The Business of Discovering the Future


Joel Arthur Barker



  • Excellence is at the base of success in the 21st Century. If you don't have the components of excellence then you don't even get to play in the game.
  • Innovation lets you gain the competitive edge.
  • Anticipation provides the info you need to be in the right place at the right time.
  • Guts Don't forget guts. You need them to go out on the limb. I added this one.
    This triad allows you to anticipate your customer's needs, innovate the product to fulfill need, and to produce the product with excellence.
    This book is about anticipation and innovation.

    Chapter 1

    Watching for the Future The Future is where our greatest leverage is outlines how the Swiss, watch makers supreme, did not anticipate the demise of mainsprings and such for the battery and electronics as espoused by the Japanese. This is Paradigm Shift. The irony is that the Swiss were the ones who introduced electronic quartz and let it go. Hopefully we learn from the past, the present is too slim in which to act, it is with the future we must prepare.

    Chapter 2

    The Importance of Anticipation You can and should shape your own future. Because, if you don't, someone else surely will outlines the emergence of Future Studies with the likes of Toffler's Future Shock and the emergence of the think tanks at RAND, SRI, Hudson and others. Political and social unrest in the 70's brought the field of future study from scholarly rooms to us, the global community. He divides the study into two fields: content futurism and process futurism. A content futurist specializes in an area of info about the future. Process futurism deals with how to think about the "whats." Process futurists teach how to manipulate the info. Fishing for the Future Large list of examples of Paradigm shifts see pages 22-24. Cyber English is a paradigm shift.
    The question is what if you had known about these changes or could have known about them? I WOULD ADD GUTS TO DO IT. HECK PEOPLE ALWAYS COME UP WITH IDEAS, BUT THEY OR OTHERS ARE TOO AFRAID TO ACT ON IT. Changes in rules trigger trends. See chart page 27. Concentrate on problem avoidance and anticipation and less on problem solving and Reaction. Theory is if you anticipate the problem before it happens you won't have to react. This is seen in insurance policies, pension funds. Good anticipation is the product of good exploration. Know the landscape what is possible. Five (5) components to strategic exploration
    Influence understanding: to understand what influences your perceptions
    Divergent thinking: thinking skills to discover more than one answer.
    Convergent thinking: thinking skills to focus integrated data and prioritized choices.
    Mapping: draw pathways to get from present to fu- ture.
    Imaging: to picture words or drawings or models of the future as found in exploration.

    The most important element of anticipation is artistic.

    Chapter 3

    Defining a Paradigm It's twenty cents, isn't it?" does as the title suggests, defines the word: paradigm. From the Greek it means: model, pattern, example. Following are definitions from various books since 1962.
    Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions said that scientific paradigms are "accepted examples of actual scientific practice, examples which include law, theory, applica- tion, and instrumentation together."
    Adam Smith's Powers of the Mind defines it as how we perceive the world, water to fish. The paradigm explains the world to us and helps us predict its behavior. "When we are in the middle of a paradigm, it is hard to imagine any other paradigm."
    Willis Harmon's An Incomplete Guide to the Future says a paradigm is the basic way of perceiving, thinking, valuing, and doing.
    Thus: a paradigm is a set of rules and regulations that does two things: (1) it establishes and defines boundaries; and (2) it tells you how to behave inside those boundaries to be successful.
    Words that represent subsets of the paradigm concept: theory, model, methodology, principles, standards, protocol, routines, assumptions, conventions, patterns, habits, common sense, conven- tional wisdom, mind-set, values, frames of reference, traditions, customs, prejudices, idealogy, inhibitions, superstitions, rituals, compulsions, addictions, doctrine, dogma.
    Words like culture, organization, worldview, business, education? did not appear because they are forests of paradigms.
    A paradigm shift is a change to a new game, a new set of rules.
    Questions arise but key is "what instigated the change in the first place?" Trend toward decentralization? to change the rules? Watch for people messing with the rules.
    When the rules change the whole world can change.
    Four questions about paradigms:
    1. When do new paradigms appear? it is about timing. If we know when rules change then we can anticipate. See Chapter 4
    2. What kind of person is a paradigm shifter? the folks who change the rules. See Chapter 5
    3. Who are the early followers of the paradigm shifters and why do they follow them? pioneers, bring the critical mass of brainpower and effort. See Chapter 6
    4. How does a paradigm shift affect those who go through it? this is crucial. Why is there so much resistance to change? This explains gulf betwixt old and new paradigm shifters. See Chapter 7

    These questions are key to identifying paradigm Principles.

    Chapter 4

    When do New Paradigms Appear? Gee! Maybe I've got something here!" begins with a graph of the lifespan of a paradigm. X axis = Time and Y axis = Problems Solved. "Exemplars are models used to solve a whole array of problems. The line begins above zero since some problems are solved and represent the start. Moving in a slight slope, A Phase begins. Problems are being solved as boundaries are being understood. B Phase indicates increase in problems being solved in shorter time. This is the "good times" phase. C Phase sees a slowing in problem solving. Reason is that simple problems are solved quickly, harder problems take longer and get shelved. This is the Paradigm Curve. Not to be confused with the "Funky Chicken." Classic S curve: slow in phase A because we don't know the rules, fast in phase B because we know how to play the game, and slow again in phase C because we have left difficult problems.
    Question: where will the paradigm shift occur? Logic says in Phase C, but Noooooooo! Try Phase B! "The new paradigm appears sooner than it is needed" or "Sooner than it is wanted."

    What Causes a paradigm to Shift?
    Because we aren't solving 100% of the problems we will eventually have to change our tact to solve them. So:
    Reason 1: We lack some technology or tool that would allow us to be able to solve the problem.
    Reason 2: We're not smart enough yet. "no court sense"
    Problems that can be solved with existing paradigms will and those that can't will be shelved. How are the shelved problems solved? New Paradigms. Every paradigm will in the process uncover problems it cannot solve. And those unsolvable problems provide the catalyst for triggering the paradigm shift. Each paradigm beacons the next paradigm. When things are good we should begin to identify the new paradigm. Ask yourself: In my own specialty or field of expertise, what are the problems that all of my peers want to solve and we don't have the slightest idea of how to do it? Write them down. The seeds of succession are sown and begin to germinate even while the prevailing paradigm is still vigorous. Analogies: A parent has a child in his/her prime. the child is the new paradigm. In publishing: while one issue is put to bed another is in full writing mode while a third is just beginning.
    Return to Chapter 3

    Chapter 5

    Who Changes the Paradigm? Where are the wild ducks when we need them? deals with the fact that we know the new paradigm is going to be solved by unsolved problems. The new one will emerge as the old one is going strong. So who's responsible? An Outsider. And people respond to outsiders. Nothing i job description says change. So who are the four cowboys:
    1. A young person fresh out of training In showing the trainee we discover that we are better at it because of practice.
    2. An older person shifting fields Success transfers, sometimes.
      These two categories are successful because they bring naïveté and they don't know what can't be done. They ask "dumb" questions, they probe with fresh eyes, they wonder. When training the newcomers give them some of the shelved problems. They will not do it the "correct" way since they don't know the current paradigm. Bingo, new paradigm.
    3. The Maverick is an insider, one who has knowledge of the paradigm but is not captured by it.
    4. The Tinkerer plays around and keeps fiddling.
    All rare, precious, hard to find. If only they would listen. To accept the new you have to abandon the old and this is hard. Be open minded.
    Return to Chapter 3

    Chapter 6

    Who are the Paradigm Pioneers? Is it safe out there? The pioneer takes the risk. Once the paradigm is discovered the pioneer will trek. Pioneers bring the brains, brawn, time, effort,,and capital. Even after a shift has been determined to be needed, little movement occurs. The pioneer must act alone or in the face of contradictions. Intuitive judge- ment in the face of incomplete data, on faith. Pioneers use more heart than head. Pioneers may risk everything on the new paradigm. Frustration of the old may be a catalyst. They see the big picture or can project. Here's the GUTS I spoke of earlier. So the pioneer must have the courage as well as the intuition.
    The Leverage of Pioneering
    You may not be the first, but if you are listening you can act and enjoy. Get in early and stay the course is key to successful paradigm shifting. See the Japanese (79-80). Kaizen Japanese which means to make small improvements every day. being a pioneer and kaizen means you never give the settler an even break. You are always on top. If you wait for the facts then you are a settler.
    Return to Chapter 3

    Chapter 7

    What is the Paradigm Effect? The scales have fallen from my eyes discusses how we see the world through our paradigms. What may be perfectly clear and visible to one person is invisible to another because of differing paradigms. This is the Paradigm Effect. One paradigm blinds you, deafens you etc to other possibilities and other paradigms. Old paradigms block ability to view new paradigms. New paradigms must get through filters of old. Paradigms can trap us into seeing the world in only one way; and how wrong experts can be because of that entrapment. Paradigms give a particular perspective and depending on ones perspective determines ones vision. What is obvious to one is not to another. Paradigm-enhancing innovations are easy to see, but paradigm-shifting innovations blind us because they don't follow our paradigm. It just means we must trust others or put ours aside so we can see theirs. This is hard.
    Return to Chapter 3

    Chapter 8

    Twenty-two Examples more or less illus- trates this idea of paradigm shifts to show how the outsider, inability of insiders to understand, powerful perceptual influence, and birth of new paradigms can be perceived.

    In a group of accountants, Barker asked them to add up a column of numbers in quickly in your head:

    95% of the people get 5000, which is wrong. Answer is 4100. The point is the accountants chose 5000 as the answer. This is a good example of the power of group practicing the same paradigm, erring together and not being able to admit the error for fear of disagreeing with the majority.

    Then the square to the diamond to make it twice as large. page 96- 98.

    Our current paradigms let us filter out noise, or fit certain ideas to meet our expectations.

    In Vision Askew subjects put on goggles which turned everything upside down. Within time all was normal because they adjusted. This is an example of changing the data to fix the rules.

    In Budweiser Beer Can'ts shows us an example of "we see things as we know them to be." Color doesn't resister at certain depths in H2O, but divers report that they see the color because they "know it to be that color."

    In A Tasteless Tale speaks of a lady who had a tumour removed from her brain. The part of the brain removed affected taste. However she continued to taste food. This was because she used old data to provide the sensation. Here is the power of expectations.

    In The Chess Masters demonstrates that when we work within our expertise we are great but outside we fail. # masters and 3 novices looked at a chess board in mid game for 5 seconds. The masters reproduced the board o a blank with 81% accuracy while the novices only 33% accuracy. Then the board was set up randomly by computer not adhering to the rules of chess. Masters did more poorly than the novices. this was so because the masters used their knowledge of chess to understand the real game whereas the random game had no points of relevancy.

    In The Riverboat Pilot we see how one person looks at the same picture differently from another. The friend sees it as beautiful and the pilot sees the river as dangerous.

    In Dinosaur Deaths we find a scientist from one field bringing to light the demise of the dinosaurs. At first some questioned how dare he suggest to us.... Sounds like educators about non educators...

    In Superconductors ceramics became the key and an error by an inexperienced worker created a new paradigm.

    In Staying after school an inexperienced salesperson did it differently, he visited principals at home where they were less busy.

    In House to house selling a success business practice in one field led to success in another.

    In Measuring Right, Measuring Wrong is the story of the CD player. Japan had developed one in a 12"model, whereas Phillips in Netherlands had developed a smaller model. Here is an example of how a company was thinking in one way didn't see another way. japan was stopped i one paradigm: boundary.

    In A steal of a steel illustrates how an idea thought to be impossible was in fact possible and became the norm.

    In Bagging It explores how someone good in his paradigm approached another industry as was told to take a hike. As it turned out the air bag was created by explosives experts.

    In New Photography is about a missed opportunity. A photography company didn't see the advantages of photo-copying, Xerox.

    In The Human-powered Airplane was developed because someone was not caught in the paradigm of aeronautical engineering. Thus the Gossamer Condor and the Gossamer Albatross were born.

    In Chernobyl Blindness is an example of not being able to see beyond ones paradigm.

    In conclusion the question arose: What does one have to do to be successful in a white male society?

    Chapter 9

    The Most Important Paradigm Shift of the Twentieth Century Without caring there can be no quality. Made In Japan in 1962 vs Made in Japan in 1990. Why? Moved from capacity-driven to customer-driven. Total Quality Paradigm.
    Increased Innovation in Total Quality TQ asks to be better tomorrow than you were today. Kaizen. Since the CEO was never in his office, always moving the employees knew they would run into him and had to be prepared.

    Self-Management is most democratic and is constructivism. Worker defined and run. Most efficient.

    The Return of Artistry and craftsmanship was started by the Greeks who did not separate art from technology. The root word of technology is techne which means art. When you put the onus on the worker to take pride and to be responsible for their own space then they really produce. Constructivism!!! Without caring there is no quality.

    The Return of Spirit to the Workplace was a cornerstone to TQ. The quickest way to kill human spirit is to ask someone to do mediocre work. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek and means "filled with the spirit of God." So TQ = do it right the first time, do it better tomorrow than you did it today. To not quest for excellence might be considered sacrilege. The quest for excellence opens up the quest for innovation which leads to anticipation.


    Going Back to Zero What is impossible to do, but if it could be done, would fundamentally change your business? switches from examples to lessons. When a paradigm shifts everyone goes back to zero. Apple's entrance changed the IBM paradigm. But then that is the IBM paradigm, adapt to the new and do it better. Do the impossible. Impossible is a boundary word. Spot the changes early and you will be part of the paradigm shift.

    Chapter 11

    Key Characteristics of Paradigms I'll see it when I believe it." draws some conclusions about paradigms. Seven characteristics are important:
    1. Paradigms are common in that they give the practitioner the vision. One change in one rule does not make for a paradigm shift.
    2. Paradigms are functional they are necessary, they are the rules. Mixing of paradigms gives us diversity which lets us deal with the complexity around us.
    3. The Paradigm effect reverses the commonsense relationship between seeing and believing reverses the idea of "I'll believe it when I see it." The "ah ha" factor, constructivism.
    4. There is almost always more than one right answer allows for more perspectives. Two people see the same thing two different ways.
    5. Paradigms too strongly held can lead to Paradigm paralysis, a terminal disease of certainty as one simply rests on ones successes or laurels. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Nothing is impossible.
    6. Paradigm pliancy is the best strategy in turbulent times means you should always seek to solve the impossible. If the old paradigm does not work make a new one. When your paradigm is challenged ask for further explanation.
    7. Human beings can choose to change their paradigms which means we must be quiet and listen.

    Chapter 12

    Managers, Leaders, and Paradigms You lead between paradigms speaks to managers and leaders.
    To managers:

    1. Managers must demonstrate paradigm pliancy if they are going to expect to practice it. Managers must allow and be willing to hear from their employees who step outside the box to solve a problem. If managers beat down ideas then nothing will get solved.
    2. Managers must facilitate and encourage cross talk means people of diverse backgrounds from diverse opinions sit together and talk. Especially people from different paradigm can be particularly good at helping get past another person's paradigm.
    3. By listening to all those screwy ideas, managers gain a special leverage for innovation because many screwy ideas may produce one good idea. Everything in 21st century will be hyphenated. Always be receptive, no one says you have to adopt the idea. Put idea 66 together with 48 and 3 and bingo a hyphenated idea. Managers are in a unique position because they hear all the ideas and can make connections.
    To leaders:
    A leader is a person you will follow to a place you wouldn't go by yourself. You manage within a paradigm, you lead between para- digms. Managers employ paradigm enhancement. This means you make the rules better. Paradigm shifting without follow-on skills leaves you vulnerable to pioneers who practice TQ. Paradigm enhancement without shifting leaves you lacklustre. You need both.
    1. Keep your paradigm; change your customer.
    2. Change your paradigm; keep your customer.
    3. Change your paradigm; change your customer.
    1. The manager administers; the leader innovates.
    2. The manager has a short-range view; the leader has a long-range perspective.
    3. The manager asks how and when; the leader asks what and why.
    4. The manager has his eye on the bottom line; the leader has his eye on the horizon.
    5. The manager accepts the status quo; the leader challenges it.
    Many times paradigm shifts are driven by people who take the leader's role when no one else will. Visionaries are not necessar- ily leaders. Most leaders are not visionaries. Some are vision- aries, some are leaders, some are managers, some are followers. Few are all four etc etc. This is why teams are crucial.

    Chapter 13

    Shifts for the 1990's - a Barker's Dozen And then again, maybe it could happen begins with a look at the trends begun in the 80's and then suggests shifts for the 90's.
    Trends for the 90's
    1. The regionalization of world economics rather than globalization. Western Europe is forming a unit to be joined by Eastern Europe. Canada, USA, and Mexico is another. Japan is trying to be in both while working Asia. This is not globalization, it is regionalism.
    2. The greening of industry sees a trend towards recycling.
    3. Quality Everywhere as in Total Quality.
    4. Celebration of diversity was triggered by better use of human resources. Variety is the greatest strength.
    5. Gambling instead of taxes may be dangerous. Hard work paradigms are replaced by luck and chance.
    6. The fiber optics everywhere is a shift in communica- tions. It is beneficial to all.
    7. Energy conservation optimized will be revisited in the 90's.
    8. National health care cost per problem is too high. Too many cannot afford health care. The wellness paradigm is waiting to happen.
    9. Self-managing work teams is connected to the Total Quality trend. It democratizes the workplace.
    10. Water as precious commodity.
    11. Biotechnology everywhere in agriculture, medicine, in education, and energy too.
    12. Intellectual property as the key to wealth sees doing more and more with less the key. Intellectual property must be protected.

    New Paradigms for the 1990's

    1. Solar/hydrogen/fission are the three which will change the energy equation. Solar @ 6¢ an hour makes it competitive with coal and nuclear. Windmills too are cost effective. With the photovoltaic cell solar energy is close. Hydrogen is a great fuel with H2O as the by-product. Fission is not dead. Past mistakes have provided new insight. Super safe reactors are being made. Sweden. Safe and it returns plutonium. Concept is that solar and conservation will be all we need in time.
    2. Time taxes is a revisiting of the barter system. In Colo seniors are doing duties in schools which don't require teachers. The money saved by educ transfers to the seniors taxes. In addition, kids are gaining a friend and link to a generation being lost in today's society. Workfare and other forms of bartering are possibilities to help folks from losing homes. Revisiting of the phrase: "Of the People, by the people, and for the people."
    3. The Buffalo Commons is a concept to return the land to its natural state and let the buffalo and other natural things evolve as they should. In the long run it is more economical and with new tools in this new paradigm money can be saved and the land can be harvested in a new way.
    4. Education K through competence encourages competency not just 18 and out with a mediocre educ. Clear boundaries. Compro- mises educ. In Minn people stay until competency is met, no cost to student, no cost to employer. New rules must go into effect.
    5. Magical, mystical polymers are developing electricity conductive plastics, better plastics, stronger plastics.
    6. Nature's wisdom relies on plants and animals as resources. Observing animals and birds heal themselves produces medicines for humans. Inter plant communications long documented.
    7. Negawatts is the concept of recycling energy and improving efficiency of existing energy users: lightbulbs, motors, technology. Utilities are employing conservation theories to create negawatts.
    8. New building materials will help Third World especially. Adobe houses built with sand and instead of drying it out they squeeze the water out. Uses all soil. Use of crust from ocean bottom has become a new boom.
    9. Gaia is the earth itself. Look at earth as if alien. Found that the mechanisms of the earth work in harmony. It is in line with the ecological thought.
    10. Loans to the third world poor has groups getting an indiv loan to guarantee its payback. Assists women particularly. Changes the rule and the world.
    11. Fractals & Chaos Mathematics is the math of nature. Fractals are the repetition of a pattern which eventually ... Our circulatory system is fractal, heart beats in fractals, water drips fractally, fractals are everywhere. Math lets us harness fractals.
    12. Personalized production marries one product per person and TQ. A concept, but being employed particularly in areas of the handicapped. Ways to lower cost have been reached. Like make your own computer.
    13. Masters and patrons borrowing from the past when artists had patrons. A form of bartering.
    14. Virtual reality in education for simulations, of science experiments, geography. For business to create new products, an architect,, car designer, travel.

    Chapter 14

    And so it goes No matter how much you study the future, it will always surprise you; but you needn't be dumbfounded! Kenneth Boulding. About Paradigms:
    1. Our perceptions of the world are strongly influenced by them.
    2. Because we become so good at using our present paradigms, we resist changing them.
    3. It is the outsider who usually creates new paradigms.
    4. Practitioners of the old paradigms who choose to change to the new paradigm early must do so as an act of faith rather than as the result of factual proof, because there will never be enough proof to be convincing in the early stages.
    5. Those who change to a successful new paradigm gain a new way of seeing the world and new approaches for solving problems as a result of the shift to the new rules.
    6. A new paradigm puts everyone back to zero, so practitioners of the old paradigm, who may have had great advantage, lose much or all of their leverage.
    7. In turbulent times practice paradigm pliancy.

    Follow principle of tolerance knowledge is limited. Paradigm paralysis occurs when a person can wield so much power, Hitler. Also occurs when so many say "it is impossible." Be tolerant to new ideas, to those suggesting new ideas, and towards people who see it differently are the keys.
    We learn more each day in this complex world. Time is key. With so much more to learn we have to be open.
    To accept paradigms you must have a an act of faith. Try it. problem solve to test it. Turbulence is caused by failure of old paradigms.
    How to recognize change:

    1. The established paradigm begins to be less effective.
    2. The affected community senses the situation, begins to lose trust in old rules.
    3. Turbulence grows as trust wanes.
    4. Creators or identifiers of new paradigms step forward.
    5. Turbulence increases as paradigm conflicts become apparent.
    6. Affected community is extremely upset and demands clear solutions.
    7. One of the suggested new paradigms demonstrates ability to solve a small set of significant problems that the old paradigm couldn't.
    8. Some of the affected community accepts the new paradigm as an act of faith.
    9. With stronger support and funding, the new paradigm gains momentum.
    10. Turbulence begins to wane as the new paradigm starts to solve problems and the community sees a new way to deal with the world.

    Certainly during turbulence many paradigms will crop up, the key is the snatch the right ones. It is a risk to accept a new para- digm.
    Trial Balloon day is a day when people come up with ideas without ridicule.
    Be open because folks will be doing things and saying things without time to explain.


    Take stock of your paradigms. job, family, morals, politics, religion, view of rest of world.
    List other people's paradigm, those with whom you disagree. then figure out how to find consensus.
    Finally read, read, read to be attuned with society. Pages 215-218 offer good suggestions.