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Inevitable Surprises: Thinking Ahead in a Time of Turbulence Paperback – Bargain Price, April 30, 2004

3.9 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Schwartz uses the techniques of scenario planning he presented in The Art of the Long View (1991) to create a new version of what tomorrow's world might look like. Unsurprisingly, it's a mixed picture, where the "potential for progress is enormous, but the potential for disruption is equally great." The futurist and chairman of Global Business Network thinks the long-awaited population bomb will actually be an explosion of the elderly. He sees a "continuing, ongoing flood" of people migrating to better lives in the richer nations, the return of a decades-long economic boom he predicted in a previous book written before the bubble burst, the U.S.'s continued flirtation with unilateral action as the world's only superpower, and major scientific and technological breakthroughs. More ominously, Schwartz claims there will be "no plausible future in which terrorism has been permanently neutralized," no end to the chaos and religious wars among the have-not nations and dire results from the AIDS epidemic. On the plus side, "the biosphere is becoming healthier every year" and the energy we use will be cleaner and more efficient. On the minus, environmental crises and as-yet-unknown diseases are coming. To top it off, there's the eventual collision with a killer asteroid. How accurate are these predictions? "All of them are inevitable," declares Schwartz. He admits, however, that the effects of these major events, especially as they interact and influence each other, are largely unknowable. So ready or not, the future will bring a "world of maximum surprise." Schwartz's predictions are interesting in a speculative way, but, naturally, have limited practical utility.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A survey of all the major trends that are likely to affect our lives, Inevitable Surprises is a manual for survival in the 21st century. And an exploration of the plausible prospects for tomorrow's history, and the implications they suggest for the decisions we should make today. The author is one of the world's leading experts in 'discontinuities': things that take us by surprise but which, in hindsight, were sadly predictable and usually avoidable. Events like the collapse of a major energy company or a devastating terrorist attack seem to come from nowhere. Not only are they shocking and disturbing, it often appears that their prevention would have been impossible. Not so, argues Schwartz: although we cannot do anything about the past, we can try to do something about the future. Should appeal strongly to a business-book as well as a general non-fiction readership. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Gotham (April 30, 2004)
  • ISBN-10: 1592400698
  • ASIN: B000C4SMYK
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,314,857 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on June 29, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In Inevitable Surprises, veteran futurist and scenario constructor, Peter Schwartz, takes an assignment done for Citicorp in 2001 and turns it into a discussion of seven themes for the future.
Here is the book's structure:
Chapter 1: Inevitable Surprises
Chapter 2: A World Integrated with Elders
Chapter 3: The Great Flood of People
Chapter 4: The Return of the Long Boom
Chapter 5: The Thoroughly New World Order
Chapter 6: A Catalog of Disorder
Chapter 7: Breakthroughs in Science and Technology
Chapter 8: A Cleaner, Deadlier World
Chapter 9: Inevitable Strategies
In chapter 1, he argues that scenarios can predict the future. His most telling example is having helped develop a scenario involving airplanes destroying the World Trade towers for the Hart-Rudman Commission that was reported a few months after President George W. Bush took office in 2000. But no one paid attention. He cites several other examples of denial that have led to corporate disasters from ignoring scenarios he helped construct. If you would like to learn more about scenario construction, I also highly recommend his fine book, The Art of the Long View, which was published in 1991.
What can we expect now? "First, there will be more surprises. Second, we will be able to deal with them. Third, we can anticipate many of them."
Chapter 2 begins by pointing out that the U.S. retirement age began climbing in 2001 and will probably continue to do so. People are living longer, are healthier, and either want to work (as his examples of wealthy, educated people show) or have to work (as his example of the airline attendant in her 70s who cannot afford to retire shows). Even after retirement, these people will be active and be part of society.
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Format: Hardcover
Since the future isn't what it used to be and only seems to get stranger by the day, Peter Schwartz's latest book should be a welcome guide to the "inevitable surprises" ahead. Schwartz isn't just any futurist; he's a kingpin at the Global Business Network and frequently consults to governments and large corporations. Schwartz argues that many of the big surprises ahead can be foreseen if we use scenario thinking to closely examining existing signs. With this point as well as in some details - such as the impact of shrinking populations - Schwartz is in accord with Peter Drucker. This book lays out the dramatic transformation and volatility we face over the next quarter century. The book's scope is wide enough that everyone is likely to find themselves startled and stimulated.
In case you read Schwartz's previous work and wonder whether he still believes in "The Long Boom", the answer is an undeniable and unashamed *yes!* Productivity and accelerating technological advances will return the economy to a long-term path of strong growth. This doesn't mean that Schwartz paints a pastel portrait of the future. We can expect a cleaner environment and opportunities in abundance, but must also anticipate massive migrations of people, declining populations in large parts of the Western world, a confusing and unruly international situation, global climate crises, plagues, and possibly an asteroid strike. Study this book, challenge Schwartz's thinking, and prepare yourself and your business for a wild ride ahead.
Schwartz believes that his forecasts and scenarios will stand up to the test of future history better than those of most prognosticators.
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Format: Hardcover
Change is no news. The great changes that will alter the commercial, political and demographic workings of the world are already underway and some of their consequences are quite predictable, says author Peter Schwartz. He outlines a variety of the more important changes, particularly in places such as China and India, and limns scenarios that represent possible futures. Perhaps this sort of book is inevitable at the turning of a century, of a millennium. The author, in fact, compares his work to predecessors at the end of the nineteenth century. Although some of his predictions fall far short of shocking - for example, global warming and aging populations are hardly undiscovered issues - the exercise of thinking about scenarios and preparing strategies is a good one. The book is also entertaining, because Schwartz writes with a light hand and a casual style. We believe this book would be a good airplane read. It would certainly be appropriate for a long flight, since air travel contributes to some of the more important changes the author discusses. And, if you read it, the time will fly.
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Format: Paperback
Previously, Schwartz wrote The Art of the Long View as well as The Long Boom (which he co-authored with Peter Leyden and Joel Hyatt) and When Good Companies Do Bad Things (which he co-authored with Blair Gibb). In this volume, he addresses many of the same issues as in his previous works. However, in my opinion, he examines them in much greater depth while addressing other issues suggested by questions such as these:

1. In an increasingly more turbulent environment, how to recognize and understand "the inevitable surprises that lie ahead of us, particularly in the next twenty-five years"? For example, how to know what is needed to be known and then obtain that knowledge?

2. Given those "inevitable surprises," which steps must be taken that would allow a company or organization to thrive? For example, how to overcome "two different types of natural [but fundamentally irresponsible] reaction": denial and defensiveness?

3. What to do when new complications reveal themselves? For example, how can an "early-warning system" identify them so that appropriate and effective responses can be made in a timely manner?

Schwartz's response to only one of these questions is worth far more than the cost of his book. As he explains in Chapter 1, "Underneath the specifics, between the lines on every page in this book, you will find a basic message about the future in general: The challenges facing civilization right now are immense -- arguably more difficult than they have been during the lifetime of any living person. At the same time, because of advances in knowledge and technology, the human race has never been so capable. And since most of our challenges are caused, at least partly, by our own activity, this expanded capability is a double-edged sword.
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