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The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain World Paperback – Unabridged, April 15, 1996
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From the Back Cover
What increasingly affects all of us, whether professional planners or individuals preparing for a better future, is not the tangibles of life - bottom-line numbers, for instance - but the intangibles: our hopes and fears, our beliefs and dreams. Only stories - scenarios - and our ability to visualize different kinds of futures adequately capture these intangibles. In The Art of the Long View, now for the first time in paperback and with the addition of an all-new User's Guide, Peter Schwartz outlines the "scenaric" approach, giving you the tools for developing a strategic vision within your business. Schwartz describes the new techniques, originally developed within Royal/Dutch Shell, based on many of his firsthand scenario exercises with the world's leading institutions and companies, including the White House, EPA, BellSouth, PG&E, and the International Stock Exchange.
About the Author
Peter Schwartz is the chairman of the board of directors of the Ayn Rand Institute, as well as the teacher of an advanced writing course at the Institute's Objectivist Graduate Center.
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Schwartz did a great job in his case study examples explaining how one has to pull the past historical data of events for expectation of what could happen on the three scenario paths that can be taken. The reason for stating “could happen” is that Schwartz made it clear to the reader that scenario planning is not a prediction of the future but merely a tool to use to drive your decisions and prepare for what could happen from the worst extreme to the best extreme outcome. What are the big issues and how does one go about using filters to overcome obstacles for what’s important? These are skills that have to be learned by some but may be a natural instinct by others.
Schwartz also mentions that one should narrow the scenarios’ to no more than three as they may overlap and to write the scenarios out as if you were writing a book. He also mentioned that the “driving forces, predetermined elements, and critical uncertainties” must be looked at in order to give “structure to our exploration of the future”. Among the driving forces any event of “society, technology, economy, politics, and environment” can change the course of the future journey.
What I liked mostly about the book is how Schwartz went back in time with the readers to the 1960 – 1990’s (my era) and explained the events and how they effected other events socially, politically, economically, and even the drive on the environmental issues. He really did a great job connecting some of the dot’s that drove our economics at the time. It was educational and the younger adults could benefit from this history. His analysis on the teenagers, particularly the baby boomers, was right on target. The baby boomers made major social changes and there are the “global teenagers” that will also make an impact but maybe not as big economically since some of those groups are from poorer countries. (I think I will check into some stocks in the medical industry and hopefully get out in time before so many hospitals and medical facilities are no longer needed as the baby boomers grow older… Schwartz book just makes me think is all…)
The last item in my review is the technology scenarios mentioned in the book. One has to continually remind themselves when the book was originally written; in 1990. I don’t believe there were too many updates, if any, to the 1996 books printed. Schwartz made some pretty good scenarios in the book regarding the virtual world but maybe one network overlooked is the wireless market which has really played a large part in technological advances since the book was written.
Perhaps Schwartz should write a second part called, “The Art of the Longview: The Past 25 Years and Planning for the Infinite Future”. The history for his next scenario would cover the dot.com era, events on 9/11 and the aftermath, at least two major hurricanes, iPhone and Smart phone market, the drive of converting analog to digital, the first black president, impact to the Japan tsunami, the capture of Saddam Hussien and Bin Laden, affordable healthcare, new regulations, gun control, Washington and Colorado passing sale of marijuana, our borders, how the Cowboy’s haven’t won but one playoff game since the mid-90’s (JK), etc…. etc…, etc… There is a lot to write about for Schwartz that has happened in the past 25 years along with comparing his scenarios’ giving new ones.
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.