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The Signals Are Talking: Why Todays Fringe Is Tomorrows Mainstream Hardcover – December 6, 2016
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An Amazon Best Book of December 2016: At this moment, it seems obvious that we could all stand to brush up on our skills as prognosticators. And not just so we can avoid being blindsided by seismic elections, but because technology promises to continue its disruptive march through our societies and economies. What will cabbies do when cars are self-driving, and what will warehouse workers do when robots can pick, pack, and ship without lunch breaks and health care benefits? Forget NAFTA; the shift is toward Silicon Valley. But where to start? The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream is a good place. Sitting somewhere between Nate Silver and The Tipping Point, Amy Webb's book provides a practical guide for leaders - at any level - in the age of Big Data, offering tools for picking out the “true signal, a pattern that will coalesce into a trend with the potential to change everything” - and land on the right side of disruption. --Jon Foro, The Amazon Book Review
"The clear, insightful, and humorous Amy Webb has crafted a rare treasure: a substantive guide written in a narrative that's a delight to read. While most futurologists want guru status through a few Nostradamus-like visions that never materialize, Webb modestly reports with depth and discipline, and creates a system and tools we can all use to better navigate the future. Through her deep research, specific anecdotes, and brilliant insights, she has performed the selfless but hugely valuable act of teaching us all to fish at the fringe." --Christopher J. Graves, chairman, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
"Amy Webb, with insight and a big dose of pragmatism, shows how to clearly see the next big disruption and then take action before it strikes." --Ram Charan, advisor to CEOs and corporate boards, author of The Attackers Advantage, and coauthor of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done
"Forecasting the future is a challenging-and absolutely necessary-part of every leader's job. In this ambitious and timely book, Amy Webb shows not only how to identify actual trends and surprises emerging from the fringes but-even more important-how to do something about them so you can thrive in the face of the unexpected."--Craig Newmark, founder,Craigslist
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Except in some cases when they aren't. Many people look at those who "guessed right" and either think they are extremely brilliant - or extremely lucky.
This book helps disprove both of those assumptions. This book gives clear direction for what to look for, how to analyze and review those data points, and how to string together those signals to theorize what may be coming next. Here in early 2017, we all need to be able to analyze what's on the fringe and see how it connects to make tomorrow's mainstream - sometimes only a few weeks away, and sometimes a decade.
Highly recommend the book, and looking forward to sharing it.
This book shows how the current fringe technologies on which these other stories were built can be investigated and predicted.
Truly makes you think about the impact of how technology is shaping our future!
But it's not for the first time. That happened somewhere around 1970, when I tried to wrap my head around Alvin Toffler's "Future Shock" (followed by "The Third Wave" and "Power Shift." Then came books by John Naisbitt, such as "Megatrends 2000," and Faith Popcorn's "Clicking: 17 Trends That Drive Your Business And Your Life." Yes, folks, I eat this stuff up. And now, thanks to an advance copy in exchange for an honest review, comes this one - and it's made no less of an impression.
The author has developed a six-part process for forecasting - a way of evaluating new ideas being developed on the "fringe" (a.k.a. around the edges of society) that stand to affect us. Futurists, she says, listen to and interpret the signals that are "talking," looking for early patterns, or pre-trends. "Trends help us to understand change, which is an essential part of every organization's mandate," she writes. "Too often, leaders ignore the signals, wait too long to take action, or plan for only one scenario."
Descriptors like "probable," "plausible" and "possible" are used to generate concrete ideas about what's over the horizon. "We must think of trends as signposts that can illuminate the conditions we will likely encounter at some point in the future, even if that future is a century away," the author explains. "Organizations must track them if they are to create their preferred futures...seeing trends is a matter of looking for emerging changes at the fringe, within organizations, and in our societies."
In a nutshell, if it's possible to put it there, the book is about the importance of not being surprised by the future, offering a method for creating a path that leads to sustained success. Unlike some of the books mentioned above, it's not a list of what we can expect to happen in the next 10, 20 or 50 years; rather, it's a way to help ensure that organizations will be going strong throughout all those years to come.
Along the way, the author explains finer points such as the difference between something that's "trendy" and a "trend." No doubt it's a silly analogy, but if I interpret it anywhere near correctly, an Erector set is (or was) trendy, but the fact that children love to tear things down and build them up again is a trend that's likely to continue indefinitely. Harness your company's future to the first, and you may be out of business the minute a newer kid hits the building block; on the second, and you're likely to stay ahead of the curve.
Roadblocks to identifying the signals are discussed as well, such as the "duality dilemma" between left- and right-brain thinking (put another way, creativity vs. logic) and the need to look at things from both sides now. This I understand; I identify far more closely with the logic side, which most likely explains why I've enjoyed relative success as a journalist (just the facts, ma'am) but couldn't write a novel if my life depended on it. It's also, I'm thinking, one of the reasons I enjoyed this book so much; everything is laid out in an orderly, easy-to-understand manner.
That includes, for the record, a glossary of concepts and terms and a chapter-by-chapter list of footnoted references at the end. Highly recommended for anyone interested in expanding leadership skills (or like me, simply interested in the topic).