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Flash Foresight (Unplugged)

A conversation between Daniel Burrus & Moe Abdou
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

About Daniel Burrus & Moe Abdou

Daniel Burrus

Daniel Burrus is an entrepreneur, futurist, and author of the best selling

book — Flash Foresight. As founder and CEO of Burrus Research, Dan is a
strategic advisor to leaders from Fortune 500 companies helping them to
see invisible opportunities and solve seemingly impossible problems. His
firm closely monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to
help clients understand how technological, social and business forces are
converging to create enormous untapped opportunities.

Moe Abdou

Moe Abdou is the creator of 33voices — a global conversation about things

that matter in business and in life.

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Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

This is Moe Abdou and with me today is Dan Burrus, author of Flash
Foresight which in my opinion is a real game changer.

Dan thank you very much for joining us.

It is my pleasure.

It’s great to see that you’re here in San Diego.

I know. What a great place to be especially this time of year. I was just in
Florida yesterday giving a speech. This has Florida beat.

I think slightly. Dan, as I briefly mentioned to you, I see the work that
you’re doing specifically the book Flash Foresight as a real game changer
specifically in changing the thinking paradigm of entrepreneurs in

I thought it would be a good starting point for you to kind of lay the
context out for people who haven’t read it or maybe even the ones who
have read it. So people can start to understand your thinking behind it.

You just made an interesting comment and that is change people’s thinking. I
think managers change how people behave, leaders change how people think.
Yet, they don’t tell them what to think. They change their context for thinking
about, in this case, their future. In this case, about the opportunities that are
there. In this case, about how to solve seemingly impossible problems.

The reason that I titled it, Flash Foresight is that we have foresight. As a
matter of fact, I’m sure you and many other people that are listening to this
have said at one point in time, I knew that was going to happen or, I knew I
should have bought that stock or, I knew I should have sold that whatever it is.
You had a foresight. The trouble is you didn’t know if you could trust it.

Just like we read about trends and of course some work and some don’t. So we
just don’t know if we can trust it. Of course, the problem with hindsight is it
only brings lament, you know, if you didn’t buy Google, too bad, too late. I
mean, you could still buy it now but you won’t get it at the price when it first
came out, if that’s your lament.

With hindsight, you have no power. The power is in foresight because if you can
learn how to control it and use it, that’s where you can shape the future as
where the past has already been shaped. So that’s the idea. 2
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

Flash foresight is a blinding flash. In other words, it’s a true flash of insight
about the future. Something that you actually know will happen versus
something that might happen. It tends to open up invisible opportunities and
often gives you solutions to problems that you wouldn’t have otherwise seen.
That’s the why the subtitle of Flash Foresight is How To See The Invisible and
Do The Impossible.

If you think about it just a minute most of the things that you and I do on a
daily basis including recording this and getting it distributed out to all of our
listeners was impossible at one time in history. Technology has allowed us,
coupled with a vision, to do things that were previously impossible; from
putting a man on the moon to all the great things that we’ve done.

The key to doing impossible things and solving impossible problems is looking
where you’re not looking to see what you’re not seeing. So the seven radical
principles that will transform your business — that’s one of the lines on the
cover of the book — is really the seven principles are triggers that help you to
see where the invisible is.

If you like, I could just go through a couple of them and give you examples so
you know what I’m talking about.

It’s your show.

Let me do that for you. The place to start is, trigger one is certainty. We got
an uncertain world right now. What’s going to happen with the price of gas in
this country? Are the Democrats and Republicans going to get along and
actually pass some good legislation or are they just going to bicker and fix the
blame instead of fix the problem? What’s going to happen with healthcare?
Would it be repealed? What’s the price of that?

There is all this uncertainty. Strategy based on uncertainty has high risk and
lower reward. Strategy based on certainty has low risk and high reward. So in a
world of uncertainty, I have to ask myself, what am I certain about? The
answer is an amazing amount if you know where and how to look.

Let me give you some examples of that. A couple of weeks ago, Steve Jobs
from Apple left for his second health leave. We don’t know if he’ll be back.
There is a lot of uncertainty around Apple in Steve Jobs leaving. But again, I
have no power with uncertainty. I have to ask myself, what am I certain about? 3
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

Let me ask you a couple of questions about let’s say the next iPhone which you
can’t currently buy and nobody is writing about — the next iPhone. Will it have
more memory and storage in the iPhone in the next version? What do you think?


Of course and you’re right. By the way, you’re certain too. They have been
doing that for decades. Not just the iPhone rather but all of our devices every
year. Every time they come up with a new one. It’s got more. That has been
going on for quite awhile. Will it have a faster processor? Of course it will. Will
it have more bandwidth? I mean, we got 3G now. We’re just getting 4G
wireless. I wonder what they’ll call the next one. It doesn’t take rocket science
to be certain they’ll call it 5G.

As a matter of fact Cisco has got routers they’re putting in right now. They say
that with these new routers in the background of the internet, you could have
every man, woman, and child in China send a high definition video and not take
the system down. In another words bandwidth obviously isn’t a problem. We
have now streaming video on our mobile phones. Do you think we’ll able to
have high definition streaming video? Of course. These are all certainties.

In my Technotrends Newsletter several years ago reported about a chip that

had been invented — by the way, it’s pretty easy to predict the future if it’s
already invented — this chip allows you to beam from a phone or from a
camera an image on a wall. By the way, those are just starting to become
available now. Let me ask you a question, do you think that image can get
better every year?

Of course.

Of course. By the way, we just whipped up a whole bunch of certainties in an

uncertain world. Here is the Flash Foresight. Here is how you get a Flash
Foresight. If we can do all that, do you think that we can transform how we
educate and train using mobile devices like tablets and phones? The answer is
absolutely and with certainty.

Here is the caveat, by the way, if you don’t do it someone else will. That’s a
certainty guaranteed and not 10 years from years from. We’re getting the stuff
now. If Apple has the ability to do video conferencing on a phone, it’s pretty
easy to be certain that the competitors — all the other phones and all the
Androids and everything else — they will do it as well. Again, do we have a
certainty? Of course. 4
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

There are two types of change. Cyclical, now it’s winter next will be spring. I’ll
be right. I guess you can predict the future. We know the kids go to school; at a
certain time, they come home. We know there are buying cycles and selling
cycles. There is actually over 300 cycles out there that allow you to anticipate
the future; weather cycles, biological cycles, and business cycles.

The other kind of change I talk about in the certainty trigger is the certainty
around linear change. Unlike a cycle, when this happens, you’re not going back.
For example, once you get a smart phone you’re not going back to a dumb
phone. Once the Chinese park a bicycle and start grabbing a car, are they going
back to a bike? Once they get a refrigerator, are they going to go back to a
home with no refrigerator? No.

These are linear changes that have profound impact. GM didn’t happen to
notice that in their plans up until when they went bankrupt. That what was
going on with China and India and all the impact of that would be on gasoline
which was actually quite predictable. They were looking at the up and down
fluctuations rather than the long term trend which is up, up, up.

Let’s face it, this planet can handle one highly consuming polluting nation —
I’m talking about the United States — it can’t handle multiple versions of that
unless we do something very different which of course means opportunity.

We have cyclical change and we have linear change. There are two others in
certainty. I’m spending a lot of time on this certainty thing but I think that
that’s because we do live in an uncertain world. I’m just wanting our listeners
to understand how much power they have with certainty.

Two other quick ones — there are hard trends and soft trends. That is simple.
Hard trends will happen, soft trends might. It’s good to know the difference.
I’ll give you a quick example. A hard trend, 78 million baby boomers in the
United States are getting older. That’s not cyclical, that’s linear. They’re not
all of a sudden get younger. That is what I would call a future fact.

If we make all those baby boomers instead of 50 and 60, if we make them all
70 and 80, I can tell you a lot about them and what they’ll be doing and
problems they’ll be having and opportunities that you could create.

For example, if you and I decided to start a company today and designed the
easy launch boat trailer. Would the sales of that be powered every year by the
increasing age of the baby boomers? Of course it would. That’s a way to ride a
hard trend. 5
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

Another example might be how about you and I starting an elevator company.
It only goes up from flight, retrofits on a condo or a house. Do you think that is
powered by an aging population? The answer is well absolutely. So there is
tremendous opportunity with hard trends.

Soft trends, let me give you an example that relates to this. Over the last 10
years, there have been a decreasing number of people becoming nurses and
becoming doctors. Is that a hard trend or soft trend? The answer is soft. Why?
Because that could change.

A soft trend is powerful to know because it can be changed and things that you
can change, you have some power over. Things that can’t be changed are also
really important to know. Separating those two gives you amazing insights into
the future.

I’m not going to talk to you anymore about certainty other than to say that
when you go in to make a sale to anybody, whether you’re selling people on
your idea or concepts or you. If you go in and talk about undeniable certainties
and use that as the basis for convincing them, you have got power.

Let me interrupt you for one second because I had a question specifically
about this issue. This is one of the most powerful concepts in here. I
wanted to ask you, I wanted to demonstrate this whole issue of starting
with certainty with a current example.

I’m a football fanatic and a sports fanatic. I kind of read in the book about
your involvement sitting in the room with these Folgers crowd. My
curiosity is this, if you were working with the NFL to solve their labor
dispute issue, where would you start?

I would start with what we can agree on. As a matter of fact, I would do that if
I was between the Democrats and the Republicans. What we do is it’s easy to
come up on the things that we can’t afford, the things that we can’t agree on,
the things that we feel we can’t do. Which by the way takes all of our power
away and it’s where we get argumentative.

But if we instead ask ourselves, what can we agree on? We end up getting a list
of things that all parties can agree on. Or, you might ask yourself what can I do
instead of all the things that I can’t do. Or, what can I afford compared to all
the things that I can’t afford?

If we start with those agreement areas, we can always breakthrough the

deadlocks because you can always get large numbers of items that you can 6
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

agree on. For example, in the book, I talk about back in the 80s there was a
labor dispute with a major corporation. Management and labor were at a

Even though I don’t specifically do this for a living, they had heard me speak
and they thought I could help. They asked me to come in and they shut the
entire plant down. They had never done that in their entire history. They got
everybody together in one big room. So there were thousands of people on this
room. It was very contentious. It was based in Kansas City.

I said, can we agree that we would all like to continue to be employed. Could
we agree on that? People nodded their head. Okay, so that’s one. We would all
like to keep our jobs. Management, I noticed they were agreeing too. So we all
would like to keep our jobs.

Number 2, would we like to stay in Kansas City or we would rather have to

move? They would say, “I’d rather not have to move.” Okay, good. We’ll make
than then number 2. We started going on and on and we had such a big list. We
had about 30 or 40 things that everybody in the room agreed on and that one
thing that anybody disagreed on and it was empowering. It was huge. By the
way, that was the fastest settlement of a labor dispute they ever had. I think
that that’s what I would do. I would look at what can we agree on.

Awesome. Why don’t you keep going with the other triggers because I’ve
got questions about all of them? I figured I could just stop you as you go
through them.

I think it’s a great idea. Let me give you another one and that is, we are
reactionary companies and organizations and individuals. Change comes to us
from the outside in and we put out fires in crisis management. As a matter of
fact, most of us spend most of our day being busy.

By the way, let me ask you a question, were the executives at — let’s take GM
for example, two years before they went bankrupt — were all those executives
really busy everyday? Of course they were. It didn’t help them did it? Here is
the point. It ain’t going to help you either. Being busy is not the answer. Being
strategic is.

In a world of transformational change not just change, true transformational

change which we’re in right now, you need to be anticipatory rather than just
reactionary. We have to use that certainty and separate those hard trends from
the soft trends and spend a little time thinking about it. 7
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

So that we are unplugging from the present in our current situation which is
more reflective of the past and ask ourselves what do we know about the
future? What are the problems that I’m about to have. I don’t have them yet
but what are they. So I can solve them so I don’t have them in the first place.

The second trigger, to give you invisible opportunities is to create an

anticipatory organization and be more anticipatory yourself rather than
reactionary. You know, when change comes from the outside in, all you can do
is react. Real growth comes from the inside out both personally and

Let me stop myself right here because I used a word that I didn’t define for this
taping, in this presentation. Let me just give you transformation for a minute.
Just like we’re about to not just change but transform how we train and how
we educate using technology. The example I gave you earlier was mobile .
We’re about to transform a lot more than that. I’ll give you a quick example.

I was working with a company the other day. They had a bottled energy drink.
They said that the benefit of it is it was rapid recovery for athletes. They were
about to do a big television commercial, a national television commercial. I
asked them, what percent of the audience is going to be interested in that
commercial? They had us present because the company was selling them the ad
of course figured out what percent of people would be athletes.

So I asked them a question. I said, out of all the communities of interest in

Yahoo — a community of interest might be Corvettes but not just any Corvette.
It might be ’58 Corvettes and there are thousands of people that have ’58
Corvettes that post pictures and talk about parts and rallies. They’re
passionate about that one subject. The same thing with sailing. The same thing
with photography and just about every other thing you can possibly imagine;
dogs, cats, hamsters, you name it.

I said, out of all the communities of interest in Yahoo, how many of them are
either for riathlons? Of course they didn’t know. I said, I happen to know, 1072;
each with thousands and thousands of members each. What percent would be
interested in rapid recovery from physical exertion? Of course you already know
the answer don’t you? A hundred percent.

I said, how many football, how many basketball, how many baseball, how many
soccer…pretty soon we had over 30 million people that would be easy to reach
and inexpensive to reach that would be 100% interested in rapid recovery in
their product. 8
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

Here is my point. We’re going to transform how we market. We’re going to

transform how we sell. We’re going to transform how communicate. How we
collaborate, how we innovate, how we train, how educate. If you are only
changing those things I think you’re going to be in trouble over the next 5-10
years. I think what we need to be doing is transforming them.

Let me just give you one last definition of transformation because I do believe
this is an important point. When I was a young guy, I could listen to my music
on a 33 1/3 spinning disc, an album; one album per spinning disc. As I got older,
there was a technological change that came along. I could get one album on a
smaller spinning disc called the CD. I liked that change because it got rid of the
hisses and pops and the scratches. That was good. As a matter of fact, I re-
bought all my old stuff. I love it.

Today, I’ve got all my music in my phone which is with me 24/7 all the time
just about. As a matter of fact my phone is also my alarm clock. So it’s next to
my bed when I’m sleeping. What am I saying? That didn’t change how I listened
to music. It transformed it. The same way we’re going to transform the whole
shooting match because what I just said everyone does.

Being anticipatory is essential versus being reactionary and just putting out
fires because frankly you’ll drown.

One of the key things you that you just made Dan, the key point is, I’ve
always mentioned to people that transformation is a term that’s often
overused by individuals who really don’t understand what transformation
is. I think what you’ve laid out, just hearing it in the last two minutes as
well as certainly in the book when you discussed that is a formula for
people to actually see transformation happen personally and

Exactly. It’s really important the words we use. People will say they are
collaborating. You know what they usually are doing, they’re cooperating
which is a much lower level activity than collaborating.

People will say they are transforming when actually all they are doing is
changing more. In other words, they got more change to deal with which is not
the same as transformation. Transforming is a radically different way of doing
what you do and it happens in a short period of time.

I was just flying back from a speech in Florida. I was sitting up in the front
cabin. I was up in the first class section. There was a pretty large first class
section. There was only one person that didn’t have an iPad. You couldn’t even 9
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

buy them over a year ago. I mean, that’s only been out for a year. That’s huge.
That’s gigantic. That’s not an evolution, that’s revolution.

Exactly. No doubt.

We are not in evolutionary times. People are listening. Pay attention to this.
This is a big deal. This hasn’t happened in our lifetime before.

I’m going to make a bold statement right now and it’s being recorded. I got to
be careful about these things. I want to make sure I’m right and I know I am.
Over the next five years, we’re going to be calling this period of time the great
transformation. By the way, it’s global. Technology is enabling it and it’s going
to happen with you or without you. In other words, it’s going to happen anyway.

That’s why transformation is one of the triggers to understand this

transformation. That’s one of the other triggers in the book. Another trigger in
the book to make the invisible visible is transformation is not optional but to
redefine and reinvent yourself that is. There is an old Chinese proverb that says,
‘Change is inevitable, growth is optional.’ I love that one.

I think, in this case, transformation is inevitable. The growth of yourself, the

growth of your career, the growth of your business — that’s optional. So I’m
making it a trigger on purpose. I want you to redefine and reinvent your career,
your business, your not-for-profit, whatever you’re doing because the tools are
there to do it and the thread is, if you don’t do it, someone else will.

The beauty is you can almost do it for free today. Half of most of the tools to
do this stuff are included in what you buy or free on the web. There are not a
lot of barriers other than the barriers in our own minds.

One of the other triggers, as a matter of fact, another major trigger in the
book to see invisible opportunities is to direct your future with intent. Once
again, one year becomes the next, becomes the next just like one day becomes
the next and one month becomes the next. All of a sudden we’re a year, two,
three, four, five have gone by in a flash. It’s like wow what happened.

I think that most of us what happens is the future just kind of unfolds. But in a
time period of transformation versus just rapid change I’m worried about that
because we may end up being a less sustainable planet, unless with intent we
become more sustainable which we could do. We may become less connected
and less human or we could be more connected and more humanized — that is
all about intent. 10
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It’s not the tool. It’s how you use it. I can use a tool to give you cancer or I
could use the same tool to cure your cancer. The key is not the tool. I know
people that can pick up a telephone and make a million dollars. I know people
that can pick up a telephone and lose a million dollars, the difference isn’t the
phone. It’s what you’re doing on the phone.

What I want us to do and this is a very big passion of mine — is to no longer sit
back and let the future just unfold and hope tomorrow is better than today. I
want us to intentionally make tomorrow better than today and to realize the
tools to make a bigger difference for yourself, for your family, for your business
and for others.

As a matter of fact, just you or I can reach around the world today and make a
profound difference. Let’s do it. This is the time. This is a unique time that has
never happened before. That’s why I wrote this book. We got to wake up.

That’s the greatest inspiration for me. I’ll talk to you about my story here
a little later but that’s the greatest inspiration for me and that’s what I
see. I think your writing style in particular Dan, you have laid out a path.
Right in the beginning of the book you have laid out — here are some
triggers and then you take trigger by trigger and help change the thinking

One of the things I mentioned to somebody when we talked about this

whole issue of transformation I said, at least to me personally when you
transform you stop doing what you did before, not get better at it, you
just eliminate it and do it differently. You have done that in laying out
this whole thinking process for us and giving us great examples.

Thank you. I tried doing something else that doesn’t happen on that many
books. I wanted to make sure that people were using these triggers, these
seven ways of seeing invisible opportunities and looking where you’re not
looking to see what you’re not seeing.

One of the things that I think you noticed is, I put a series of questions after
each chapter that make you really have to think about, am I applying this? And
are trying to force you to apply the principle to yourself rather than just read
on to the next chapter. I had a lot of people that had gotten back to me and
said they love that section.

Let’s talk about one of the major themes ‘Go Opposite’ because that’s
been one of my mantras literally for my entire life. You had helped me put
it in perspective. 11
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

I love going opposite. It really is a powerful principle. I was in New York a

couple of weeks ago doing some television interviews. Of course there were a
lot of fancy shoe stores, you know, beautiful leather shoes, many from Italy
and so on. What is the absolute opposite? How about a very ugly shoe made out
of plastic. By the way, what am I describing? Crocs. It’s a multi-billion dollar

Going opposite is very powerful. It is a way to see the invisible opportunity. For
example, if I’m a manufacturer here in the United States and I’m going to try
to compete against the Chinese. The key to doing well is to do the opposite of
what they do; to do what they can’t do. For example, the Chinese can do mass
production at a super low price and then ship it over here. What would I do if I
was a manufacturer? I would do small customized runs delivered rapidly. Why?
Because they can’t do that. Impossible. It’s the opposite by the way. You’ll win.

If I’m a retailer going up against a Wal-Mart, I’ll find out what Wal-Mart does
really well and make sure I don’t do that. As a matter of fact, the more the
opposite that I do of what they do well, the better the chances of me doing
extremely well. So opposites can work extremely well in just about everything
that had come across. It’s again, another one of those triggers that helps make
the invisible visible.

As a matter of fact, another trigger that a lot of people love and I use myself
all the time is take your biggest problem and skip it. Again, that’s a beauty.
Here is the concept behind that. Whatever problem you’ve got, whatever
challenge you have right now that’s not it. That’s why you haven’t solved it.
You’re smart. You would have figured that out by now.

The only way you’re really going to solve that giant big problem that’s in front
of you is to skip it because you’re working on the wrong one. It’s like an onion;
you got to peel it back. You got to peel it back to find what the real one is.

Let me give you a 60 second example. I was working with a large

pharmaceutical company a number of years ago, Eli Lilly. Their executives said
we got a problem. Right away, I had a big advantage over them because I knew
whatever they’re about to tell me wasn’t it. Of course, they’re smart. They
would have figured that out by now so that can’t be it. It’s got to be something

They said, we got to hire about 2000 additional PhD researchers. Our problem
is we don’t have the budget for it. We have to solve molecular problems and
that’s how we get more drugs in the pipeline and that’s how we get our stock
price up. The only way our stock price can be up and our investors are happy 12
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and Wall Street is happy is to get more drugs in the pipeline. That means more
molecular problems solved. That means we need more PhD researchers. By our
guess, we need at least 2000 additional ones. Our problem is we don’t have the
budget for them because our stock price is down.

I invoked the principal. I said, okay, then let’s skip it. What do they do? They
put their molecular problems on the internet in a dozen languages and said,
‘We pay for solutions.’ Now they have currently thousands and thousands of
PhD researchers all over the world submitting solutions to their molecular
problems and Eli Lilly just buys the solutions they want to buy. So was the
problem they didn’t have a budget. It’s like an onion, you got to peel it back.
The more they thought the budget was the problem, the less likely they were
to solving it. Your biggest problems can be skipped.

I’ll even tell you about a really interesting one that happened. I was sharing
this in a keynote speech I was giving awhile back. There was a crowd of people
who wanted to talk to me when I finished speaking. It’s a pretty good sized
audience, thousands of people. But there was a woman off to the side. I could
see she didn’t want to talk with a group. She wanted to talk to me personally.

So after people talked to me and kind of left, she was off to the side, she came
over to me and said, “Mr. Burrus, I heard your problem skipping concept. I got
a problem I can’t skip.” I said, “What is it?” She said, “I have just been
diagnosed not too long ago with terminal cancer. It’s rapid growing. I don’t
even have a year to live. I don’t want to die. I’m obsessed with this. I keep
thinking about dying. I’m thinking about dying all the time. I don’t want to die.
How do I skip that?” I said, “Why don’t you skip thinking about dying until
you’re dead. Why don’t you start thinking about living while you’re still alive?”

It was about a month later, I got an email from her. She said she was in Europe
with a friend on a little mini vacation and said that I “changed her life.”

How do you start to help people start peeling back those layers for
themselves personally? This is one of the triggers — one that I think is most
intriguing. At the same time, I think that’s a tough one for people to get
around because they think they do know what their problems are.

Once again, combinations of these triggers work fantastic together. Let’s take
that woman for example. She had a problem she couldn’t skip. How did I help
her skip it? I went opposite. What’s the opposite of thinking about dying? Well,
thinking about living. These triggers work together. There aren’t a hundred
triggers, there is only seven. These seven triggers are magic. 13
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

I didn’t come up with these in a day. I’ve been using these for 25 years. I’ve
started six companies. Three of them were national leaders in the first year.
One of them had 37 national locations in the first year. That was in the aviation

I started one business a year and a half ago, right in the trough of the recession.
I was writing this book and I thought, why not apply the seven principles to
starting a company in the midst of a recession and see what happens. That
company has been amazing. As a matter of fact, within launching the first
product within the first week, I was featured in the Wall Street Journal,
Fortune and Forbes. It became a leader almost instantly because I used the
seven principles.

My point is, these have been battle-tested. I have been sharing them and
working with executives. I do a lot of consulting with Fortune 200 CEOs and
executives helping them to do exactly what the book says — see invisible
opportunities to solve impossible problems.

By the way, I have even helped school districts with this. It can apply to
anybody. Let me give you a quick example; school district, big one in Michigan.
They had many, many schools in this big district. They said, we got major
budget cuts and there is no money left. We were trying to get money but there
is no money.

We’re going to have to layoff teachers. We’re going to have to cancel band and
chorus and a whole bunch of our extracurricular activities. We’re doing major
cutbacks. We’re going have to layoff a lot of aides. It’s a problem. Nobody’s
got money. We’re asking for money in all the places that you asked. There isn’t

I said, why don’t we make money then which is by the way the opposite of
asking for money. I said, you got all these schools and you’re just a couple of
miles from the big airport here in Michigan. When the planes are taking off
they are only about 2000 ft up by the time they get over the school district.

Why don’t we put ads on the roof? The kids don’t see the ads. The parents
don’t see the ads but all the people flying over see the ads. Let’s do one more
thing, instead of making the ads something that a parent would object to, why
don’t we make those ads something that a parent would say okay to. They did
that. It brought in a lot of money.

Then I said, there is a technology called the processor sharing. That was
invisible to them but it’s actually there to see. They were just looking in the 14
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

wrong place. What processor sharing does, it’s been around for quite awhile, is
it let’s you take PCs and just with software, not hardware, you can get them all
linked up so that they function as one big supercomputer.

I said, are your computers, are they all turned off at night when all the kids are
home and it’s like 2 in the morning? They said, yeah. Why don’t we do the
opposite, why don’t we leave turned on at night and we will lease out all of the
computer processing power in your entire school district to a drug company
who is trying to cure cancer. That way no parent would complain. That brought
in over six figures a year. What did I do? I just used the triggers — opposites
work better. Trying to ask for money, let’s make money.

The key is we’re all too busy for this. Let’s go back to the beginning; we’re all
way too busy. I’m telling everyone in this book, that busy didn’t get me
anywhere. As a matter of fact, here is my prediction with certainty, next year
you’ll be busier. But that’s a soft trend. You can change that. That’s soft that’s
not hard. That’s a maybe. That’s not a future for sure. That’s one.

I want you and everyone listening to change. I would like us to be far more
strategic, far more anticipatory to realize the problems and the challenges that
seem impossible to us really aren’t. It’s all an illusion. We just are looking in
the wrong place.

Again, the seven principles are based on hardened principles that I have been
using for years. They are well tested. As you know in the book, I’ve given a lot
of examples of how small companies, big companies, governments, schools, all
sorts of different groups have used combinations of these seven principles to
actually do exactly what the subtitle does; get that burst of foresight from
seeing an invisible opportunity or a solution to a problem they could not see

One of the more memorable examples for me in the book because of a

study that was this whole evolution of Singapore as a nation into a global
powerhouse today. What about that particular scenario most intrigued you?

I think the part that intrigued me the most is, first of all, they were directing
their future. Instead of just letting it unfold, they are actively shaping it. They
set a goal for themselves. They knew what they wanted to be.

As a matter of fact, Singapore as a government and as a nation has just said,

we are going to be the most innovative country on the planet. Well, talk is
cheap. What are they doing? They are hiring consultants and speakers and 15
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

authors and everyone who is an expert on innovation. They’re bringing them in

and teaching them.

They are also doing other interesting things to be the most innovative. They
said, anyone who’s got — they put a high grade point average all throughout
Asia — if you got a high grade point average, you can get a college education
all the way through PhD here at Singapore for free. You just have to have a
high education. If you’ve got enough aptitude and all of that, we give it to you
for free.

You might think that sounds amazing. What is Singapore doing? First of all,
they’re getting a lot of good brainpower being brought in. As the head of
Singapore said, we’re just hoping that maybe they’ll meet a cute Singapore girl
or a nice Singapore guy and settle down and stay in Singapore but if they don’t,
we have their brainpower while they’re here. That’s big. That’s huge. That’s

They directed their future. They understand that you get the behavior as your
reward. If Singapore is small, it doesn’t have a big population, it doesn’t mean
you can’t bring the best in and attract the best.

I remember watching an interview with him on Charlie Rose a few years

ago. One of the comments that really stood out with me was when he made
a comment that, in order for us to be first class country we have to stop
acting like a Third World country and start becoming a First World country.
Obviously the rest is history.

Exactly. Let me give you another thing that is happening to this country right
now. I didn’t put this in the book so we’ll make this a special bonus for all of
those that are listening right now. That is I know what our biggest export is. I
know what it’s been. The biggest export of the United States has been the
American dream.

We exported it all over the world the problem is we didn’t keep it ourselves.
Right now the kids that are going to school are feeling like they are going into a
time machine backwards. How motivated are they? Yet the kids that are
coming out of the rice paddies and going to school for the first time in other
parts of the world, it may not be a high tech school but to them they’re going
into a time machine forward.

Are the Chinese excited about their future? Oh yeah, definitely. Are the Indians
in India excited about their future? Oh yeah, they sure are. How excited are 16
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

the United States and our people right now about our future? The answer is,
hey, we’re worried about our future. You know what, you get what you get.

There is a concept I share at the end of the book and it’s called Future Views.
It’s a concept I’ve been teaching for 26 years. That is how you view the future,
to a great extent, shapes how you act in the present. Let’s face it, right now
there are people that are buying IBM stock and there are people that are
selling IBM stock. What’s the difference? In the future view of IBM. There are
kids that are going to college right now and other kids are going to drugs. So
what’s the difference? It’s their future view.

How we view the future shapes how we act and how we act literally shapes our
future. In other words, your future view will determine the future you. I think
right now in this country, we don’t have a future view or it’s a negative future
view. We better turn that around. We can use technology to do more with less
and to be more efficient and effective. That is a good use of technology.

One the things I’m trying to do with this book is show that we can also use
technology to create new products and services in new markets which by the
way create new careers. Where do jobs come from? Different thinking. So what
we need is some different thinking.

What leader today most embodies your seven triggers?

I would say from a company standpoint and a leadership standpoint, probably

Apple has been doing an amazing job because they have been using the
certainty principles.

For example, look at Apple products compared to Dell. Dell competes on price;
Apple has never competed on price. By the way, that’s another certainty. Are
they going to all of a sudden start going after the lowest end? That’s another
thing they have never done. Again, there are all these certainties but Apple has
done a great job. By the way, you might think, everybody says that right now.

But in 1999, if you were reading the things that I was writing about, the press
and most people thought Apple might go out of business. I was one of the few
people who was saying, no, Apply is one of the few companies that gets it, wait
and see, and here we are. I’m on record of saying that. Apple has been
amazing at seeing that. But you know what; Apple is just using the seven
principles. They are just using the seven triggers very effectively but they are
not the only ones. 17
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

Let’s look at those who have and those who haven’t. Netflix is obviously seeing
something that cable TV is not seeing, that Blockbuster is not seeing.
Blockbuster is busted but Netflix isn’t. By the way, in my last book,
Technotrends which was written quite awhile ago, I said, Blockbuster probably
won’t see it. I actually called it, Blockbuster is busted. Unfortunately, that was
a soft trend, it wasn’t a hard trend but it did happen.

Yahoo is the leader in search in ’99 but they didn’t see how to make money.
That was invisible to them. It became visible to somebody else named Google.
Polaroid was in the instant photography business. If you think about it, isn’t
that what digital is? Was it there for them to see? Yes, but they weren’t looking
in the right places and they did not see the certainty behind it. Yet the
certainty was all there to see.

What are the four words that Lehman Brothers and General Motors and all of
those speculative real estate investors that bought two or three homes with
money they didn’t have, and on and on and on — what do they all have in
common? The answer is four words, didn’t see it coming. In hindsight, we can
now see it was all there to see. No one was looking. They were all too busy.
Once again, we need to be doing that.

Here is what I can’t give you but I want to give you. There is no Democrat or
Republican yet that has given us a true vision for the future of this country;
one that unifies us rather than divides us; one that we can all agree on rather
than one that we debate. Until we get that unified vision for the future, I think
that we will continue to stumble. Because for the first time in America’s
history, right now, we are thinking that the future may not be as good as the
past. That is a very bad future for you to have because it really helps you to
direct your future. It makes you act in a way that will create that future. It
sounds weird but it actually works.

I believe that we need that unifying vision. That isn’t just a bunch of shallow
words but actually is something that brings us together. You see instead of
talking Democrat and Republican, we should realize that we’re all Americans.
By the way, instead of just acting like Americans, we got to realize that we got
to help the world because we’re going to be breathing their air too. This is a
planet that is more interconnected than ever before.

So if we’re developing great alternative energy here, we better be teaching

the Chinese how to do it. We better be teaching the Indians how to do it. We
better be teaching everybody else how to do it because we’re all in this
together in a way that we never were before. So there is a new way for us to
actually lead the world and it’s not by having the best weapons. 18
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

It’s definitely an interesting time. Dan, are there particular trends right
now that have you more excited?

I think the thing that has me the most excited is the certainty around the
transformation we’re going through. It’s one of the triggers in the book. I
described it very briefly in this interview that we’re going to transform how we
sell, how we market, how we communicate, how we collaborate, how we
innovate, how we train, how we educate. We all do all those things and they
will be transformed.

I believe if aren’t directing the future of that in making it better; if we aren’t

actively involved and engaged; if we’re sitting back passively and waiting, I
kind of worry. I believe that the opportunity that’s in front of us is like a
gigantic mountain of opportunity. It is a mountain of disruption as well for
those that don’t take action; that sit back passively and will have a wait and
see attitude; that protect and defend that status quo which is kind of human
nature but you got to get over it faster now.

The opportunity I believe is so much greater and so much bigger. I just want us
to see it. You see the problem is the news is the fog that keeps us from seeing
the mountain of the opportunity. Remember, bad news sells, good news
doesn’t sell. If there is no bad news to report, they will report the anniversary
of bad news. You’ve seen it happen.

I never heard that one. That’s a good one.

It is absolutely true just watch CNBC. If there is no bad news, they’ll give you
the anniversary of bad news. It’s the fog. You’re fogged in. You need to blow
away the fog and all of a sudden you will see it.

I remember I had some neighbors. I had spent a number of times going out
backpacking and mountain climbing in the west. One of my favorite national
parks is Glacier National Park. I got some neighbor kids to go out there as they
got old enough to go out. They came back and they showed me pictures and
they couldn’t see the mountain because it was so fogged in. There was low fog
for the time that they were there, low clouds. There was also some fires that
where nearby that had kind of put some smoke in the air. They couldn’t see
the mountains.

It’s interesting because I had to pull out my pictures of the same place they
were and show them. There are snow capped peaks there but they couldn’t see
them. Now you see the mountains were there but they were fogged in. They 19
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weren’t in view. I believe right now, there has never ever been more
opportunity than there is right now but you’re fogged in. Blow it away.

That’s why your stuff is so inspiring. I think here is an appropriate ending.

One of the things that I have begun to implement immediately is your
recommendation at the end of the book that recommends, spend an hour a
week addressing some of these questions around the seven triggers like,
what am I certain about? I’m curious Dan, take us through that hour that
you spent with yourself maybe last week.

This is a really important thing. I call it opportunity management versus crisis

management. You’re going to spend the rest of your life in the future. Maybe I
don’t think about it. So one hour a week. I know a lot of people will say, this
guy doesn’t realize I’m really busy, I can’t spend an hour a week. Remember,
busy ain’t going to help you.

I want you to take that one hour a week and unplug from the present, unplug
from the current news, stop thinking about all the current stuff you’re dealing
with. Start making a list of the hard trends and the soft trends that you know
about your job, the business you’re in, the career you’re in, the industry you’re
in, your customers, your competitors.

Make a little list of the things you are certain about. What do you know?
Instead of being blindsided by all the things you don’t know. What are you
certain about? You’ll be amazed at that list.

Ask yourself, what are the problems that you’re going to have? You don’t see
them now but now that you’ve taken the time to look, whoa, I’m going to have
that big problem. Then you know what I want you to do. Solve it so you don’t
have it in the first place.

Solving tomorrow’s predictable problems today is the way you won’t have more
problems. But if you don’t do that in the time of transformational change,
you’ll be loaded with problems and you’ll be buried in them. I think the hour a
week is a way to get started. It is very addictive. I’ve been sharing this as a
principle for probably 15 years to audiences that I speak to.

I’ve had so many comments that have come back from literally thousands and
thousands of people in letters, in emails, and everything else saying boy that
hour a week really has paid off. 20
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

As a matter of fact, I do it more than an hour a week now because it’s such a
big payoff and I get together with my friends and do it and with my colleagues.
So just try it.

Here is a little coaching on this. Put it in your calendar and make an

appointment because you know what, you’ll be putting out another fire and
you’ll never get to it.

I want to talk a little bit about your website because there is tremendous
amount of information on your website. Flash Foresight is the book. The
website is Do you want to comment a little bit about
what information you’re giving on your website? How people can start to
immerse themselves a little bit more in your thinking.

First of all, you can go to I have on there videos. I also have
access to blogs. I have been for the last couple of years sending out tweets on
my Twitter where I send out a principle everyday, a guiding principle. I get a
lot of good feedback on that. I’m doing Facebook and Twitter. Links to all of
those things can be found on Increasingly, you will see places
where we can start sharing. I also have a sight called

One of the things I’ll be implementing next month — I want you to take a look
at it now that the book has been out there for a little while — is I’m going to
have people sharing how they went opposite, sharing how they did impossible
things, sharing what are the hard trends they have identified. I think it will be
a very interesting place for you to visit because not only do you have to do it
yourself but you can see what others have been able to do.

One other little thing about If you go there, you will
see. If you haven’t picked up a copy of the book yet, there is a place so that if
you buy a copy of the book and you put in just your receipt number, you can
have access to — I’ve got about 40 authors that have loved the book so much
and wanted to celebrate the book’s success that they have said — and they
have related material to what I talked about. They have donated over $20,000
in videos and materials that people can download for free if they buy the book.
They are doing that to celebrate the success of it. They just want as many
people reading it as possible.

First of all, I want to thank those 40 authors. We’re talking about guys like Ken
Blanchard, John Assaraf, Jack Canfield, and Harvey McKay. In other words,
these are New York Times bestselling authors. It’s quite a little gift. Therefore,
I have just given all of you listeners access to that gift. 21
Flash Foresight (Unplugged) !Daniel Burrus with Moe Abdou

That is awesome. I know that this is going to be the beginning of many

future dialogs with you because this is the beginning like you said. I echo
your thinking that we are really in the greatest transformation of our time.

Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity. 22

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