"We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility for our future."
-- George Bernard Shaw
Recently, Dana Wolcott suggested that I read Peter Schwartz's book Inevitable Surprises. It took awhile to get to it, but I've just finished it and think it's an important read for our time and for anyone thinking about innovation and change. Peter Schwartz is the cofounder and chairman of Global Business Network who frequently consults with governments and large corporations. Schwartz and GBN are best known for their scenario planning process.
Schwartz argues that many of the big surprises ahead can be foreseen if we use scenario thinking to closely examining existing signs. He states that in a turbulent environment such as ours, there are three critical things to keep in mind:
First: There will be more surprises.
Second: We will be able to deal with them.
Third: We can anticipate many of them. In fact, we can make some pretty good assumptions about how most of them will play out.
There are many things Schwartz talks about in this book that are depressingly chilling (the inevitability of a global plague and the breakdown of law and order in Russia and large parts of Africa) but there are also positive notes (the long boom, the shift toward protecting the environement, advances in science and technology).
Perhaps most useful, however are his prescriptions for anticipating future changes, whether they are the global changes surrounding us or the changs in our own organizations and communities. Here are just a few of his recommendations ... you will want to buy the book to read the rest:
Strategic conversations -- "Build and mainain your sensory and intelligence systems. That doesn't just mean technological sysems. It means the continued kinds of 'strategic conversations' in which you and your cohorts and colleagues keep looking around to observe and interpret the interaction of forces that might affect you, your enterprises, and your communities."
Early warning indicators -- "Identify in advance the kinds of'early-warning indicators' that would signal that a change is rapidly upon you."
Creative destruction -- "Put in place mechanisms to enger creative destruction. The institutions, companies, agencies, political parties, and the values of the past may turn out to be moribund and couterproductive in a new historical environment. Are you prepated to discard them? What processes, practices, and organizations have you actually dismantled in the last year or two? If the answer is none, perhaps it's time to get some practice in *before* urgency strikes."
Let's take this question of creative destruction and see if we're practicing it in our own lives. What have you creatively destroyed in the past two years? What should you be looking at seriously and thinking about how to creatively destroy it? Please use the comment option below to reply.