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Using The Power of Certainty to Drive Growth in an Uncertain World
In times of unprecedented change and uncertainty, we need to ask ourselves what are we certain about?
In my latest book Flash Foresight, I share seven principles that can make invisible opportunities visible and one of my favorite principles is using the power of certainty.
In times of unprecedented change and uncertainty, we need to ask ourselves what are we certain about? Strategies based on uncertainty and hope equal high levels of risk. Strategies based on certainty dramatically reduce risk and produce superior results.
Let me give you some examples of certainty. As I write this article it is winter in the northern hemisphere. Next will be spring followed by summer and yes I am certain of that! Why? There is a science of cycles. There are over 300 known cycles - business cycles, biological cycles, weather cycles – that allow you to accurately anticipate the future.
Frankly, you understand cyclical change and use it often even if you are not consciously aware of it. Some use it better than others. Warren Buffet is a master of cyclical change buying when the stock market is down and when everyone else is selling, knowing that the market will go back up.
In today’s technology driven world of accelerated change, it is now important to understand another type of change because if you don’t notice it, your job, your business, and even the industry you are in can vanish in a short time leaving you holding the bag. I call it Linear Change, once this type of change happens, you will not go back. For example, when you get a smart phone, you will not go back to a dumb phone. When people in China park their bicycles and get a car, they will not go back to the bicycle. When people in India get refrigeration for their home, they will not go back. These are examples of one way, non-cyclical changes that are quite profound in their impact.
When is the last time you purchased something from Polaroid? Weren’t they in the instant photography business? Isn’t that what digital photography is – instant photography? Did someone hide digital technology from the company?
Looking at the last five years, what did GM, Lehman Brothers and all the millions of speculative homebuyers have in common? Four words – Didn’t See It Coming. Yet now in hindsight, all the signs were there in plane sight long before the fall. Hindsight only brings lament. You can never go back and change your past decisions and actions.
What if you could predict the challenges your organization will face and stop them from occurring? Short of having a reliable crystal ball, most people believe that’s impossible. In reality, you can solve tomorrow’s problems…today. It’s all a matter of learning how to identify the things you can be certain about. The following points will help you understand the power of certainty and use it to solve tomorrow’s problems before they occur so you can see the new opportunities change brings.
People don’t believe forecasts based on trends because they don’t trust trends. We think trends are like fads: here today, but for who knows how long? “Trends,” we say with a shrug. “Hey, sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t. It’s a crapshoot.”
But it’s not a crapshoot. The reason we typically don’t trust trends is that we haven’t learned how to make the distinction between what I call hard trends and soft trends.
A hard trend is a projection based on measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects. A soft trend is a projection based on statistics that have the appearance of being tangible, fully predictable facts. A hard trend is something that will happen: a future fact. A soft trend is something that might happen: a future maybe. If you don’t like a hard trend, too bad, you can’t change it. If you don’t like a soft trend, change it to your advantage. Both have value when separated!
This distinction completely changes how we view the future. Once we know the difference between hard trends and soft trends, we know where to find certainty—and the future suddenly becomes visible.
For example, let’s look at the three hard trends that are principally responsible for today’s dizzying rate of technological change.
Three Drivers of Our Accelerating Future
There is a law that has far more important impact on your company’s future than any tax code, environmental regulation or health insurance legislation. It’s called Moore’s law.
Originally coined to describe the rate of increase of number of transistors that could be packed onto an integrated circuit, Moore’s Law has come to describe the fact that computer processing power doubles about every eighteen months.
In English: our intelligent devices are going to grow more and more powerful and intelligent. Today’s typical smart phone packs more raw computing power under the hood than an Apollo rocket form the 1970s. That power-doubling trend forms a geometric curve that is just now hitting escape velocity.
There are two more such digital accelerators I first identified in 1983, both more powerful still. Digital bandwidth is increasing even faster than processing power in its passage from copper wire to fiber optics to new wireless networks. And digital storage capacity, both in your device as well as in the cloud, are surging ahead faster still. Leaps in photonics, crystal holography and nanotechnology are creating an explosion in fully searchable storage capacity with upward limits that defy comprehension.
The impact of these three accelerators—the enormous gains in power, miniaturization, product intelligence, interconnectivity, cloud services, mobility and a raft of other technological dimensions—will be felt in every industry, every corner of the globe, and every nook and cranny of society.
Those who see the predictable disruptions and opportunities coming will thrive; those who don’t will experience disruption and even collapse.
Examples? Back in the 1990s, while these three technological trends were making inevitable the rapid shift from analog to digital, Kodak (cameras) and Motorola (phones) both tried to hold onto the status quo. You know what happened. Blockbuster didn’t act on the leap to online video; Netflix did. The major record labels did not anticipate the power of online audio; iTunes did. YouTube claims more viewer-eyeball-minutes per day than the ten top shows on the Big Four television networks. The list goes on.
Anticipate and flourish; entrench and die.
Stop, Look and Listen
You know the old sign by the railroad tracks: Stop, Look Listen. It’s great advice for your organization.
Stop: As change accelerates and the pressure to keep up intensifies, the natural tendency is to try to speed up with it. But that strategy won’t work. Rather than try to speed up even more, we need to slow down, stop, and think.
Put aside all your current problems for a moment. Make the decision to devote a little time, on a regular basis, to become an anticipatory organization.
Look: Make a list of Cyclical and Linear changes you can see and ask yourself this question: “What are the problems I’m about to have?” What are the problems you are not having today, but will have in the next three to six months? The next one to three years? Those are the problems you need to solve.
Shift your focus from solving only today’s problems to solving tomorrow’s problems before they happen, so that you never have them in the first place. That is the only way you can possibly get ahead of the curve.
Listen: What is certainty telling you about those future problems and ways you might approach them? Listen to clues that might be lying just outside your range of vision. As you learn more about how to use certainty and foresight, solutions will start to appear to you almost the moment you look for them.
When I talk with clients about becoming anticipatory, they often say, “That sounds fascinating—but we don’t have time to sit around thinking about three years from now. We’re too busy dealing with what’s on our plates right now!”
Of course they’re too busy. We’re all too busy. There will never be a time when we’re not too busy—which is exactly why most of us keep flailing about in our uncertainties.
Practically speaking, nobody has time to explore the future. The only way it will happen is if you make time for it. Make an appointment; put it on the calendar. Start by taking one hour per week of your time. List the hard trends, the certainties you can count on and an opportunity each represents. You will find it to be time well spent!
ABOUT DANIEL BURRUSDaniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous untapped opportunities. He is the author of Flash Foresight (CLICK HERE to get your copy now).
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
In what is perhaps one of the weirdest experiments ever that comes from the category of "why did anyone need to know this?" scientists have proven that the Regimbartia attenuata beetle can climb out of a frog's butt after being eaten.
The research was carried out by Kobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura. His team found that the majority of beetles swallowed by black-spotted pond frogs (Pelophylax nigromaculatus) used in their experiment managed to escape about 6 hours after and were perfectly fine.
"Here, I report active escape of the aquatic beetle R. attenuata from the vents of five frog species via the digestive tract," writes Sugiura in a new paper, adding "although adult beetles were easily eaten by frogs, 90 percent of swallowed beetles were excreted within six hours after being eaten and, surprisingly, were still alive."
One bug even got out in as little as 7 minutes.
Sugiura also tried putting wax on the legs of some of the beetles, preventing them from moving. These ones were not able to make it out alive, taking from 38 to 150 hours to be digested.
Naturally, as anyone would upon encountering such a story, you're wondering where's the video. Thankfully, the scientists recorded the proceedings:
The Regimbartia attenuata beetle can be found in the tropics, especially as pests in fish hatcheries. It's not the only kind of creature that can survive being swallowed. A recent study showed that snake eels are able to burrow out of the stomachs of fish using their sharp tails, only to become stuck, die, and be mummified in the gut cavity. Scientists are calling the beetle's ability the first documented "active prey escape." Usually, such travelers through the digestive tract have particular adaptations that make it possible for them to withstand extreme pH and lack of oxygen. The researchers think the beetle's trick is in inducing the frog to open a so-called "vent" controlled by the sphincter muscle.
"Individuals were always excreted head first from the frog vent, suggesting that R. attenuata stimulates the hind gut, urging the frog to defecate," explains Sugiura.
For more information, check out the study published in Current Biology.
New research from the University of Granada found that stress could help determine sex.
Stress in the modern world is generally viewed as a hindrance to a healthy life.
Indeed, excess stress is associated with numerous problems, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, obesity, and other conditions. While the physiological mechanisms associated with stress can be beneficial, as Kelly McGonigal points out in The Upside of Stress, the modern wellness industry is built on the foundation of stress relief.
The effects of stress on pregnant mothers is another longstanding area of research. For example, what potential negative effects do elevated levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine have on fetal development?
A new study, published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, investigated a very specific aspect of stress on fetuses: does it affect sex? Their findings reveal that women with elevated stress are twice as likely to give birth to a girl.
For this research, the University of Granada scientists recorded the stress levels of 108 women before, during, and after conception. By testing cortisol concentration in their hair and subjecting the women to a variety of psychological tests, the researchers discovered that stress indeed influences sex. Specifically, stress made women twice as likely to deliver a baby girl.
The team points out that their research is consistent with other research that used saliva to show that stress resulted in a decreased likelihood of delivering a boy.
Maria Isabel Peralta RamírezPhoto courtesy of University of Granada
Lead author María Isabel Peralta Ramírez, a researcher at the UGR's Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment, says that prior research focused on stress levels leading up to and after birth. She was interested in stress's impact leading up to conception. She says:
"Specifically, our research group has shown in numerous publications how psychological stress in the mother generates a greater number of psychopathological symptoms during pregnancy: postpartum depression, a greater likelihood of assisted delivery, an increase in the time taken for lactation to commence (lactogenesis), or inferior neurodevelopment of the baby six months after birth."
While no conclusive evidence has been rendered, the research team believes that activation of the mother's endogenous stress system during conception sets the concentration of sex hormones that will be carried throughout development. As the team writes, "there is evidence that testosterone functions as a mechanism when determining the baby's sex, since the greater the prenatal stress levels, the higher the levels of female testosterone." Levels of paternal stress were not factored into this research.
Previous studies show that sperm carrying an X chromosome are better equipped to reach the egg under adverse conditions than sperm carrying the Y chromosome. Y fetuses also mature slowly and are more likely to produce complications than X fetuses. Peralta also noted that there might be more aborted male fetuses during times of early maternal stress, which would favor more girls being born under such circumstances.
In the future, Peralta and her team say an investigation into aborted fetuses should be undertaken. Right now, the research was limited to a small sample size that did not factor in a number of elements. Still, the team concludes, "the research presented here is pioneering to the extent that it links prenatal stress to the sex of newborns."
Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His most recent book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
What is the price of peace?
Or put another way, how much better off would we all be in a world where armed conflict was avoided?
To give some context, 689 million people - more than 9% of the world's population - live on less than $1.90 a day, according to World Bank figures, underscoring the potential impact peace-building activities could have.
Just over 10% of global GDP is being spent on containing, preventing and dealing with the consequences of violence. As well as the 1.4 million violent deaths each year, conflict holds back economic development, causes instability, widens inequality and erodes human capital.
Putting a price tag on peace and violence helps us see the disproportionately high amounts spent on creating and containing violent acts compared to what is spent on building resilient, productive, and peaceful societies.
—Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman, Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP)
The cost of violence
In a report titled "The Economic Value of Peace 2021", the IEP says that for every death from violent conflict, 40 times as many people are injured. The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
Grounds for hope
But the picture is not all bleak. The economic impact of violence fell for the second year in a row in 2019, as parts of the world became more peaceful.
The global cost dropped by $64 billion between 2018 and 2019, even though it was still $1.2 trillion higher than in 2012.
In five regions of the world the costs increased in 2019. The biggest jump was in Central America and the Caribbean, where a rising homicide rate pushed the cost up 8.3%.
Syria, with its ongoing civil war, suffered the greatest economic impact with almost 60% of its GDP lost to conflict in 2019. That was followed by Afghanistan (50%) and South Sudan (46%).
The report makes a direct link between peace and prosperity. It says that, since 2000, countries that have become more peaceful have averaged higher GDP growth than those which have become more violent.
"This differential is significant and represents a GDP per capita that is 30% larger when compounded over a 20-year period," the report says adding that peaceful countries also have substantially lower inflation and unemployment.
"Small improvements in peace can have substantial economic benefits," it adds. "For example, a 2% reduction in the global impact of violence is roughly equivalent to all overseas development aid in 2019."
Equally, the total value of foreign direct investment globally only offsets 10% of the economic impact of violence. Authoritarian regimes lost on average 11% of GDP to the costs of violence while in democracies the cost was just 4% of GDP.
And the gap has widened over time, with democracies reducing the cost of violence by almost 16% since 2007 while in authoritarian countries it has risen by 27% over the same period.
The report uses 18 economic indicators to evaluate the cost of violence. The top three are military spending (which was $5.9 trillion globally in 2019), the cost of internal security which makes up over a third of the total at $4.9 trillion and homicide.
Peace brings prosperity
The formula also contains a multiplier effect because as peace increases, money spent containing violence can instead be used on more productive activities which drive growth and generate higher monetary and social returns.
"Substantial economic improvements are linked to improvements in peace," says the report. "Therefore, government policies should be directed to improving peacefulness, especially in a COVID-19 environment where economic activity has been subdued."
The IEP says what it terms "positive peace" is even more beneficial than "negative peace" which is simply the absence of violence or the fear of violence. Positive peace involves fostering the attitudes, institutions & structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.
The foundations of a positively peaceful society, it says, are: a well functioning government, sound business environment, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbours, free flow of information, high levels of human capital, low levels of corruption and equitable distribution of resources.
The World Economic Forum's report Mobilizing the Private Sector in Peace and Reconciliation urged companies large and small to recognise their potential to work for peace quoting the former Goldman Sachs chair, the late Peter Sutherland, who said: "Business thrives where society thrives."
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.