Books I like Around Future Thinking

Mostly Incoherent Ramblings on Tumblr sent me the following message:

Hey Paul,

I really enjoy your blog. The idea of futurism really interests me and seeing that you have a masters in the field I was wondering if there were any books on the matter that you would recommend to a blogger looking to get a sense of what futurism is all about. Thanks in advance.

I think that thinking about the future means understanding the past as much as possible and identifying new possibilities while being able to find assumptions and blind spots in thinking that can blind us to those possibilities. Here are a few of my favourites I have pulled off the bookshelf behind me and explanations about why I think they are important. Most of them are not specifically futures books or methods books but I think they are invaluable to anybody seeking to think more about the future.

Future Inc by my friend Eric Garland is an accessible book on thinking about the future although he has just published an article in The Atlantic saying he is withdrawing from the business of Strategic Intelligence

Expert Political Judgement by Philip Tetlock is a very good study on prediction and how it does not work. Very dense with statistics but worth persevering with.

Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky. I love Clay’s writing and speaking and this is a great one on how the internet and the platforms of technology attached to it are changing the way we organise ourselves.

Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson. This is a great book on the history of innovation and especially on how different perspectives and the intersection of ideas and disciplines feed into new ideas.

The Future of Management by Gary Hamel. I strongly believe that tied in with the ideas in Clay Shirky’s book above that the nature of organising is changing the nature of work and how large businesses work. I am currently reading Gary’s new book What Matters Now on my iPad

What Technology Wants by Kevin Kelly is a great book on the drivers of technological change and how social use of technology is changing the world. I am a big believer that technological change is one of the big drivers of change for our future and so understanding why and how is important

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Because understanding how people’s minds work is important for a futurist this is a great book which looks at all sorts of ways we think and act differently than our rational selves would believe.

The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning by Henry Mintzberg. Because I believe that standard strategic planning no longer works that well it is important to understand it and it strengths and weaknesses. This is a great book on that from a giant in the field.

The Innovators Dilemma by Clayton Christensen which looks at how innovation occurs and how large organisations struggle with it meaning most disruptive change comes from outside. Disruptive change is one of my areas of interest because I believe it is reshaping the world.

The Halo Effect by Phil Rosenzweig. A great book, that among other things shows how we interpret success through rose coloured glasses and this colours our future thinking in ways most people do not understand.

Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow by Daniel Kahneman because understanding how we think is really important. This looks at type 1 and type 2 thinking and decision making and how we think and decide in different situations.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood. by James Gleick. Because Information is so important in our modern world. This is a book with a huge sweep of history and detail. Not a light read but most worthwhile

Physics of the Future by Michio Kaku because understanding science and technology is important when thinking about the future and far too many people have a poor understanding and therefore predict stuff which is highly unlikely.

Race Against the Machine by Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee because if technology is going to reshape the world I think it is important to understand how and why and what is might mean for society.

Besides these books and their authors people that I always like to hear from include Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures, Umair Haque from Hava Media Labs, Stowe Boyd from New York.

I anybody wants to add other books people should read then please add them in the comments.

Paul Higgins


7 thoughts on “Books I like Around Future Thinking

  1. Thanks for the great booklist. I would like to add Susan Blackmore’s The Meme Machine (1999). Blackmore defines a meme as self-replicating idea. After genes, Blackmore calls memes the second replicator and puts forward a third replicator – temes. The book is a useful and provocative framework to grasp the scale of information technology and its future ramifications.

      • No, you’re right. Memes (a self-replicating unit of human culture such as an idea, song, recipe, method, etc), are Richard Dawkins’ original idea in The Selfish Gene. The Meme Machine’s foreword is written by Dawkins. Blackmore proposes a third replicator – temes (memes created and spread by technology). I believe the concept of memes is generally under-appreciated. Patricia

  2. Sorry, It’s “Also Known As” or A.K.A. Basically, I’d like to do a career change into the field. The book that introduced me to this concept is Peter Schwartz’s The Art of the Long View. I recently picked up Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation by Kees van der Heijden and Futuring by Edward Cornish. I haven’t read them yet

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