Published by Mei Jia for the China Daily.
One of the world’s top technology forecasters and business strategists, Daniel Burrus, likens a visit to Beijing to a time travel experience, in which the past, present and future are intertwined.
“I like to see all the energy here in the city,” Burrus told METRO during an exclusive interview at the Bookworm. “Sadly, I don’t see such energy in the United States.”
To Burrus, the future is not totally unpredictable. Beijing’s mixture of past and future appeals to him because he sees unique connections between the two.
Known for his accurate technology predictions over the past 28 years, such as predicting in 1996 the rapid growth of wireless Internet in the 2010s, Burrus’ predictions about China are optimistic.
He holds that “your future views shape the acts that shapes you”. This is the basis of his view that China will have a better future than the US.
“In China most people think their tomorrows will be better than yesterdays,” he said, “But in the US, especially in the past three or four years, the situation is the opposite. So which do you think will do better?”
Burrus was on his second visit to Beijing to meet clients here. He said he has at least 50 international clients, including Fortune 500 companies such as GE and Google, and some governments. He helps them with strategies based on his predictions of future trends.
Burrus’ latest book, Flash Foresight, is a New York Times bestseller. In the book he reveals how individuals and businesses can predict future trends and can avoid possible problems. The Chinese version of the book will come out this year.
“It’s possible to see the invisible and do the impossible, as stated in the book’s subtitle,” he said.
The book gives seven principles, supported by vivid real-life examples and solid research.
Principle One is to start predictions with what’s certain. Everyone knows what the next iPhone will be like: faster processing and high-definition video. So that people can be prepared for what’s to come.
Principle Four says that when faced with a major problem, you should skip it. A woman with terminal cancer came to him once and asked how she could deal with death. Burrus told her to ignore death and embrace life. She later e-mailed to tell him she was no longer afraid and was enjoying a holiday in Europe.
Dell once made the cheapest computers because they creatively used online shopping. Apple makes the world’s most expensive computers, but is successful. Finding leather shoes too costly, Crocs produced plastic ones, which became a hit. These are examples of Burrus’ Principle Five: do the opposite.
The author of six books and owner of six companies said he’s always challenging his own limits. He has learnt to do a new thing every year for the past 23 years, including rock-climbing, filmmaking and volplaning (flying a plane with the engine cut off).
“The human mind is really powerful,” he said. “Let me tell you a news scoop. In two years we’ll have processing power in cloud computing, which means our smart phones and tablet computers will compute comparably with super computers.
“Think about how it will change the way doctors diagnose patients, among other things.”
“Feel free to verify that with me two years later.”