Whenever I hear people say they couldn’t predict the recent financial fiasco that we lived through, the little voice inside my head says really? I’m finding it hard to believe that all these intelligent people just couldn’t see it coming. Maybe they should have read Daniel Burrus’ latest book, Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible .
I received a review copy of this book and have been referring it to all my friends and clients ever since. In Flash Foresight Burrus covers what he calls the “seven radical principles that will transform your business.” I don’t know about the transforming my business part. But I can tell you that it has certainly transformed the way I look at the world of business and make decisions. And that just might be good enough.
Who Is Daniel Burrus and How Does He Know So Much?
“Daniel Burrus is one of the world’s leading forecasters, corporate strategies and visionaries.” (That’s from the book jacket.) Burrus (@DanielBurrus  on Twitter) is a “trendwatcher” who previously wrote a book called Technotrends. His client list is a virtual Who’s Who of consumer and technical products that includes the likes of Proctor & Gamble, GE and Kaiser Permanente. And if there’s one thing all these companies have in common, it’s the need to predict what we unpredictable humans are going to do next.
This is where Burrus’ insights about how to look at the data around us and make sense of it in a way that helps us make the right decisions comes in. I was looking through his bio and his profiles to see what he studied. Was it economics, mathematics or something completely different? I wanted to know just what it was that prepared him for parsing and looking at data in such a powerful and insightful way.
As it turns out, he started his career teaching science! I can only assume that Burrus’ passion for science has translated into a passion and a gift for looking at data and recognizing patterns — a gift he is sharing with the rest of us in Flash Foresight.
7 Principles That Will Change How You Look At Data
Burrus has distilled his technical know-how and intuition into seven principles we can use to look at the data that surrounds us:
- Start with certainty. Focus on distinguishing “soft trends” from “hard trends.” This was the most useful principle for me. Soft trends are things that might happen; hard trends are things that will happen. An example of a hard trend is the Baby Boomer demographic. Millions of people were born, they went to school and they will retire. There is no question about that. A soft trend is something such as a surplus or a deficit. It looks like it’s heading in that direction, but it can change.
- Anticipate. Base your strategies on what you know about the future. Instead of being proactive, Burrus encourages us to be preactive. In other words, anticipate what tomorrow’s problems will be and think about how you’re going to solve those future problems instead of today’s problems.
- Transform. Use technology-driven change to your advantage. Looking at how popular Apple and Steve Jobs are today, it’s hard to imagine a time when Apple was actually thought to be dying – out of the game. Instead, Steve Jobs and his team transformed the company by looking at hard trends and solving tomorrow’s problems (being preactive) when they created the iPod.
- Take the biggest problem and skip it (it’s not the real problem anyway). What you think is your current biggest problem is nothing more than a distraction that will keep you from your solution. Skip it. Leap over it.
- Go opposite. Look where no one else is looking, see what no one else is seeing and do what no one else is doing. Easier said than done. This principle will take some practice. Flash Foresight offers lots of examples such as Amazon, Crocs, Dell, Jet Blue, Kiva and more.
- Redefine and reinvent. Identify and leverage your uniqueness in new and powerful ways. Flash Foresight gives examples of Lee Iacocca redefining and reinventing the family station wagon and other examples of reinventing the old by using it in different ways.
- Direct your future (or someone else will direct it for you). This is the conscious exercise of your creative capacity to envision and rewrite your future life and career that wraps all the other flash foresight principles into one.
Each principle has a chapter devoted to it. And each chapter nicely reflects back on previous chapters so you get a sense of layered learning.
What I Love About This Book
Flash Foresight is well written. It’s fun to read and it sort of tickles your brain into seeing everything around you in a new way (although I’m still catching myself reflecting and being in hindsight instead of foresight).
Action steps at the end of each chapter guide you through the process. We aren’t naturally wired to look at the world the way Burrus is encouraging us to do, so these action steps really help.
Burrus’ enthusiasm and passion for sharing his talent and skill pop off the page. In a case study on the Miracle Earbud (in the Anticipate Chapter) Burrus talks about being in a meeting with the management team and discussing the hard trend of baby boomers aging and not wanting to wear a hearing aid – that’s just too “old.” In a flowing conversation and stream of ideas, he transforms a hearing aid into a “hearing enhancement experience” that allows you to drown out the screaming baby on a plane and listen to Jimi Hendrix instead. Brilliant!
Flash Foresight will teach you how to think and re-think. I love this. The biggest challenge I see for myself (and maybe you, too) is taking the time to stop and think along these new pathways. Perhaps this is what makes Burrus so good at what he does. His brain is wired to think this way — and the rest of us will just have to learn how.