Harvey Mackay Academy's Blog

Daniel Burrus: Legendary Leader Interview

Cliff Jones: Morning everybody. Cliff Jones, co-founder, managing partner of Harvey Mackay Academy and today we have a very special guest. We have the author and world-class thought leader, Dan Burrus with us today to talk about his new book, “The Anticipatory Organization.” So I want to read for you. If you don’t know Dan, I want to read his bio because my, my brief introduction won’t do it justice, but if you stick with us for the next 20-30 minutes or so, you’re going to get some serious takeaway value about how to transform your, the human beings that are working in your organization. Dan is one of the best in the business. So Dan, you’re considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and innovation experts and over the past 30 years you’ve established a worldwide reputation for exceptional, for an exceptional track record of accurately predicting the future of technological change and its direct impact on the business world. You’re also the author of seven books, including the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, “Flash Foresight,” and the highly acclaimed, “Techno Trends.” Dan, you’re also featured a featured writer with millions of monthly readers on topics of innovation change in the future. You’re also a prolific speaker, delivered more than 2,800 keynotes worldwide, and you’re a strategic advisor to executives for many Fortune 500 companies. So thrilled to have you with us today. Thanks for taking time out. Tell us about your new book, “The Anticipatory Organization.”

Dan Burrus: Well, it’s some time really tells you what it is and that is how to turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage, which sounds good, but hey, how do you do that with everything changing so quickly and so much uncertainty that we have in our world today. And basically the biggest, uh, solution to all of this rapid change people have come up with so far is agility. And there’s agile innovation. Agile this, agile that. But, and that’s good by the way. Agility you have to understand though, is a reactionary strategy. It’s reacting quickly after a disruption disrupts. It’s reacting quickly after a problem occurs. Uh, and what I think I want you to understand here is there’s two sides to the strategy coin. Agility is one side. And by the way, you better get better at it. Uh, by the way, as a side note, I was just speaking to the top 50 CIOs on the planet earth.

Dan Burrus: All of them have over a billion dollar IT budgets for their very large organizations. I asked for a show of hands, how many of you already have an agile organization? They all put their hands up and I said good, I’m glad you’re keeping up. But my point here is keeping up is not going to give you an, I want you to understand the other side of the coin because let’s face it, Blackberry, Sony, Dell, HP, they were all uh, quite agile. As a matter of fact. They were good at execution. As a matter of fact. They all did good at strategic planning. Didn’t help. That’s because they weren’t anticipatory. So let me teach that to you in this few minutes right now. And, uh, and let’s talk about the core to doing that. And that is, it’s understanding the whole concept of there’s actually two kinds of type two types of trends.

Dan Burrus: Um, I could call them hard trends and soft trends. Now instead of me saying, I’m the only guy with the good trends, forget everybody else’s. Actually I’m not doing that. I’m saying there’s no shortage of trends. Hey, the problem is which ones are going to happen and which ones aren’t. So by learning this simple yet powerful methodology, you can separate the wheat from the chaff because hard trends are based on future facts. They will happen. You can’t stop them even if you’re Google, and have seemingly all the money in the world or Amazon. However, the good news is you can see them coming and if you can see a disruption before it disrupts a change, before it occurs, you now have a choice to either be the disruptor or the disrupted. And by the way, all us choose the disruptor. Secondly, there are soft trims and those are based on assumptions about the future.

Dan Burrus: In other words, you think that’ll happen. The flaw here is most of us think these assumptions are facts and we have high risk because they don’t always work. And the thing I love about a soft trend is if you don’t like it, change it. You can change it. So you can’t change a hard trend, but you can see it coming. You can change a soft trend, uh, if you don’t like it. So they both have amazing power. Now I know you would love to ask me a question right now that I’ve laid out that let me give you a chance and uh, go for it.

Cliff Jones: So there’s an old saying when it comes to certainties about the future of death and taxes. So let’s talk a little bit about the how to’s as our listeners are tuning in so they can understand really the applications of being able to anticipate change and disruption. The things you’re talking about, the takeout. Many, many companies who are agile but not anticipatory.

Dan Burrus: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. First of all, um, we think death and taxes and that’s it. That’s all you can predict and be right about. But on the other hand, we know after a spring will come summer and astronomers can tell you in 2040 in March the exact moment we’ll have a full moon and actually when the stock market is going up, will it go up forever, eh, no, it’ll go down. By the way, will it go down forever? No, it’ll go back up again. Now I’m giving you their business cycles, weather cycles, biological cycles, sales cycles. By the way, if there’s a sale cycle, I like to have the shelf completed before the cycle begins. In other words, hey, I can use those to my advantage. I’m talking about just a few of the known 500 cyclical changes that are out there. I kind of misuse cycles to predict the future.

Dan Burrus: Now here’s the flaw. They’ve been increasingly wrong lately and why is that? There’s another kind of change and economists have no training in it. Neither have you listening to this right now and that’s because you can get along up until now without knowing about it. But now this other kind of change is changing your world on you, changing your customers on you. And it’s amazingly predictable. And that is what I would call linear in that it’s not a cycle. It’s one way s slash exponential. And that technology is driving it ever faster. So once you get a smartphone, you’re not going back to a dumb phone. That’s not a cycle. Once people in China park their bicycle and get a car, they’re not going to say, let’s get rid of the cars and go back to the bicycle. That is not at all. No, no.

Dan Burrus: It’s a one way. So, and by the way, we could predict a lot of problems and opportunities to presell them around, things like that. So to look at a certainty, as you mentioned, how can you find certainty in a world that seems to be filled with uncertainty? You have to ask yourself, you’re certain of nothing. And obviously I’m suggesting it can be certain of quite a bit. For example, we’re putting a lot in the cloud right now. Is the cloud getting full? Uh, no. We’ve got 3G wireless, 4G wireless. You’ve been reading about how we’re starting to see 5G wireless, let me ask it. Is that it? No. Could you predict what’s next? And it could be six followed by seven. I’ve been tracking it since one, uh, and it comes out at an exact period of time. Every time it’s predictable with the same amount of power.

Dan Burrus: My point is a, we’ve got a 78 million baby boomers. They’re going to get younger, no hard trends. They’re going to get older. Um, and are we going to get no more regulations because the current administration doesn’t like regulations and as deregulating more than anyone else. And I would say, Oh yeah, you can predict a lot of regulations even in that environment. I’ll give you an example. Are we going to have no new regulations on cybersecurity? Well, yeah. You know, we will. Even if you don’t like regulations, why? Because there’s some hard trends in play we can’t ignore same as true with drones and our highways. And so on. My point here is that uncertainty does not empower me. Strategy, whether it’s a personal strategy or a business strategy based on uncertainty is high risk. On the other end strategy based on uncertainty has low risk. So how can you make a bold move? And as the leader, how can you get your people to make a bold move in this era and have the confidence. And the answer is they need certainty because certainty provides the confidence to make a bold move. It also allows you to jump ahead with low risk because, and here’s another little tip I’ll give you if it can be done, will be done. If you don’t do it, someone else will. So what I’ve done and shown you, there’s actually a way that you can see those things and when you start learning how, wow, it’s powerful.

Cliff Jones: So you talk about hard trends and he just gave a couple of examples, but you also talk about soft trends. Uh, so is, is there share it with everybody, the distinction between a soft trend and a hard trend in how they might apply that to their own model?

Dan Burrus: Oh yeah, absolutely. We have the, um, uh, the tools right now to not just change but transform every business process. So let me just take a sidestep and say, a lot of people say they’re transforming a process, a product or a service. But if you look under the sheets, you’ll find out, you know what? They’re just changing it because they don’t know the difference. Change and transformation are quite different. Uh, and knowing that difference makes all the difference. Now, let me just carry the thought through on this prediction. We’re not going to just change. We’re going to transform every business process over a short period of time because the tools are there to do it. That is a hard trend. The tools are already there. Now here’s the soft trend. Will you transform your business processes? I don’t know. But you see that’s the power of a soft trend.

Dan Burrus: Once you realize it’s going to happen anyway, I would just, uh, giving a speech, uh, to a very large audience. Uh, you know, there was 105,000 people in this giant play. I know. It’s not. Whoa. And um, and I asked for a show of hands with this group because there were distributors, manufacturers who was a wide variety. And I said, how many of you have a mobile app for purchasing logistics, supply chain customer, support customer service for your organization? And, uh, I ended up with eight hands, eight. And then I said, okay, if I came back here in two years, you think I’d get a nod your head yes. If you think I’d get maybe 25% saying yes. And you know, they’re all going like this. So then I had, here’s the kicker, I said, okay, if I came back here in two years and did the survey, do you want to be one of those that don’t raise your hand.

Dan Burrus: See that’s the power of certainty because when you know, there is a way to get a competitive advantage when they’re, you know, there is a transformational tool and you’re not using it, but you know, it will be used probably either by your competitors or your new competitors which are, or, uh, anticipatory perhaps than you. So it gives you the confidence to make that bold move very quickly. Because I know we only have so much time and I don’t like to tell, I like to teach. Uh, I’m a teacher at heart. So let me just give you the three categories of hard trends real quickly because again, what I’ve done is taken something it’s highly complex and made it quite simple. When I was first sharing this to the, as a little aside to the joint chiefs a couple of years ago, uh, I remember, uh, when I got him through the pen steps, uh, the, uh, the head of the DOD said, you know, this is, this is really easy.

Dan Burrus: I just wished we would have thought it. And I said, thank you because making something easy is the hard part. So here’s the easy thing. There are only three hard trends categories. One is technology and you might think, well, you surely can’t predict that. Yeah, it’s very easy to do that without having to be a technologist when you learn how, that’s why, by the way, I write books and do learning systems to teach people how to do that. Secondly, uh, you have government regulation. Again, you can’t predict everything. So uncertainty, a list of things I’m uncertain about and I want that doesn’t help me much but helps me as a list of things I am certain about. So one of the things we can predict and what are the opportunities we can see there to actually fund our innovation from government, which Musk has done quite well and so have others.

Dan Burrus: So a, the third category is demographics. We get in this country, 78 million baby boomers and they’re not getting younger, they’re predictably getting older, which gives us a lot of predictable problems that are not hard trends we can solve them. So to really bring this home, let me give you an example. Let’s talk about healthcare in the United States that has been going up in cost every year up, up, up, up, up and costs. And by the way, that’s called the trend. Now the key is, is that an unstoppable hard trend and it’s just going to keep going up? Or is it a soft trend that if you don’t like and you could change it? And the answer is, and that’s actually a soft trend. Now, if it’s a hard trend, you have all the regulation designed around how to pay for the mess as it gets worse in other health care. And this is not a political statement so far, health reform is really been payment reform. How do we pay for the mess? It didn’t give you a better knee or a better outcome. Uh, but what I’m suggesting is actually let’s do the opposite, which is another principle I teach. And that is, uh, why don’t we look at using the tools that are there right now to transform, not change purchasing, logistics, supply chain. By the way, you could add to bring transparency to a area, to an area called the healthcare ecosystem that has no transparency, bringing more competition, lowering prices. By the way, you could flush billions of dollars out within just a year or two very easily if we did something like that. My point is, if you don’t like a soft trend, you can change it. One other quick example, obesity was in the news recently about how obesity has been a longterm trend.

Dan Burrus: And of course we’re actually getting the rest of the world they’ll be used along with us. We’re showing them how to do it, uh, exporting it. So is that a hard trend which is predicted to just keep going up, up, up, up, up, or is it a soft trend we could change and the answer is it’s a likely trend to keep going, but likely isn’t a future fat. And if you’re a business strategy is based on something that’s likely, that means you’ve got some risk there. My point is that’s a soft trend. How, one quick example, we’ve got a company, a, that’s a staffing company, one of the largest in the world and they gave, several years ago, uh, all of their employees FitBit’s and have competitions weekly and monthly competitions with prizes. And what’s happened over the couple of years since they did that, well, they got people off of their cholesterol drugs and got people off of some of their low level diabetic drugs, not the higher level ones. They’ve got people to lose weight. They’ve actually lowered their health care costs because their group health care plan had less people getting sick, less sick days. My point is, what did they say? Well, the trend is likely the world’s going to get fatter, but you know what? We don’t have to, we can do something about that so we can’t change the world. It’s an important point. You and I can’t change the world, but we can change what we can change. Let’s do the things we can influence. Let’s change the things we can change. And this case, it was a global company and the employees within it. All right. I gave you a quite a bit there. Let me let you ask more questions.

Cliff Jones: Wonderful. Will you just cited a few examples. You talked about hard trends versus soft trends. Is there a particular process that you teach, uh, so that organizations can adopt this in a way that they could, they could actually stay ahead of curves and make an impact like you just,

Dan Burrus: absolutely. As a matter of fact, I did this book a little differently than most authors. Usually you write a book and then develop other things around her when they successful. But I did was I designed a learning system called The Anticipatory Organization. Based on all the work I was doing with companies around the world that had been working well, turn it into a learning system. It’s been extremely successful use by the Pentagon and as well as a lot of mid and large companies, uh, all over the world. So in other words, there is a process. So what I did in the book really was I took that learning system and keep points to it and put it into book form, not as a redundant tool because a learning system is interactive, dynamic and different than a then a book, but rather to make it complimentary.

Dan Burrus: So really “The Anticipatory Organization” book shows you that process and, uh, has not just changed, but has indeed transformed organizations that, uh, that have been using it and reading it. Because, you know, as a leader, I want you to be anticipatory. As a salesperson. I want you to be not a reactionary. I want you to be an anticipatory salesperson. Matter of fact, uh, Harvey’s done a lot with sales over the years. Uh, let me just take a little sales angle on this. And that is, I love uncertainty as a salesperson, why uncertainty opens the door to a sale. But what is the ultimate closing tool? It’s surely not uncertainty, the ultimate closing tool is certainly. Because when you’re uncertain, what are you going to do? Oh, I got to get another opinion. But when you’re certain, you know what you can say yes. As a matter of fact, if you understand the downside of saying no is greater than the upside of saying yes, which hard trends and certainty can do, you’ll make every sale, just try it. It’s amazing. So this has an application to almost every field.

Cliff Jones: It’s a great example as it relates to sales people because we have, as Harvey would say, many hungry fighters in our growing community and you meet them in your travels and your speaking. And, uh, one of the many benefits that you talk about for readers is the ability to predict and pre-solve problems before they happen. Why is that important? And could you share an example?

Dan Burrus: Yeah, so first of all, we’ve got a change. As I said, it’s going linear and exponential. It’s getting faster things. They’re not slowing down. Hey, they’re speeding up and if all we’re doing is being, once again agile, which is solving problems after they happen, we’re not going to be happy campers on planet earth. Uh, yeah. I want us to get to be predicting what they are before they happen. I’ve got a study, I’ve done over a thousand organizations around the world. This is asking the CEO and not by a filling out a form, but on a phone call or in person conversations, asking them, what is your biggest problem right now? And then once they share it, then the question is, could you have seen that ahead of time and pre-solve it or is it something that was totally out of the blue, 92% of saying, oh, we could’ve seen it ahead of time and we could have pre-solved that. We just weren’t looking. I point is what does that say soon as the biggest problem that you, I’m talking to the listener now. You will that in 12 months, your biggest problem you could see right now on pre-sale or let it play out. Uh, I would rather pre-solve it and there’s a strategy, a technique to do that. Um, and again, I share that in the book. Uh, an example, uh, might be, uh, well let’s help this to be something you can relate to as a listener and a viewer of this. And that is how many times have you said, I knew there was going to happen? Well, why did you let it? And the reason you let it happen is you didn’t have competence. You weren’t sure. That’s where the power of certainty, you see what I’ve really done here is created a science of certainty in a world that seems to be completely uncertain. And I’ve done that as a core with the hard trends and soft friends, uh, as a related subject. And there’s another one of my favorites of the many strategies that I share. It’s not just hard trends and soft trends that’s transforming planning. But there’s another section of the book about how to transform innovation. Another section, how to transform culture. Another one now to transform results. All of these are based on the core of understanding certainty so that you can see the need and be able to do those kinds of things.

Cliff Jones: Well, I’m glad you brought up culture because that’s a big deal for all leaders. So talk a little bit about how culture plays a role in, in, in really the future of organizations willing to even look at your body of work.

Dan Burrus: Yeah. Well first of all, culture is unbelievably important. Uh, you know, and I don’t just write books, you know, I started six companies, five or profitable at first year four national leaders in the first year. So I don’t just write books. I’ve started companies that have grown quickly and it’s all about culture. And people think of it this way. If I can copy any product or any service, you’ve got, even a patent you can get around. The only thing I can’t copy is your culture. It’s a competitive advantage. And the key is a lot of us think we got to change the culture. And, uh, remember I mentioned that was it with the joint chiefs and as I was speaking, one of the general said, we got to change the culture. And based on what I was talking about and my response was, I don’t think the Marines are going to like that.

Dan Burrus: Now my, my point is change implies you’re doing something wrong. You’re fixing the blame. What I want to do is elevate the culture to increasing relevancy based on the direction the future is going. See if I elevate the culture, I’m not fixing the blame. If I’m changing it, I’m saying you’re doing something wrong. Secondly, how do I know the direction of the future is going? That’s where the hard trends come in. And by the way, if you’re not becoming more relevant, it becoming less relevant. There’s no inbetween does. Like I said right now, either you’re the disruptor or the disrupted, there is no in between because there’s more and more disruption coming. We should see that ahead of time. You should become the disruptor. Matter of fact, let me give you one last little a thing, one extra little thing on this. Uh, idea of disruption.

Dan Burrus: Most of us see disruption as negative. We see it as a negative thing. Why? Cause it happened to you and now you’re forced to crisis manage. Once again, does Jeff Bezos from Amazon see disruption as negative? No, there’ll be all these disrupting, see it as negative. My point is I want you to become a positive disruptor. I used the word positive. Why? It’s in reality, everything is inefficient. Everything could be better, every single thing can be better, everything. And to me, if you can’t get excited about that, I don’t know, you must be asleep. So I want us to positively disrupt everything in their tools right there to do it.

Cliff Jones: Well, clearly you strike me as I listened to you and, and uh, I’m sure our listeners the same way you, you, you, I think Wayne Gretzky, uh, who knew where the puck was going. And that’s really what you’re talking about in terms of being anticipatory. So ladies and gentlemen, we have been visiting with Dan Burrus, prolific thought leader, company builder, founder, builder, speaker, author of The Anticipatory Organization, turn disruption and change into opportunity advantage. Dan, how can our listeners learn more about becoming anticipatory?

Dan Burrus: Well, of course they can go to my website, which is burrus.com and find all sorts of great resources as well as information about the learning system. You can find anticipatory organization a very easily by going to Amazon and looking up Anticipatory Organization or put in my name if you want to type less words, Burrus, and you’ll find it. But you know, I’ve, I’ve known Harvey Mackay for many decades now. He’s a great guy and I’m, I’ve actually put something together just for this group. And that is, I’m going to do, I’m going to actually give everyone a hardcover or not digital or hardcover copy of my new book. Um, all you’ve got to do is pay a few dollars for shipping. By the way, I’m not making money on that shipping and I’m doing this because I think you’ll like it so much. You’re recommended to a friend and they’ll buy it. So let me tell you how to get that. If you would like to do that. Or you can go to Amazon and buy it. You go to theAObook.com. So that’s www.TheAOBook.com. Uh, because anticipatory organization has kind of a long word. So we’ll just make it a out. So www.TheAOBook.com and you can, and within the week you’ll have a hard cover copy of that book and a, so now I’ve taken a, I’ve taken away your problem of having to buy it. You, you don’t have to buy it. You can get it right there.

Cliff Jones: Well, not only brilliant way ahead of the curve, but you’re a generous man. So we thank you very much for that. Ladies and gentlemen, if you are interested in becoming more anticipatory, then you can look for Dan Burris, B U R R U S, author of the book, “The Anticipatory Organization,” turn disruption and change into opportunity and advantage. Dan, thanks again for being with us. Hopefully you’ll come back and see us sometime very soon. It would be my pleasure. Thank you. Thank you Dan.

About the Author Harvey Mackay, Founder & CEO

Seven-time, New York Times best-selling author of "Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive," with two books among the top 15 inspirational business books of all time, according to the New York Times. He is one of America’s most popular and entertaining business speakers, and currently serves as Chairman at the MackayMitchell Envelope Company, one of the nation’s major envelope manufacturers, producing 25 million envelopes a day.

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