How to Find Certainty in an Uncertain World
Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading futurists on global trends and innovation. The New York Times has referred to him as one of the top three business gurus in the highest demand as a speaker.
He is a strategic advisor to executives from Fortune 500 companies, helping them to develop game-changing strategies based on his proven methodologies for capitalizing on technology innovations and their future impact. His client list includes companies such as Microsoft, GE, American Express, Google, Toshiba, Procter & Gamble, Honda, and IBM.
He is the author of six books, including The New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-seller Flash Foresight: How To See The Invisible and Do The Impossible, as well as the international best-seller Technotrends.
He has been the featured subject of several PBS television specials and has appeared on programs such as CNN, Fox Business, and Bloomberg, and is quoted in a variety of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Fortune, and Forbes.
He has founded six businesses, three of which were national leaders in the United States in the first year. He is the CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients profit from technological, social and business forces that are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities.
His accurate predictions date back to the early 1980s where he became the first and only futurist to accurately identify the twenty technologies that would become the driving force of business and economic change for decades to come. Since then, he has continued to establish a worldwide reputation for his exceptional record of predicting the future of technology driven change and its direct impact on the business world.
Daniel Burrus: We live in an amazingly uncertain world. What’s going to happen with Europe? What’s going to happen with our economy? What’s going to happen with sales the next six months? Will China be strong? Will you be strong? What'll happen with housing? The problem with the uncertainty is it keeps you frozen. It doesn't let you move forward. It doesn't give you any confidence. So in an uncertain world, I have to ask myself, “What am I certain about? Am I certain of nothing?”
And the answer is you can be certain about so much, it’s unbelievable. For example, right now it’s winter. I’m certain it'll be spring followed by summer. By the way, I had that certainty because there is a science of cycles; there’s over 300 known cycles - weather cycles, business cycles, biological cycles, that give you a complete handle and accurate forecast of the future.
As a matter of fact economists have been trained in the science of cycles. But if you noticed the economists have been really wrong lately. Why have they been so wrong? They’re using the science of cycles. After all, Warren Buffett is the richest guy in the world because of the science of cycles. He knows when the stock market goes up; he’s going to sell and when it goes down he’s going to buy, which is probably the opposite of most other people. That’s why he’s rich.
So, is there another kind of change, you have to ask yourself. And the answer is yes. And I call it linear change. Unlike cyclical change, when linear change hits we’re not going back. Once you got a smartphone, you're not going back to a dumb phone. Once the people in China parked their bicycle and get a car, they're not going to say, gee, lets get rid of the car and go back to the bike. Once people in India get refrigeration for their homes, they’re not going to say we don’t need refrigeration. Now these are one way - they’re not cycles - one-way linear changes that had profound and amazingly predictable consequences.
So in a world of uncertainty, I have to ask am I certain of anything and create a list of certainty. The reason is because strategy based on uncertainty has high risk. Strategy based on certainty has low risk and high reward. So we are bombarded with all of this uncertainty. Create a list of things that you can be absolutely certain about. Lets give you a technological certainty as a good example. Let’s take the iPhone. How about the next iPhone? I know we just got our new one but what about the next one? Could you say anything about that? Do you know anything about that? Hey, no one’s left that in the bar lately.
And the answer is, you know all about the next iPhone. For example, will it have a faster processing chip in it than the current one? And the answer is of course it will. Are you certain? Yeah, been doing that with technology for 40 years; it’s call Moore’s law. We have 3G wireless now; we're getting 4G wireless. Is that it? Or might you be able to predict what they’ll call the next one? The answer is, of course; it'll be 5G, followed by 6G. I’ve been tracking that out for over 30 years.
It’s fully predictable on a curve. You can just see it right there. And can we get more in that device or is it full? Can’t get anymore? And the answer is of course, we can store more in that device; it’s on a similar curve to Moore’s law going up like this. Very predictable. So if you look at all the things that you can be certain about, you will find amazing possibilities and amazing opportunities as you look at the future.
Spend an hour a week unplugging from the present. Yeah, why? Because it's more related to your past than your future. You know there's a reason your windshield is bigger than your rearview mirror. Hey, let's start looking ahead a little bit. The more you look, the more you see. The future is more visible than you might expect. Make a list, not of the things you’re uncertain about, but the things you are certain about. First of all, the cycles. What are the cycles that we know? What are the cycles, the sales cycles, the business cycles.
By the way if there’s a sales cycle, hint don’t abide by it. I always go the opposite of the sale cycle because I want to have the deal closed before the cycle begins, but that just me. Anyway take a look at the cycles. Make a list of those things. We know when Father’s Day will be, we know when Christmas will be, we know when the next **** will be. Makes list of all the things that you know and look at the problems and predictable opportunities.
Secondly, look at the certainties of linear changes. What are those major linear changes that are taking place right now? And make sure you notice them and pay attention to them. For example, your main computer is becoming what? It’s your smartphone. And just recently the Chinese have been able to make a smartphone at the same cost as a dumb phone. Why would you want to make dumb phones, when a smart phone is Internet, it’s a camera, it’s photography, it’s television, it’s radio? These are profound linear changes. Make a list and then look for opportunities and put your business strategy against those certainty lists and you’ll find low risk and high reward.
Daniel Burrus says there are clear ways to predict the future in an uncertain world. You need to unplug yourself from the present and look at examples of linear change -- things that will not go backward and will definitely happen in the future.
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- The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.