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Think Like a Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn't, and What's Next Hardcover – October 9, 2012

4.1 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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Q & A with Cecily Sommers, Author of Think Like a Futurist

Cecily Sommers
Cecily Sommers
What is a futurist?

A futurist studies long-term trends from a global perspective, identifying their implications for business and society. A futurist's work can range from creating industry forecasts and policy agendas to speculating about how our work, education, healthcare, and families are poised to change. Some futurists stop there. Others focus on the application of this knowledge to organizational strategy, as I do, helping companies answer the question, "what do these forecasts mean for us?" By explaining different future scenarios, futurists can help organizations prepare for emerging threats and identify important growth opportunities. We turn real-world research into clear plans for the future.

Why is it difficult for most people to think like a futurist? Where do most of us get stuck?

Our brains naturally project what we currently know into the future, seeking certainty and continuity, and we tend to ignore clues and ideas that don't fit with our experiences. We get stuck in our knowledge to date-a mindset I call the permanent present. To think like a futurist is to think outside of that box and purposely expand our horizons so that we can imagine ideas and events that haven't yet occurred.

In what types of roles is it most important to think like a futurist?

If your role involves setting strategy or fostering innovation, the ability to manage the future is particularly relevant. Additionally, anyone in a leadership role needs to address the future; leaders must have a compelling vision of what lies ahead in order to inspire others to join them in making it happen.

For marketers, my Zone of Discovery methodology makes brand strategy a foundational part of the corporate strategy workflow. The Zone of Discovery poses two central questions: "Who are you?" and "Where are you going?" I show you how to leverage these two questions (and their answers) to limit the ideation and planning phases of your innovation initiatives to only the ideas and potentials that are right for your brand. Really, future-thinking applies in all facets of company operations. Knowing how to think about change leads to smarter decisions.

Review

"Top 25: What corporate America is reading" (800-CEO-read's list of best-selling business books based on purchases by its corporate customers nationwide) - The Tribune-Review

Think Like a Futurist is an insightful and scholarly take on the advancement of business management and why it may be different than anything else before it, much recommended.  - Midwest Book Review

"Think Like a Futurist has some useful ideas about its four forces and helpful techniques you might apply to your organization's strategic planning and innovation efforts.   - The Globe and Mail

Think Like a Futurist is a good read for anyone struggling with how to move their organization forward. Business leaders, product and program managers, service providers will all find the concepts Sommers introduces to be well laid-out with a reasonable amount of supporting content.     - The Livingston Post

Think Like a Futurist is recommended reading for strategists, innovators and leaders across all disciplines. Those in leadership roles will most benefit from Sommers' suggestions, as leaders - more than anyone else - must be able to envisage what lies ahead and encourage others to help make it a reality.   - Management Today

“In Think Like a Futurist... [Cecily Sommers] raises questions and points out realities that anyone fascinated with the future of the global economy should be following.” 
—Adam Belz, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 9, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1118147820
  • ISBN-13: 978-1118147825
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Overall a very good read. The author does a nice job of breaking down a complex theme into bite sized pieces. The examples used were interesting and insightful. I feel the structure of the book, let it down. With 4 parts, 13 chapters, 3 phases plus numerous techniques, processes and methods….it makes it difficult to see the clear line and thread it all together. Still, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking to bring strategy and certainty into their future.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Think Like a Futurist was, unfortunately, a disappointment. It fails even in its tagline of "Know what changes, what doesn't, and what's next". On the first part, there is a shallow coverage of the Four Forces (Resources, Technology, Demographics and Governance) without going into sufficient detail on any of them - such as the speed of change, range of possible speeds of change etc.

On the second part - "what doesn't" [change], there is next to nothing in the book aside from what can be inferred from the shallow Four Forces coverage.

On the last part - "what's next", the author really only provides a plethora of facilitation tools. No trend analysis or extrapolation itself is done, nor are methodologies described for the same. The contents skims over a set of facilitation and workshopping techniques; some more interesting than others, but nothing revolutionary new there.

Many of the examples used, such as General Mill's Idea Greenhouse which is many a page, are in fact stock standard practises at enterprises today - not even "best practises" but something less than that. How the Idea Greenhouse came to be might make a superficially interesting story, but it provides little value to the book as a whole - especially when the end product falls way short of what the best companies do today. The science on "left brain-right brain" is also lacking and outdated; both quite surprising shortcomings given the book is still relatively recent.

If you know nothing of the basic underlying macro-trends and have little to no innovation facilitation experience, it's a worthy read. For anyone wanting a more in-depth coverage - or even answering the subtitle's promise itself - I would recommend to stay away from this one.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The book starts with grand themes but quickly devolves to yet another set of "think outside the box" case studies using the author's methodology. There are good tools and techniques presented and it's useful. It just doesn't live up to the expectations set in the blurb and the first few chapters.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
"Think like a futurist" is a great book for anyone looking to have a better understanding of how to think differently in this world of change we live in. It gives you the elements and understanding of how you can help drive change both in the organization you work in and your own personal thinking. I have had the pleasure to listen to Cecily Sommer's speak and also to meet her in person. She has tremendous vision and provides great framework that will help invent yourself and creatively apply what you know while overcoming resistance to the goals you are seeking to fulfill. "Thanks Cecily!"
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The subtitle for this book is "Know what changes, what doesn't, and what's next" and from there author Sommers demonstrates how she helps businesses, large and small, understand change. In short, she shows what a professional consulting futurist does for clients, and demonstrates her approach to leading clients into to the future.

Sommers starts by asking two questions of clients:
Who are you?
Where are you going?
Define yourself, then decide where you want to be in the future. Simple, foundational research. From there, Sommers shows how consulting futurists help clients understand forces that will shape the client's future.

Examples are provided for consulting with small and large businesses, and Sommers leads the reader through the process of learning to understand change, then deciding how the client can creatively use that knowledge to prepare for, and deal with the future. This is a book that will be useful to business people who are not really familiar (or comfortable) with the concepts of foresight and futures studies, yet will be interesting to anyone interested in thinking about the future.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Ms. Sommers spends way too much of this book on filler, non-applicable example treatises, and rhetorical stasis which gives no insight for her readers. Future Thinking is about more than writing futurist next to your name, there is process approaches and practices, it is about understanding the conditions and drivers of change, cycles of adoption, This generalized tride is not worth the time it takes to read it.

Futuring by E. Cornish, Future Think by Weiner and Brown, or best yet; Thinking About the Future by Hines and Bishop are much better, more effective, and helpful in understanding and applying the principles of strategic foresight, futuring, and considering the future for social and business purposes
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