October 15, 2012


Filed under: Business,Coaching,Futures — by xrematon @ 8:37 pm
Tags: ,

Last month, I went to my first ever book launch of a good friend and ex-work colleague. This was very exciting in itself, but made even more so by the fact I was quoted in the volume. Tamar Kasriel, founder of Futureal, a consultancy which assists businesses shape their commercial strategies based on an understanding of future change, has written a volume which brings together two areas of expertise close to my own heart: scenario planning and personal planning/ coaching. Futurescaping is described as ‘an engaging guide to make better life decisions by adapting the best elements of business planning for personal success.’

It is a book which has no clear ‘home’: it’s about the tactics companies use, which suggests it should be in the business books section, but its purpose is to help people make better personal decisions, which tips it into the self-help section. It’s an intriguing identity crisis and one which reinforces a key argument of the book – namely that people who are successful in their professional lives rarely apply the same rigour to their personal lives – personal and professional spheres don’t mix very well.

As someone who generally much prefers reading fiction, Futurescaping was far more entertaining than I expected, due to Tamar’s dry humour, her eclectic selection of quotes and masterful command of the diverse topics. Rather than review or summarise the contents, let me make four observations.

  1. I learnt a new word: ‘eustress’ which is a counterpoint to ‘distress’ and a far more elegant way of saying ‘I got a kick out of sorting that mess.’
  2. The idea that we should wish to plan our lives is a rather Western way of thinking; I would be intrigued to see if the strategies and tactics described in Futurescaping could be applied in contexts where thinking is less teleological and structured. I worked in India for a year and it took me a while to get used to the far more fluid way of doing things there.
  3. Tamar recognises that there are limits to the type of decisions for which scenario planning can be used. ‘It is not suitable for questions which are wholly dependent on emotional impulses or philosophical differences.’ It works for decisions which require practical and rational evaluation. This makes me think about the value of fiction as a way of exploring the non-rational. In novels, we can get into someone’s head and it gives us an opportunity to see what it would be like to go through that situation. A recent article in the New York Times described recent neuroscience research which shows that reading evocative descriptions stimulates not just the language-processing areas of our brains, but also those devoted to dealing with senses.
  4. The idea that exploring the future can help you toughen up is very powerful – as articulated in a quote from an interview with Daniel Kahneman, behavioural economist. ‘One of the things that thinking deeply can do, even if it doesn’t lead to better decisions, is inoculate you against regret.’ I like the idea that what I might think of as worrying and turning over an idea endlessly in my mind is actually a good thing – a defence mechanism about any future ‘wimping out’.

Enough of this chat – it’s time for action. I am off to do some futurescaping on myself. I have post-its, big sheets of paper and coloured pens at the ready.


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