Book Review: Eyeing New Frontiers of Innovation

'Flash Foresight' helps readers see the future a bit more clearly

Back Web Only Dec 17, 2015 By Michael Scott

Like a prophet from on high, global futurist and author Dan Burrus’ has a rare knack for technology predictions that provide us with a blueprint for change in the business world. His book Flash Foresight challenges leaders to examine hidden trends, using them to shape the innovations of tomorrow versus allowing for aimless solutions that lack relevance.

With an evangelistic style informed by rigorous inquiry, Burrus maintains that we can all develop the ability to manifest “flash foresights” — bursts of insights regarding the future that catalyze radical solutions to problems that have long bedeviled us.

Here the book touts an uncommon approach to unearthing new discoveries: Do the opposite of what your business competitors are doing, with the goal of pursuing what they never thought of doing before. In an uncertain world, says Burrus, it is important to start by asking “What are we certain about?”. This elicits what he calls “hard trends” — easily recognizable, everyday cycles that provide the basis for accurately predicting the future (i.e winter is after spring, morning comes after night, what goes up eventually comes down).

Flash Foresight is the quintessential guide for emerging enterprises looking for what is next in a world full of innovations designed to address previously unmet demands while providing fresh, more efficient ways of doing business. Case studies embedded throughout the book bring these ideas to light: The book explores Netflix’s radical redefinition of the home movie industry and Singapore’s miraculous transformation from a non-descript nation with limited natural resources into one of the most economically advanced locales of global power — and more.

Burrus asserts that one’s propensity for eyeballing trends and capturing future opportunities is a vital competency for the 21st century. Apple and the iconic leadership of the late Steve Jobs offers a poignant example of what he calls the “power of certainty” — an ability to hone in on and capture innovative trends long before competitors do. Seeing the movement toward bandwidth expansion, processing power and robust storage capacity allowed this tech darling to capitalize off of a series of highly popular consumer products such as the iPod, iTunes, iPhone and iPad.

Having cut his prediction modeling teeth in the heartland of Wisconsin, Burrus might appear to some as an unlikely tech guru. But don’t be fooled: His writing is exquisitely well-informed, and accessible to both experienced business leaders and curious neophytes. The book effectively takes the reader on a journey into the six “flash foresight” triggers:

  • Anticipate: tying one’s strategies to what will occur in the future
  • Transform: the action stage of collaboration, communication, execution
  • Skipping Your Biggest Problem: because it’s often not the real problem)
  • Go Opposite: focusing one’s attention where no one else is focusing
  • Redefine and Reinvent: utilizing technological change as a fuel for new products and services
  • Strategically Directing Your Future: On becoming victimized by the propensity of others to do it for you

As a perpetual Curious George about emerging digital trends, I found Flash Foresights calmed my inclination toward wild tangents about the future. Burrus and I actually met back in the mid-90s during the infancy stages of our respective careers as speakers and authors. It was during these early encounters with him that I witnessed his third-eye foresights about what lies ahead — a precursor to his status today as one of the foremost thought leaders on the future of innovation and technology.

Will his book provide you with the deepest of insights attributable to only the most enlightened of seers? Well, I seriously doubt that. But it does deliver a well-articulated tome of how learned behaviors can keep us a bit ahead of the curve in terms of navigating profitable, productive and strategically aligned ideas for business success.