I am amazed how fascinated we are with the future. Years ago, Stephen Covey told us that the best way to predict the future was to create it.
We also seem to love to read about it. Here is one more new book that tells us what the United States will look like in 2025. The book is called The Next Boom by Jack Plunkett (BizExecs Press, 2010).
In the book, Plunkett predicts that we will add 40 million people to the United States population in the next 15 years. He predicts a greater presence of engineers and scientists in countries such as China, India, and Brazil. And, he believes we will see a rise in the production of goods and services from markets in Southeast Asia and Africa.
I remember how much I loved to present synopses in 1999-2000 of The Long Boom by Peter Schwartz, Peter Leyden, and Joel Hyatt (Perseus Books, 1999). I have to admit that it really feels good to read about a prosperous future.
But what a crash when that future is not fulfilled! The “long boom” wasn’t very long. The “next boom” may never bloom, or boom.
Speaking only for myself, I am not willing to take the risk. Needless to say, I won’t be reading this one or presenting it at our synopsis. I’ve crashed once too often about unfulfilled futures.
But that is just me. What about you? Do you like reading about the future?
Let’s talk about it!
A recent book by Joel Kotkin that is receiving critical acclaim is entitled The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050 (Penguin Press, 2010). You can read two reviews of the book below and decide if it sparks enough interest for you to read it. I have chosen not to do so, and of course, it will not be featured at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
I enjoy being upbeat and optimistic. I like sunny forecasts. But, this is a genre of books that I find myself increasingly uninterested in. My major reason for doing so is that the future is difficult to predict, and very few who try to do so in writing ever get it right.
I guess I lost my enthusiasm for this type of book with The Long Boom: A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity by Peter Schwartz, Peter Layden, and Joel Hyatt (Basic Books, 2000). When I read and presented this book, I was pretty excited about its content. Ten years later, we can see that the impact better leads to a different title: the short boom. All the predictions were fun to read and energizing to visualize. But, much of what we read there just did not materialize.
Admittedly, books that predict the future are difficult to write. There is certainly a skill in examining trends and patterns, then using sign reasoning to leap forward to visualize another time and place. There are plenty of people who get energized by these titles. I just happen not to be one of them.
I remember the old phrase, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.” Unfortunately, writing about it does not create it. It simply writes about it. They write. We buy. Then, we get let down.
I want to be clear. I am not criticizing Kotkin’s book. I haven’t read it. I don’t plan to. I can’t criticize a book that I haven’t read. All my best to him for his success with the book. I think that there will continue to be enough interested readers to keep it on the best-seller list for awhile.
You can make up your own mind about what you think of this genre of books.
After you read the reviews below, let’s talk about it.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Occasionally, someone asks me what book I consider as unforgettable. Like everyone, I have a few. To qualify as unforgettable, I do not believe a book must have made some immediate great impact. Those type of books typically hit the market with a splash, then peter out as someone pens a newer, fancier, and trendier concept. And so the cycle goes. Consider the fate of Megatrends, The Long Boom, and similar titles.
In my view, what makes a book unforgettable is its continued relevance. A book must provide timeless messages that guide, inspire, or serve as a reference across many situations. Certainly, the Holy Bible qualifies as one of the best. You may consider Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People as another.
One of my votes goes to Communicating and Organizing by Farace, Monge, and Russell (Addison Wesley, 1977). This book descibes how dynamic communicating works as a dynamic process. Notice it is not one of the many books on “communication in organizations.” The book is not a snapshot of a static event. This book describes the process of organizing, viewing communicating as the vehicle to do so.
The book presents three kinds of communication challenges: (1) overload / underload, (2) agreement and accuracy about communcation rules that govern interaction among incumbents, and (3) message distribution networks. As I re-read portions of this book last night, I was reminded how innovative and courageous this book is. At the time the authors created it, you would find many “stock” topics in such a book, including authority and hierarchy, small groups, meeting facilitation, Theory X and Y, and many other subjects that were lifeless and shopworn. Even so, these topics continue to find their way into business communication books 33 years later. Today, they are even more lifeless and shopworn, but they remain popular because they are safe. I can read this book today and I find nothing out-of-date about it at all.
I want to thank Teri Albrecht for introducing me to this book. Back in 1978, she was an inspiration and model for me. I have not seen or spoken with her for many years. I do not know where she is. But, as this book makes clear, communicating and organizing are timeless endeavors. Who knows – these very words may soon find their way to her. Why? Because Communicating and Organizing is unforgettable.