Leaders Make the Future

I've read probably hundreds of books on leadership and management now and you come to expect that many of them will cover common ground. That's OK. Different people are reached by different messages in different styles. What I found off about this book is that its primarily mission seemed to be to trumpet the awful future that was fast encroaching unless we follow HIS suggestions - which he then doesn't provide.

Author Bob Johansen has worked for decades as a futurist, evaluating what the world holds for us. He feels this world is dangerous and scary, - a VUCA world, meaning Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous. He has some relevant if not fairly obvious comments on that. We need to make decisions for both now and the future. Good enough. We should love what we do and be energized by it. Sure thing. But that's about all that we get that is really useful.

We hear that people often have migrations and that they can be "good" or "evil". Wait, evil migrations? That's a fairly strong word. He seems obsessed by "makers" and how critical they are, with the "Maker Faire" and the magazines they read. That's fine, but rather than raving for the tenth time about this fantastic conference, how about providing real life help for people to cultivate their "maker" abilities where they are now?

Johansen wants us to look at dilemmas - issues we cannot solve - to find ways to make them into opportunities. But he doesn't provide practical ideas on how to do that. He provides a fluffy example or two and then is off forecasting a doom-and-gloom future again where everybody feels hopeless. I'm sorry, but I don't feel hopeless.

He manages to ostracize just about every group along the way. Fundamentalists are too rigid to think well. So are atheists. However agnostics are too wishy-washy and can't make decisions. That undoubtedly leaves his own religious group as the clear thinkers.

The only real recommendations we get are to:

* eat locally
* have an open mind
* be transparent

Thanks, I'm not sure that is new to anybody, but what are the suggestions for *how* to do those things? We get meandering stories and alarmist language that convinces us we will ALL DIE!!! if we don't do something - but he isn't there to suggest what. Maybe we should "rapid prototype" or "social network" - but beyond tossing around the catch-words, Johansen doesn't offer much practical advice to leaders about how to implement or even begin to work on those areas.

Perhaps most amusingly he talks about BP as a "soft target" environmentally and how they might draw some flak for claiming to be so environmentally sound. What?? That area of the book definitely needs some updating.

How could a new version of this book be improved? First, lose the alarmist language. We've been hearing about the End of the World every decade and it's unlikely this will be the one. We can focus on the future without being worried about a health catastrophe. Next, cut back on the endless stories about makers and provide something useful. The end-of-book self evaluation was too little, too late. Instead of that quick "how do you rate yourself" blurb, why not make that more meaningful, with a full self evaluation at the end of each chapter and direct advice on how to build up those skills.

I'm all for helping leaders think about the future. I think that is a critical task. However, I think this book is too full of fluff and side-stories which do not help to make that progression in a meaningful way.

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