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The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World
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46 of 47 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
If you liked Arie de Geus' book, The Living Company, or The Fifth Discipline by Peter Senge, you will find The Art of the Long View a related, helpful exploration of how to go beyond "forecasting" the future to "preparing" for it.
This book is about using future scenarios to make better current decisions. As Peter Schwartz alerts us, "Scenarios are not predictions." They represent instead, possible alternative dimensions of the future that reflect the driving forces of that future. This is particularly valuable now because unpredictability is growing. "Unpredictability in every field is the result of the conquest of the whole of the present world by scientific power."
You are encouraged to use these scenarios as simulations to help you think more concretely and accurately about what might come next. Then you choose decisions and actions that leave you better off than the alternatives, regardless of the future scenario that occurs. Such scenarios are like projected script plots for a movie, and help us develop "memories of the future" (as David Ingvar noted) that make thinking about the future more practical for us. Generally one scenario will be better than the current direction, one worse, and one different.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of these practices is that "scenarios are . . . the most powerful vehicles . . . for challenging our 'mental models' about the world and lifting the 'blinders' that limit our creativity and resourcefulness." So you can think of scenarios as a stallbusting technique for overcoming the miscommunication, misconception, and disbelief stalls, as well.
One of the book's great strengths is that it takes you through the process by which the author discovered these qualities about how to use scenarios. He begins with his exposure to the kind of scenarios that Herman Kahn was using for government policy development in the 1970s. You then meet Pierre Wack at Royal Dutch/Shell who used scenarios to help the company successfully prepare for the big price increases in oil during the Arab Oil Embargo. Mr. Schwartz later replace Mr. Wack in that job and describes his experiences with later scenarios. One example that I found particularly interesting was thinking about putting in a new natural gas field offshore from Norway. Whether it made sense or not depended on whether the U.S.S.R. would continue to be an enemy of Western Europe and not ship its own low-cost natural gas to that market. That work led to understanding that the U.S.S.R. probably would fall many years before that occurred.
Another powerful section was on the global culture of teenagers as a precursor to other changes.
You will get plenty of concepts in the book to use to create your own scenarios and to make better decisions. You can get ideas from looking at themes like revolution, cycles, winners and losers, challenge and response, infinite possibilities, and the perspective of your own generation.
He has three scenarios for the year 2005 to give you a sense of what scenarios can look like. These focus about a market-driven world, a world without progress, and new geographical political alignments.
There is a user's guide with eight requirements for holding strategic conversations built around these scenarios. That is followed by an appendix with an 8 step process for developing the scenarios to use.
I thought that his section on "Information-Hunting and -Gathering" was especially good in helping you to spot the early sources of new future directions. These can come from technology trends, music, fringe areas, perceptions shaping events, remarkable people, sources of existing surprises, filters (such as magazines), and new networks.
Although I have never seen anyone conduct scenario planning exercises, I felt confident that I could do so after reading this book. I think you can, too.
Mr. Schwartz is an open, likeable person, and you will enjoy his writing style. He knows how to tell a good story that will stimulate your imagination.
After you have finished understanding the book and applying it to your business, I suggest that you take a look at your personal life in the same way. What are you assuming about your family, your health, and your future work-related circumstances? What are an appropriate range of alternative scenarios? What decisions do you have to make that are affected by these scenarios? Which decisions leave you much better off? Asking and answering these questions will provide the greatest possible benefit from developing your new skills in this area.
Be more thoughtful and purposeful using scenarios . . . and more happy endings will follow in reality!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Format: Paperback
Chairman of the Global Business Network, Schwartz is one of the world's leading futurists. As also indicated in the more recently published The Long Boom, his writing is as clear and crisp as his thinking. Schwartz's comments and suggestions are anchored in extensive real-world experience. His objective is to explain the process of what he calls "scenario-building" which enables managers to "invent and then consider, in depth, several varied stories of equally plausible futures" so that they can make (in his words) "strategic decisions that will be sound for all plausible futures. No matter what future takes place, you are much more likely to be ready for it -- and influential in it -- if you have thought seriously about scenarios."
Managers of companies (regardless of size or nature) are already aware of constant change within their competitive marketplace. Recent developments, notably use of the Internet to expedite globalization, suggest that change will occur progressively faster and have progressively greater impact, both positive and negative.
Meanwhile, for obvious reasons, managers of companies face daily situations and circumstances which require immediate attention and, more often than not, they must quickly make decisions which have profound implications. As a result managers find it very difficult to see "the larger picture", to maintain a "long-term perspective."
Schwartz suggests how. Like Drucker, he avoids making predictions. Rather, he helps his reader to formulate the degree of probability of certain events yet to occur...and then to prepare accordingly.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on July 19, 2002
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I belief that I possess a strong and reliable gut-feel or instinct. I also have a good knack for organising and quantifying information to help me in the process of decision making. Together these factors which have helped me through many decisions, from moderately difficult to life changing decisions, such as immigration.
But Peter Schwartz's book takes planning for the future to a much higher level. Subtitled "Planning for the future in an uncertain world", in "The art of the long view" Schwartz illustrates his own successful recipe for practical futurism.
He outlines a "scenario" approach for developing a strategic vision. This approach involves developing 2 - 4 varying scenarios. The approach is based upon a series of steps for developing each scenario, preparing for the likelihood each scenario, and recognising early on which one (or more than one) scenario is actually eventuating, so that appropriate steps can be taken.
Although the proposed scenarios are to be presented in a narrative form (which may make some people uncomfortable), the "Long View" approach is quite methodical (though it could perhaps have been presented in a more organised fashion). Apart from that, the approach holds much advantage. I expected a full-on business book glorifying globalisation, knowing that Schwartz had been involved with several multi-nationals like the Royal Dutch Shell Oil Company. I was therefore pleasantly surprised with Schwartz's environmental leanings and his inclusion of the ecological impacts of decisions in scenarios.
Taking into account the success rate of teams in which Schwartz has been involved with in the past, the scenario developing strategy definitely seems to me to have much merit. (It would be interesting to see how his predictions for 2005 turns out - in 3 years time). Now if we could only get politicians to read this book and look past their re-election windows. Highly recommended.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on February 16, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book will help you to learn the scenario planning process. At the beginning, the author presents a short but insightful example how scenario playing an important role for starting up a gardening tool company. The author also shares an "information hunting and gathering process" which tell you where to get some helpful data. Various factors influencing the futures are also discussed (including socials, politics, economic, technologies, and environment). In addition, at the end of the book, the author provides a user's guide (eight steps of how to hold a strategic conversation) and eight steps to develop scenarios which I found very useful. The book enables us to use scenario planning as a tool to deal with uncertain futures. Scenarios help us to awake and "reperceive" others possible and impossible alternative futures including both short and long term. The author also believes that a good scenario leads you to ask better questions. The point of scenario-planning is "to help us suspend our disbelieve in all the futures: to allow us to think that any on of them might place. Then, we can prepare for what we DO NOT think is going to happen." (p.195)
However, one annoying thing in this book is that the author keeps referring to chapters (e.g. look in chapter 7) but physically, there are just no chapters number indicated in the book. There are just short titles in the table of content and at the beginning of each chapter. You have to go back and forth between the TOC and chapters to to see which one is actually being referred. However, I consider this is a minor issue comparing to what you will learn from this book.
You may find this book useful if you are preparing for your strategic plans, making decisions having critical impacts to your firm or your personal life, or even you are just an ordinary reader, this book will open your mind to a new level of critical thinking and imagination about unfolding futures. Highly recommend.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
With all of the uncertainties and unknowns, how can an organization plan effectively and take actions? Peter Schwartz shows how through the elegant use of "scenarios". Peter is one of the giants of systems thinking who has implemented his ideas. He explains his approach this way: "You can tell you have good scenarios when they are both plausible and surprising; when they have the power to break old stereotypes; and when the makers assume ownership of them and put them to work. Scenario making is intensely participatory, or it fails."
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on February 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz is an excellent book that looks into the creation of scenarios in planning for the future. He describes how scenarios become strategies. This extends from the use of knowledge and intuition of the external business environment as well as the internal vision, culture, and competencies of the organization itself.
Schwartz describes for a future developer to communicate, debate, and update all scenarios and the organization so that they coevolve. His examples from one of his scenarios (Smith & Hawken Story) proved that there are only two types of factors involved: the ones that you can count on and the ones that are more uncertain. He describes how one must be flexible in perspective and how to understand that there are other possibilities, even if one is certain of what may or may not happen in the future. He gives reasons into examining five categories of driving forces of the future, which include society, technology, economics, politics, and the natural environment.
He is a genius to examine the "global teen" for they will be a part of every scenario planning process that futurists are preparing for. He gives way to understanding that technology and information will be the forefront of many of the scenarios being created. He recalls that scenarios do not predict the future, "[scenario planning] allow us to think that any one of them [scenarios] might take place"(p.195). When planning scenarios one must take into account whether or not "New Empires, a Market World, [and/or] Change without Progress" are involved.
He concludes the book with explaining that scenario planning is an ongoing process and that it is knowledgeable that a person returns to the beginning only to better understand the past and future. I recommend this book to anyone who wants to examine their own planning process and future; whether it be for business, economic growth, social growth, or personal need Schwartz's plan is the perfect user's guide to highlight development in any area.
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39 of 49 people found the following review helpful
on October 31, 2003
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
This book was first published in 1991, the second edition 1996 has very little done to update the content. But, what's worse is the fact that references made by the author to the "Sony Walkman" and other technologies and products actually date the origin of the writing to the early 1980's.
The book is boring and anecdotal; stuffed with name dropping, and score evening and self praise: the CIA were wrong- me and my team were right. Senator "so and so" is a fool he was wrong we were right and bla bla. If you like listening to your grandpa when he's on medication and in a mean mood - buy this book.
The author also exhibits "America Bashing" circa 1988 : That was when the USA was in steep decline and Japan was the light from the East... well times have changed -- there are other reasons to bash the USA but not one reason to praise Japan.
I don't know why all the reviewers from Hawaii gave the book so many stars; but they comprise most of the reviewers and the result has been skewed.
In place I recommend: Creating Better Futures: Scenario Planning As a Tool for Social Creativity
by James A. Ogilvy.
If you want to learn more about Japan try ;Dogs and Demons: Tales from the Dark Side of Modern Japan
by Alex Kerr. I recommend this book to Mr. Schwartz.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
In "The Art of the Long View," Peter Schwartz, one of the world leading futurists introduces the concepts of scenario planning. He argues that scenario thinking is an art not a science, and people in general has an innate ability to build scenarios, and to foresee the future. From the book, the readers can learn how to build their own future scenarios. They are neither predictions nor mere extrapolations of the present trends. They help us to know the shape of unfolding future reality. A good scenario must have surprised elements with power to break the stereotypes.
The general principles of scenario planning are neatly summarized in the appendix, "Steps to Developing Scenarios." They compose of: Step One: identify the focal issue or decision; Step Two: list the key Micro-Factors relevant to that issue or decision; Step Three: list the key Macro-Driving Forces; Step Four: cross-rank Factors and Forces in terms of importance and uncertainty; Step Five: select Scenario Logic; Step Six: flesh out Scenarios; Step Seven: identify Probable Implications; and Step Eight: select Leading Indicators and Signposts. However, the order of the steps may be muddled in some cases.
For me, as a former employee of Shell in Cambodia, it is an eye-opening reading. I wish I had read this book before I started to develop the promotion plan for Shell Cambodia. The great pleasure of adopting a constant futurist's perspective on things is that it forces you to think of different possible ways things may happen and have at hand the answers to the "what if...?" questions either plausible or implausible. Then comes a mindshift that leads to the change in behavior in managing organization, let it be global corporation like Royal Dutch Shell or AT&T and small family businesses. It is an excellent read if you want to liberate your insights from your existing "mental map".
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2002
Format: Paperback
In "The Art of the Long View," Peter Schwartz, one of the world leading futurists introduces the concepts of scenario planning. He argues that scenario thinking is an art not a science, and people in general has an innate ability to build scenarios, and to foresee the future. From the book, the readers can learn how to build their own future scenarios. They are neither predictions nor mere extrapolations of the present trends. They help us to know the shape of unfolding future reality. A good scenario must have surprised elements with power to break the stereotypes.
The general principles of scenario planning are neatly summarized in the appendix, "Steps to Developing Scenarios." They compose of: Step One: identify the focal issue or decision; Step Two: list the key Micro-Factors relevant to that issue or decision; Step Three: list the key Macro-Driving Forces; Step Four: cross-rank Factors and Forces in terms of importance and uncertainty; Step Five: select Scenario Logic; Step Six: flesh out Scenarios; Step Seven: identify Probable Implications; and Step Eight: select Leading Indicators and Signposts. However, the order of the steps may be muddled in some cases.
For me, as a former employee of Shell in Cambodia, it is an eye-opening reading. I wish I had read this book before I started to develop the promotion plan for Shell Cambodia. The great pleasure of adopting a constant futurist's perspective on things is that it forces you to think of different possible ways things may happen and have at hand the answers to the "what if...?" questions either plausible or implausible. Then comes a shift in the mindset that leads to the change in behavior in managing organization, let it be global corporation like Royal Dutch Shell or AT&T and small family businesses. It is an excellent read if you want to liberate your insights from your existing "mental map".
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
As the present comes from the past, our future can be projected from the present. We can prepare for the uncertain future based on the current social, political, economical, technological, environmental clues. Peter Schwartz, president of Global Business Network, shows this point well through his cases and experiences in The Art of the Long View.
Our history is full of various changes. The world in the present is different from the past and will have another shape in the future. Uncertainties in the future can be risks or opportunities for individuals and organizations depending on the degree of our preparedness.
This book encourages us to identify predetermined driving forces and make alternative scenarios with your imaginative power according to critical uncertainties. It is very cogent based on plenty of experiential cases of Schwartz such as Shell and Smith & Hawken.
Epistemological freedom seems to plays crucial role in Schwartz' works. He recommends as the first step of scenario building that we should liberate our mind from existing stereotypes of the future. That may be why teamwork in scenario building is recommend. While there will be definitely one real future, several futures are possible in the present tense.
This epistemological advice is what is needed to the process of scientific theory building because any theory is not complete and there may be blindspot. But, scenario building is different from theory building in that it is telling alternative stories about the future, not the present. This process requires our both research on the present and our imagination about the future. So, Schwartz calls scenario building as "art" not "science".
Be future artists!!
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