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Summary: The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage by Daniel Burrus


New technology, products and services hit the market every year, causing disruptions in current trends and even abruptly changing the trajectory of the future. While some business leaders struggle to keep up, believing the future is a mystery, others learn to see changes coming. Futurist Daniel Burrus offers a guide to predicting the future and suggests ways to capitalize on it. He walks you through “hard” and “soft” marketplace trends, explaining how to leverage them to your advantage and stay ahead of your competition.


  • Follow “hard” and “soft” marketplace trends to predict the future.
  • Find a balance between old and new technology.
  • Don’t let risk stop your organization from innovating.
  • Skip over problems, so you can act on opportunities.
  • Invest in a positive future outlook.
  • Building trust with other people leads to a better future.

Summary: The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage by Daniel Burrus


Follow “hard” and “soft” marketplace trends to predict the future.

Predicting the future is a learnable skill that many leaders and their companies have used to their profit. Netflix saw the future of content delivery in video streaming, for example, and Apple delivered the iPhone. People rely on predictable trends to guide them as they invest their time and energy. Business leaders, inventors and marketers make many decisions based on trends they observe and expect to continue.

Product developers look at the marketplace identifying hard trends and soft trends that could lead to profitable opportunities and shape the future. Hard trends are given facts – future inevitabilities no one can avoid. Hard trends include the linear and exponential progression of technology and demographics, such as Baby Boomers’ imminent retirement in the 2020s.

Alternatively, soft trends are less concrete and change easily. They are based on assumptions that may rely on past data or gut instincts or both. For example, Facebook is a preeminent social media platform, and based on its current stats, should maintain that position in the future. However, because that trend depends on the leadership of one individual, Mark Zuckerberg, its future is not certain and is, therefore, a soft trend.

“All trends are either hard trends that will happen, or they are soft trends that might happen.”

Recognizing and jumping on the opportunities of both hard and soft trends lowers the risk of innovation and can lead to game-changing new products and services. Companies must embrace the future to survive. Implementing a future-oriented product once took decades – for example, it took the public 32 years to adopt the zipper. Now, disruption happens overnight.

Find a balance between old and new technology.

To predict the future, consider the exponential rate of technological growth. Gordon E. Moore codified this growth rate as Moore’s Law in 1965, when he observed that computing power doubles in ability and halves in cost every two years. This predictable rate of digital acceleration has continued. Consider how cell phones, laptops and video games have progressed since 2012. Computing power (processing power), bandwidth (transfer rate) and storage (data backup) continue to grow faster every year, while becoming cheaper and more accessible.

Anticipatory leaders seek opportunities between the time a new technology hits the market and when it becomes the norm.

“Integration of the old with the new creates greater value. ”

This space opens up because people don’t throw out their old tech when new technology arrives. For example, digital media exists side by side with printed documents, and people still use desktop and laptop computers despite the computing capabilities of their smartphones.

Older technology contains certain “functional strengths” that have become ingrained into everyone’s daily life. It takes time for new tech to replace those strengths, if it can do so at all. For example, people still prefer using a physical keyboard to type longer documents – instead of using their smartphone’s digital keyboard. Until a smartphone keyboard can match the comfort and speed of a physical keyboard, people won’t write longer pieces on their phones. Taking advantage of such a gap – for example, finding ways to integrate or connect keyboards and smartphones – could enhance consumer value and make a profit.

Don’t let risk stop your organization from innovating.

Some leaders argue that pursuing innovation is too risky, while others argue that ignoring innovation is the greater risk. While risk is always present, people can innovate with certainty if they track hard and soft trends. Tune into opportunities other firms might miss by keeping your “opportunity antenna up” for both kinds of trends and anticipating how they could affect your bottom line.

“It’s clear that a cultural environment that encourages innovation at all levels can produce amazing ideas and synergy.”

For example, people who own a driving schools should watch the self-driving car industry. It could either put them out of business or provide them with an industry-changing solution. For example, a driving school could create a training program for people who will remotely control semiautonomous vehicles, perhaps becoming the first to do so, thus gaining a competitive advantage.

Paying close attention to the “eight hard trend pathways to innovation” can give you advantageous insights that can lead to opportunities. Those hard trends include:

  1. Dematerialization – Anything can be made smaller, often becoming less physical and more digital.
  2. Virtualization – Hardware and software can be offered as a virtual service saving time and money.
  3. Mobility – Technology will allow for more on-the-go accessibility, for example, from smartphones to tablets and wearables.
  4. Intelligence – Expect more development of artificially intelligent software to answer questions and suggest solutions for problems.
  5. Networking – Connectivity will increase, along with the ability to reach anyone anywhere at any time.
  6. Interactivity – Through innovations such as the touch screen and interactive games, tech products will become more customizable and will become more integrated into people’s lives.
  7. Globalization – Technology advances enable greater access to making, shipping and selling products and services anywhere and to anyone.
  8. Convergence – Features and functions converge on devices just as industries converge, such as telecom, entertainment and computers.

Companies that pay attention to both hard and soft trends, plan accordingly and innovate for the future can distance themselves from their competitors. Instead of trying to catch up with market changes, those companies will create them.

Consider Netflix, which looked at the hard trends of dematerialization, networking, interactivity, convergence and globalization to deduce that streaming would be the future of content delivery. While companies such as Blockbuster tried just expanding their current services, Netflix put the future of entertainment streaming to work, and Blockbuster went out of business.

Skip over problems, so you can act on opportunities.

Hitting a problem can bring innovation to a halt. You could fall behind and miss valuable opportunities. Instead of trying to solve a problem that creates such an impediment, skip it.

Often people can’t solve a problem because they misidentify it in the first place. For example, most furniture stores sell the majority of their stock in November and December. Yet they face issues with storing extra inventory the rest of the year and assume they need to build bigger warehouses. However, one manufacturer perceived that lack of storage wasn’t the real issue. Instead, it gave incentives to retailers to stock more furniture on their showroom floors, thus fixing the right problem. Furniture stores that stocked and showed more pieces of furniture in-house saw increased sales throughout the year.

“Are you solving the right problem?”

Or, if a problem presents too big an impediment, skip it entirely. For example, people in remote parts of Africa had trouble obtaining medical supplies. Instead of trying to build roads through impassable landscapes, local authorities use drones to fly supplies to these far-flung communities. Skipping over problems makes it quicker to find and act on a workable solution, though you must be careful about which opportunities to pursue – and when.

Since companies no longer can afford to take their time developing and implementing new products, they must prioritize which solutions will yield the most profit with the least effort. Some solutions – such as closing an office and going remote during the pandemic – cost companies very little. They could implement remote work quickly and get people working again almost instantly. At the time of need, such a solution becomes a top priority.

However, a solution such as incorporating AI into new software takes longer to develop, demands more effort and doesn’t guarantee instant success. That solution becomes a secondary priority.

Organizing and managing hard and soft trend opportunities gives leaders more clarity about the future and helps shape the choices they make in the present.

Invest in a positive future outlook.

The way people imagine the future has an important role in the decisions they make in the present. In regard to buying stocks, for example, if people think a company will do well, they buy its stock. If they think it will do poorly, they sell the stock. The same goes for retaining employees. If workers feel positive about their company’s future, they feel secure about staying. If they don’t feel certain about the future, their negativity could destroy the company.

Companies that express positive certainties about the future – those whose leaders watch and use hard trends – more easily sell their products and services. Not only do they feel as certain as possible about how the future will unfold, their strategists have predicted possible problems and made corrections and contingency plans. Thus, they can offer their investors, employees and customers a stronger guarantee of success.

Firms that don’t look ahead die out. Kodak, as a classic example, failed to act on the hard trend of photography’s dematerialization and digitization. Instead, its leaders dug in their heels, fought to maintain film’s status quo and lost. You will enjoy far greater success being a positive disrupter than you will find sitting back and reacting defensively to change.

“If it can be done, it will be done, and if you don’t do it, someone else will. ”

Companies that look ahead, follow hard trends, influence soft trends and make plans for a predicted future end up leading the way. Apple, Google and Tesla’s products and services feel like a realization of the future because they are. Their reputations revolve around being anticipatory organizations that will continue to lead by innovating successfully.

Building trust with other people leads to a better future.

Nobody becomes an industry success by flying solo. Employees need to trust their employers, bosses need to trust their workers and customers need to trust companies. Making innovative products or implementing innovative policies can alter that trust. For example, if a tech company changes its privacy policy without telling its customers, some users could see that as a betrayal and leave. Instead, to demonstrate its respect for customers, the company could give them a choice to opt out of an innovative change or an incentive to opt into it.

Gaining trust involves understanding whether the people you work with have a past, present or future-oriented mind-set. Past-facing people naturally resist change.Present-facing people may be working hard just to keep up, so thinking ahead often overwhelms them. A future-oriented person who embraces new developments will feel frustrated trying to convince past-oriented people to invest in the next big thing. The solution is to address people based on their current mind-set, and work from there to facilitate more forward-looking decisions.

“The key is to jump into the other person’s time zone… and walk them into the future.”

That a consultant who wants to sell a new product to construction companies. His software can digitize their day-to-day processes and make their work run more smoothly and efficiently. However, an older executive, with a past-oriented mind-set of mistrusting new tech, impedes the company from embracing the new product. The consultant patiently walks the executive through the product, shows him how helpful it can be and how it solves issues he deals with daily. This approach successfully convinces the executive to move ahead.

Meeting people where they are to bring them into the future builds mutual respect and trust. It allows people to share their knowledge about hard or soft trends, thus leading to more collaboration and quicker execution on viable opportunities. Working together allows people to go farther, faster.

About the Author

Daniel Burrus is an American technology futurist. He is the author of seven books including the New York Times bestseller Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible.


“The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage” by Daniel Burrus is a book that offers insights and strategies for organizations to become more proactive and anticipate future trends and disruptions. Burrus introduces the concept of “anticipatory thinking” and provides practical frameworks and tools to help organizations thrive in an ever-changing business landscape.

The book is divided into three parts. Part 1, “The Certainty of Uncertainty,” sets the foundation by explaining the need for anticipatory thinking and the mindset required to navigate disruptive changes. Burrus emphasizes the importance of separating hard trends (predictable future developments) from soft trends (uncertain factors) to make informed decisions.

Part 2, “The Anticipatory Organization Model,” introduces the Anticipatory Organization Model, which consists of four pillars: “The Law of Hard Trends,” “The Law of Transformation,” “The Law of Accelerating Returns,” and “The Law of Futureview.” Burrus explains each pillar in detail and provides examples and case studies to illustrate their application.

Part 3, “Transforming Hard Trends,” focuses on strategies for leveraging hard trends to create opportunities and gain a competitive advantage. Burrus explores various industries and identifies specific hard trends that organizations can capitalize on. He provides practical guidance on how to identify, validate, and leverage hard trends to drive innovation and growth.

Throughout the book, Burrus emphasizes the importance of developing an anticipatory mindset and adopting a future-focused approach. He provides practical frameworks and tools, such as the “Hard Trend Methodology” and the “Pre-Solve Methodology,” to help organizations anticipate disruptions and turn them into opportunities.

“The Anticipatory Organization” is a thought-provoking and practical guide for organizations seeking to thrive in a rapidly changing business landscape. Daniel Burrus brings his expertise in future trends and disruptive innovation to provide valuable insights and strategies.

The book is well-structured, with each part building upon the previous one, offering a comprehensive framework for anticipatory thinking. Burrus’s writing style is clear and engaging, making complex concepts accessible to a wide range of readers.

One of the strengths of “The Anticipatory Organization” is its emphasis on hard trends and the need to distinguish them from soft trends. Burrus explains how hard trends are predictable future developments that provide a solid foundation for making informed decisions. This approach allows organizations to proactively anticipate changes and capitalize on opportunities.

The Anticipatory Organization Model presented in the book provides a practical framework for organizations to follow. The four pillars of the model, along with the accompanying strategies and methodologies, offer a systematic approach to becoming more anticipatory. The inclusion of real-world examples and case studies adds depth and concreteness to the concepts discussed.

Burrus’s focus on turning disruptive changes into opportunities is a key highlight of the book. By identifying and leveraging hard trends, organizations can position themselves ahead of the curve and gain a competitive advantage. The strategies and practical guidance provided by Burrus are actionable and can be applied to various industries and organizations.

While the book is highly informative and provides valuable insights, some readers may find certain sections more relevant to their specific needs or industries than others. However, the overall framework and concepts presented in the book offer a comprehensive approach to anticipatory thinking.

In conclusion, “The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage” is a recommended read for individuals and organizations looking to proactively navigate the challenges of a rapidly changing business landscape. Daniel Burrus’s expertise, practical strategies, and focus on hard trends make this book a valuable resource for anyone interested in adopting an anticipatory mindset and leveraging future trends for success.

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