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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on February 12, 2000
The Art of the Long View By Peter Schwartz Peter Schwartz challenges uncertainty by using scenario planning as the tool to predict and prepare for the future. Schwartz suggest that to act with confidence, "[o]ne must be willing to look ahead and consider uncertainties". In his book, Schwartz presents many "rules" to creating scenarios such as: "seeking out truly unusual people...who could see significant but surprising forces for change". Another rule is to view the future with at least three different mindset: as an optimist, pessimist and transitionist. Schwartz also advises the future scenario planners to have a good focus yet practice using peripheral vision (called fringes) to guide direction. What people don't see directly, such as activities happening in another country for example, may interrupt economy, social factors and so on. As an example, Schwartz mentioned the problem of third countries' rise of youth. With the rise of teenage population and little job opportunities in their own country, millions of foreign youth may migrate to countries like U.S. When this happens the stability of U.S. in terms of population, social welfare and minority issues will be affected. In turn these social factors may affect the economic factors. Thus, the readers of this book will learn that awareness will become a strong asset to being a great scenario planner. The advice and guides Schwartz provides are logical and simplistic. Human beings are used to some degree of future planning and Schwartz acknowledges this as he labels people as "scenario-building animal." With the acknowledgment of this innate capability people have for scenario planning Schwartz tries to focus on fine-tuning that innate skill to help people and business plan for their future. By planning for the future one can stabilize uncertainty both emotionally and financially. Schwart's background of having worked at SRI (Standford Research Institute), Shell and Smith & Hawken made the advice of the author more legitimate and provided examples of how scenario building can become a profession to consider. Scenario writing is truly an art that requires open-minded, creative and resourceful thinking. Overall, I enjoyed reading this book. Schwartz understands that though we have no control over uneventful factors that may disrupt our future, we can have the power to prevent disasters from sneaking up on us. By preparing our minds to possibilities, both good and bad, people can learn to adapt to the future. I especially liked the optimistic view of Mr. Schwartz. I ended the book with enlightenment and happy thoughts of my own future.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2007
The author does a fair job in disclosing how to build scenarios. But, he covers this well in just the Appendix rendering the remainder of the book superfluous. In hindsight, the author claims many victories as a scenario builder working for Royal Dutch/Shell. Somehow, he anticipated the formation of OPEC, the ensuing skyrocketing rise in oil prices and the following decline in such prices as the World economy became more energy efficient. However, when it comes to truly passing the test of time he misses. It is easier to tell after the fact what you correctly predicted and omit what you missed than to predict tomorrow.

His 2005 scenarios, only 14 years after the book publication, are way off. He believes the united Germany will become an economic powerhouse. Instead, unification costs have crippled its economic growth. He believes Japan and the U.S. share a single economy (he must be kidding). He missed the economic codependence of China and the U.S. He feels the World will become less ideological. He missed the ongoing Islam insurrection (check The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order) and the emergence of the Christian right in the U.S. (Strauss & Howe did in Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069also written in 1991). On demographics, he is obsessed about the worldwide emergence of teenagers. He feels they will turn into Third World masses of Steve Jobs. What he should have picked up is the aging of all industrialized countries and the implication it has for upcoming shortage of managerial and professional skills. He also considered the U.S. deficit a huge problem. The problem is not the U.S. deficit which has remained moderate as a % of GDP, but instead the oncoming onslaught of social entitlement costs in all industrialized countries (associated with the aging of our societies). He should have gotten that as Social Security was already restructured in 1983. These fiscal trends he should have gotten are well covered by Robert Stowe England in the following books:Global Aging and Financial Markets: Hard Landings Ahead (CSIS Significant Issues Series) (Csis Significant Issues Series) and The Fiscal Challenge of an Aging Industrial World (Csis Significant Issues Series)

The author deifies everything Japanese do. He believes they have a near perfect economic model and that they are so much more adept at responding to future challenges than the U.S. Europe comes in a closed second as this nearly utopian multi-cultural supra national entity. Meanwhile, he has nothing but scorn for U.S. systems. Since he wrote his book, the U.S. has left Japan and Europe in the dust in both economic growth and innovation. Here, this book reminds me of the hubristic After the Empire: The Breakdown of the American Order (European Perspectives: A Series in Social Thought and Cultural Criticism).

After all, Taleb must be right. The human brain is not well equipped to anticipate the unlikely as he outlines in The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. And, Peter Schwartz confirms it. His 2005 scenarios are so weak; I question the utility in investing huge amount of time in building scenarios. Individuals who are adept at predicting the future are focused in one area where they observe trends over decades and are able to come up with valuable models within their specialized area (Huntington in foreign policy, Robert Stowe England on fiscal constraints, Strauss & Howe on generation behavior). But, coming up with multi-dimensional scenarios as Schwartz attempts may have more to do with science-fiction.

There is indeed a science fiction bent to the author. His 2005 scenarios include science fiction references to "Blade Runner" and "Neuromancer." Schwartz also buys into the sci-fi like life extension concept. He states when his son will be 100, he will be "only" 144 thanks to HGH. But, HGH (human growth hormone) has no long term life extension benefit and has dangerous health implications (cancer, rheumatoid arthritis).

I suspect the corporate world has replaced scenario building with risk management. The two seem closely related, but risk management concentrates on what could hurt you and how to mitigate that risk. By comparison scenario building is unfocused and speculative. For a good introductory book on risk management, I recommend Seeing Tomorrow : Weighing Financial Risk in Everyday Financial Life. This book seems to cover similar ground as Schwartz, however it is much more practical.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2006
This book is important for developing long-term strategic visioning through scenario building. With it, you take trends and then not merely extrapolate them, but also examine what might happen if there were significant changes to the trends. In the end, you craft "stories built around carefully constructed plots that make the significant elements of the world stand out boldly" and unlock fresh perspectives about the future.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 30, 2003
This book has nothing to do with organizational change. It is simply the ravings of a futurist. There are plenty of good books of strategic organizational change, buy those instead.
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on October 25, 2012
The long view is an excellent read for contemporary leaders who are looking to better understand the art of strategic planning. Its short, well written, and easy to follow.
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on June 28, 2009
This book has been called a clasic of scenario planning, and I agree. Schwartz offers a useful framework to begin to think about the future.
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on May 2, 2013
This book is good and helpful. One of the professor put it on the reading list of the semester and I read it.
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