 – Resistance to change fails if benefits are real

Mindset # 8 – Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly

“Almost all change is evolutionary, not revolutionary… expectations always travel at higher speeds.”

Mindset # 9 – You don’t get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities

“When you’re looking for the shape of the future, look for and bet on the exploiters of opportunities, not the problem solvers.” Problem solvers, by their nature, mine the past for the answers to “what happened?” Exploiters of opportunities look at the present and see the potential for gain.

“Windows of opportunity are often blown open and closed again like windows in a storm. You have to be ready to grasp them… Big companies with little flexibility are on the side of the losers… The problem of a declining market for a product can’t be fixed by improvements to an already obsolete technology.”

“Change favours the prepared mind,” said Louis Pateur. “I was ready.”

The chapter ends with a wonderful quote from George Bernard Shaw:

“People are blaming their circumstances for what they are. I do not believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they don’t find them, they create them.”

This one hit me particularly close as I am huge on problem solving. I love evidence and piecing the scene together and this has served me very well in my day job as a quality assurance technician. But I need to make a transition and become much more of an opportunist. I need to make decision much more quickly and I need to learn to distill information more quickly.

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