Book of the Future has been a business with a long gestation period. For the first seven years or so it was just a blog: something that sat alongside my ‘real’ work. I’m not sure I ever considered it might be a business in its own right.
In the six months since it became my full time job it has evolved dramatically as I have tried to develop a scalable, sustainable business model. That model is now firming up into a distinct set of products and processes and a better defined approach to the tricky business of futurism.
This post is my first attempt to document it all in one place before I go and write/rewrite elements of the website to make it all coherent. So if you’re interested in how a futurist gets paid, how Book of the Future differentiates, and how I plan to scale this business from just me to the ambitious ‘we’ of the title, read on.
The Futurist’s Conundrum
There’s a reason your school careers advisor didn’t suggest gambling as a profession. Think about a horse race. You have a limited number of options as to who can win. You have loads of evidence about the relative capabilities of each horse. And you even have professional bookmakers giving you odds on which one will be fastest over the course.
And yet, even with these limited variables, it is impossible to predict the outcome with sufficient clarity to make a regular living.
Now think about predicting the future in the wider sense. Consider the vast array of variables and actors. Predicting the future is like betting on a horse race with 8 billion participants and no defined course, let alone a start or finish line.
It’s no wonder the track record of those that try to forecast the future is pretty poor.
But it is infinitely better than the success rate of those that don’t even try.
Because the futurist’s conundrum is this: if you don’t at least try to predict the future, you are guaranteed to fail. Call it good planning or call it futurism, few would disagree that one of the most important characteristics of any good, sustainable business is the ability to anticipate change and be ready to deal with it.
So with the conundrum in mind, what’s the solution? I call it Applied Futurism*.
The reality is that there’s lots of ‘futurism’ out there because everyone likes to make predictions, be they industry analysts, investors, journalists, product manufacturers, service providers — whatever. Every person on this planet is making predictions about the future, every day, some with more rigour than others.
The first stage of Applied Futurism is collating and absorbing as many relevant sources as we feasibly can around a specific topic.
Stage two is about pattern recognition: how do all of these disparate evidence sources come together. Can we pull all the strands together into recognisable trends?
Stage three is about presentation: can we distil all of the identified trends and data we have collected down into a consumable package. Whether it be seminar, workshop, blog post or eBook we try to restrict it to five key trends.
So far we have applied this methodology — successfully — to presentations and eBooks on subjects from education to transport, and from retail to management.
Futurism and Forecasting
Trying to make accurate predictions of the future is fun, and we will continue to do it for that reason. But I don’t believe in determinism. As Sarah Connor said, “The future’s not set.” The point of this practice is to help organisations and individuals understand how the world is changing today, and respond to those changes. Rather than predicting the future, we want to help you shape it.
So that’s what Book of the Future is about. Applied Futurism means taking the evidence at hand, distilling it into a consumable form, then working with you to help you respond. It’s about educating, informing and inspiring. And we’ll do it through publishing, broadcasting, public speaking, consulting and more.
To date clients have included the BBC, Sony Pictures, Mediacom North, The Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Institute of Leadership and Management, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce and Daisy Telecom.
We’re on the lookout for new clients. Could we liven up your conference or event? Get your staff primed for innovation? Create a new source of engaging content for your campaigns? Then give us a call.
*Kudos goes to Stewart Aitken for coming up with the term ‘Applied Futurism’, as well as creating a brilliant brand that I abuse daily.