I just finished reading John Naisbitt‘s Mind Set!: Reset Your Thinking and See the Future. (You can download a PDF of its table of contents, prologue and introduction here.) I can certainly recommend this book, and it has piqued my interest in one of his earlier books, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives–a sum of local analyses can lead to a “megatrend.”
The author describes a mindset in terms of how we receive information. A mindset impacts one’s perception and one’s reality–perception of reality can be self-fulfilling when deliberate enough. In particular, Mind Set! is focused on “mindsets that are deliberately developed for a purpose.”
What purposes do I have in mind? What mindsets are required of me to achieve them?
Part one (of two) is focused on the following eleven mindsets:
- While many things change, most things remain constant
- The future is embedded in the present
- Focus on the score of the game
- Understanding how powerful it is not to have to be right
- See the future as a picture puzzle
- Don’t get so far ahead of the parade that people don’t know you’re in it
- Resistance to change falls if benefits are real
- Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly
- You don’t get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities
- Don’t add unless you subtract
- Don’t forget the ecology of technology
(#1) “Most change is not in what we do, but how we do it.” Mr. Naisbitt is adamant that business is more about constancy than it is about change. He advises to differentiate between the following concerns: basics and embellishment, rules and techniques, trends and fads, and breakthroughs and refinements.
(#2) “We find the seeds of the future on the ground, and not in the width of the sky.” Mr. Naisbitt also cautions: “Basic change is the result of a confluence of forces, rarely because of just one force (especially when it is against the recited wisdom).” Consider the term “news hole” and the impact of print media going away and being replaced by digital/online media (e.g. InfoWorld). Is the size of the “hole” fundamentally changing? What new disciplines are required in light of these changes? “While it is crucial to be well instructed, it is not the amount of information we collect but how consciously we receive it.” Be verifying and selective where source of information are concerned. Optimize signal-to-noise ratio. Maximize value for time spent and attention given.
(#3) “In business, politics, or private life, the gap between words and facts widens when personal pride is involved. Often it’s not the promises made but the problems hidden. In the fight for performance, the power of having to be right often takes over. Don’t be misled; check the score of the game.” Rhetoric does not beget performance. Simplification to increase transparency wards off the camouflage of complexity.
(#4) “Having to be right becomes a barrier to learning and understanding. It keeps you away from growing, for there is no growth without changing, correcting, and questioning yourself.” One would be wise to emulate Albert Einstein who was more focused on what than who.
(#5) To assemble the puzzle, value intuition over calculation; so, develop your intuition (e.g. ability to correctly time slice). Make the proper connections, and pick ripe fruits.
(#6) “Even the most talented leaders need the parade to put an idea into practice. If we have the parade too far behind and run ahead with our vision, we will be running empty miles.”
(#7) “Do not underestimate people. When they resist change–change you think they ought to readily embrace–you have either failed to make benefits transparent or there are good reasons to resist. In that case, instead of lamenting the resistance, look for their reasons for resisting.”
(#8) “Expectations always travel at higher speeds [than results].” Follow the path of least resistance (e.g. flood with ideas to see which “break out,” where and how, too).
(#9) “You don’t get results by solving problems but by exploiting opportunities.” To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, if you don’t find the circumstances you want, create them. So, rather than hunkering down and solving problems (i.e. dealing with yesterday), set sail and create opportunities (i.e. mine the future by understanding its embedding in the present). You’ll need a prepared mind, a strong will and an affinity for (or at least a high tolerance for) repetition (and therefore patience, too).
(#10) Pay attention to the principle of forced choice in a closed system. Produce and retrieve consumable levels of information (i.e. don’t be wasteful). Be selective to avoid paralysis (e.g. the number of books in my library, the number of magazines and feeds I subscribe to, etc.). Strike manageable levels, focusing on relevance and quality of sources. “Our goal should not be to create cemeteries of information, but cradles of knowledge and inspiration.”
(#11) “The more technological our world becomes, the more we need our artists and poets.” As Mr. Naisbitt explains, the artist and creative among us are especially equipped to help society accommodate technology and to help culture evolve through meaningful embrace (e.g. imagination). Regardless of your artistic bent or mine, we can all consider the consequences of our relationship with technology by asking the following questions raised by the author:
- What will be enhanced?
- What will be diminished?
- What will be replaced?
- What new opportunities does it represent?
Part two of this book involves the presentation of a set of puzzles assembled using a particular combination of the mindsets presented in part one.
The first puzzle announces: “A visual culture is taking over the world.” This take-over appears to come at the cost of literacy and the written word. Collaterally, verbal and communication skills decline, leading to less informed, less active and less independent minded individuals. In the end, human imagination suffers.
However, to communicate these days one has to project an immersive experience. More importantly, I would argue, one must develop one’s own integrity and authenticity, and consistently serve that up to his or her audience. Where content, data and information is concerned, visualization techniques that promote people as much or more than, for example, documents are increasingly important. One cannot afford to imagine their colleagues attending to their ideas. Rather must be able to qualitatively and quantitatively visualize all-important collaboration around them and progress about them. For example, when I seed an idea, who most consistently contributes to its germination?
The second puzzle articulates how we’re moving from nation-states to economic domains, not multinational corporations. Mr. Naisbitt advises the reader to study the economic activity of a domain (e.g. all products and services for enterprise content management) as the way to know the score of the game. He suggests that behavior in economic domains shall:
- Cause countries to enhance their identities by becoming more culturally nationalistic.
- Cause companies to be defined by their confederations and networks of entrepreneurs.
- Cause a mass customization of talent where individual talent is fitted to needs–globally. That is Free Agent Nation but on a global scale.
The global trading system is regrouping at a higher level; therefore, our number one economic priority must be education and training. It also sounds like a fantastic opportunity for a new breed of talent agencies to rise up and connect “players” and “teams.”
The next two puzzles dealt with China and Europe, respectively. I’m convinced that I need to visit China–reading and research alone are insufficient for me to appreciate its ramifications on my work and livelihood. I’m also convinced that if I ever start a company with global aspirations, I’ll insist on an Asian Pacific sales and marketing strategy before one focused on the European Union–recall the author’s “Mutually Assured Destruction” criticism of the EU (e.g. central planning and individual freedom cannot coexist).
The fifth and final puzzle addresses the present innovation reservoir borne out of revolutions from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Mr. Naisbitt submits that such a period of discontinuous changes begets a longer period of continuous changes–an evolutionary era of great opportunity and a period that builds on a ground already prepared.
I’ve already changed how I go about my research and how I gauge the value in contributing sources based on reading Mind Set! I’m committed more than ever to reading more of the thought-through and less of the off-the-cuff (e.g. with respect to the printed word (roughly): books > research papers > magazines > blogs).
This book has tempered my thinking and my expectations. Hopefully both are more realistic in light of applying and learning to apply several of the mindsets Mr. Naisbitt details.
Update 8/10/2007 (via The Journal of the EDS Agility Alliance): “We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge.” -John Naisbitt, in his 1982 book Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives