Visionary's Handbook: Nine Paradoxes That Will Shape the Future of Your Business

Visionary's Handbook: Nine Paradoxes That Will Shape the Future of Your Business


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Building upon the Age of Possibility first espoused in their provocative and acclaimed The 500 Year Delta, Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor now welcome readers to the Age of Uncertainty, where, because life has never been easier, it has never been more difficult.

In this unprecedented new book, Wacker and Taylor present a vision of the present and future that goes beyond all the chaos and complexity of our times. With a clear and firm grasp of their material, they proceed to chart a method for readers to create a personal course for the future.

This navigational route is premised upon the authors' profound understanding of nine mind-boggling paradoxes that capture the imponderables of modern life, and define the business and social climates of the world as we move forward into the new millennium:

  • The Paradox of the Visionary The closer your vision gets to a provable truth, the more you are simply describing the present. In the same way, the more certain you are of a future outcome, the more likely you will be wrong.
  • The Paradox of Value The value of any product becomes inseparable from a buyer's perception of worth. Instead of intrinsic value, we have relative value only--the products that a business makes bear diminished relations to the physical content of the offering.
  • The Paradox of Size The bigger you are, the smaller you need to be.
  • The Paradox of Time To succeed in the short term, you need to think in the long term. Yet the greater your vision and the longer the time interval over which you predict results, the greater the risk that you will be unable to take the necessary steps in the short term to achieve the long-term goals. The tension between short- and long-term planning has never been more tormented.
  • The Paradox of Competition Your biggest competitor is your own view of your future; competition comes from everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
  • The Paradox of Action You've got to go for what you can't expect to get; nothing will turn out exactly as it's supposed to. You must act intuitively and be equally ready to take resolute counter-intuitive action.
  • The Paradox of Leadership To lead from the front, you have to stay inside the story. In an inherently inconsistent world, consistency is not the virtue it once was in our leaders.
  • The Paradox of Leisure Play is hard work; play and work are blending and becoming indistinguishable.
  • The Paradox of Reality Every person on planet Earth today has the potential to be connected to every other person, and every single one of us inhabits a world of our own and is a marketing segment of absolutely one. As our links become stronger, our individuation becomes starker.

A bold, incisive book, The Visionary's Handbook captures the interlocking web o paradoxes that abound in everyday business life, and provides an essential map to help make the future work for every individual and every company in the challenging and uncertain times ahead.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780066619880
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 07/31/2001
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.58(d)

About the Author

Watts Wacker FirstMatter LLC, a company bringing the future to corporations, and is the futurist at one of the nation's foremost think tanks.

Jim Taylor is a lecturer and consultant to cutting-edge companies.

Watts Wacker FirstMatter LLC, a company bringing the future to corporations, and is the futurist at one of the nation's foremost think tanks.

Jim Taylor is a lecturer and consultant to cutting-edge companies.

Howard Means is a novelist and senior editor of the Washingtonian.

Read an Excerpt

Welcome to the Age of Possibility.

Welcome to the first time in the history of the planet when you truly can choose what you want to be, what you want to do, what you want to know, and where you want to go.

Welcome to a world in which reality is whatever we make it, a world in which you both can and must immerse yourself in your own possibilities, a world in which you -- you the person, you the business, you the organization, you the government, and you the society -- can write your own story and walk into it and become whatever it is you imagine yourself becoming. Life has never been easier, and because it has never been easier, life has never been more hard.

Emancipated from group-think and collective fate, people have the capacity today as never before to claim their own futures and to shape those futures to suit completely idiosyncratic wants and needs. You really are free, and as all truly free people are, you really are responsible. Fail to build your own future, and someone is going to build one for you, whether you want it or not. Fail to bind all the disparately emerging futures within your organization -- be it company, school, government, or family -- to a shared set of goals, and its future will be forfeit, too.

Our job as consultants is to help top executives look into the future and prepare themselves for the paradoxical nature of the world they must learn to operate in -- the world that lies just around the corner and the world that is waiting decades down the road. Far more than that, though, our job is to introduce CEOs and their companies to the tools we use as visionaries so that they can become the custodians of their own destiny. No onecan predict the future, but no one afford to be unprepared to meet whatever does arrive.

We can do the same thing for you and for your business. We can give you the same tools and show you the same frames of mind you'll need to master, and instead of charging you the tens of thousands of dollars consultants charge the corporate top brass, you will have had to pony up only the price of this book. But to become your own visionary, you will need to help yourself along the way. You can begin that process right now by taking the pretest below, and you can enhance the value immensely by being utterly honest with yourself, on this test and on all the tests and "Future Exercises" that follow. It's your destiny, not ours, that you are pursuing, and the only person you finally have to please is yourself.

PretestTotal Test Time:4 Minutes

This test consists of four sections. In the chapters ahead, you'll have time to ponder all four sections in for greater depth. For now, go with your gut and take no more than sixty seconds to complete each one.

  • On a clean sheet of paper, freeze your reality at this precise moment in time and list all the things you are-not yesterday or tomorrow, but right now. This is your benchmark against which to measure future change.
  • On a second sheet of paper, declare a major in your future by listing all the things you will be. This is the reality you hope to invent.
  • For Section 3, start another list, your postulates about the future:"Things that have to be true in order for me to be what I will be." Fill the list out.
  • Finally, write at the top of a fresh sheet of paper "The following things mark me as a radical among my peers." Take no more than sixty seconds to list them all.

When you're through with the pretest, store your answers somewhere handy. We're going to ask you to complete a similar exercise at the end of this book, and comparing those answers to these should give you a good road map of the trip you've taken through these pages. For now, though, give yourself a good pat on the back because you've just attacked the four critical issues in becoming your own futurist:

  • You have to know who you are.
  • You have to know where you want to go.
  • You need to recognize your own seminal moments.
  • And you must have an attitude of insurgency.

For a visionary, these four principles are the beginning of knowledge. You might not get where you want to go by following them, but you can't control your destiny without them.

A New Grammar

In this book, we also explore what it means to live not in the past or the present or even in the future, but to live in a new grammar: the future expressed in the present tense, because this is where and how we must live today, with a foot in both tenses.

Just as important, we invite you to be our colleagues on this exploration, to find yourself and the story of your business in the stories we have to tell, and to write your own story as we tell ours. There are times we ask you to do that literally, as we have just done: times when we encourage you to take out a pencil and pad and work an exercise. We hope you also jot notes in the margins as you read along and that you constantly inject yourself and your company into the anecdotes we tell and the situations we describe.The more you choose to participate as you read along, the more you are likely to have produced an accidental diary of your own future by the time you come to our final page.

Table of Contents

I: The Paradox Of The Visionary
II: Paradoxes Of THe Everyday
1: The Paradox of Value
Box 1: The Brand Promise
2: The Paradox of Size
Box 2: What Color Is Your Disaster?
: The Paradox of Time
4: The Paradox of Competition
Box 3: Global Metaphors and Global Brands
5: The Paradox of Action
6: The Paradox of Leadership
Box 4: Governance, Patriotism, and Loyalty
7: The Paradox of Leisure

III: The Serial Future
IV: The Paradox of Reality


What People are Saying About This

Sally Helcesen

Highly original, full of insights, and lots of fun to read.
— (Sally Helcesen, author of The Web of lnclusion and The Female Advantage)

David S. Ford

The authors combine an intellectual thrust with old-fashioned, down home logic. There is a consistent theme within this book that urges you to become part of your own story; the style ensures that you become part of their story.
— (David S. Ford, chief executive, Gardner Merchant Food and Management Services)

Edward C. Emma

Watts Wacker's newest book, The Visionary's Handbook, contains the thoughts of an undeniably great thinker.
— (Edward C. Emma, president and COO, Jockey International, Inc.)

Christopher Forbes

Just the idea of looking at the creation of your future as a serial experience, as is done in The Visionary's Handbook, is a breakthrough for business planning and especially for one's own life. A must read.
— (Christopher Forbes, vice chairman, Forbes Inc.)

Philip Kotler

This book will challenge your most fundamental beliefs about competition, value, time, action, and leadership. Get ready for enlightenment!
— (Philip Kotler, Professor of International Marketing, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University)

Gloria Feldt

Leaders of all kinds of organizations can use this astonishingly insightful conceptual toolbox to create their desired futures while increasing effectiveness in today's multidimensional, multiparadoxical world.
— (Gloria Feldt, president, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund)

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