Use ‘Futuring’ to Deal with Hyperchange

December 23, 2020

Book Review by Taylor Berrett

If you’re most intrigued by How to Future: Leading and Sense-Making in an Age of Hyperchange thanks to its high-profile authors, you’re not alone— and you’re certainly justified. Both Scott Smith and Madeline Ashby have made names for themselves in the world of predicting the future and guiding innovation. Smith has done it as founder and managing partner of Changeist since 2007, guiding the Changeist team’s research and strategic direction. He’s established himself as a leader in guiding massive organizations into the future through foresight, strategic thinking, and narrative design to uncover insights and trends that others miss.

Smith has found an interesting and, perhaps unsurprisingly, perfect writing partner in Madeline Ashby— best known as the science fiction writer behind the novel Company Town. But besides being a science fiction writer, Ashby has also worked for organizations like Intel, the Ontario government, and a range of design and communication firms. Through both her science fiction and consulting work, Ashby’s job is to predict the future.

Which brings us to How to Future, which attempts to provide straightforward guidance on how to predict the future in an increasingly uncertain world— and mostly succeeds.

Complex Topics, Clearly Communicated

The strength of How to Future lies in the powerful clarity of its writing— likely due in large part to coauthor Madeline Ashby’s experience and skill as a storyteller. The reader is left struck by the complexity and wisdom of the book’s insights and the simplicity with which they’re presented.

There’s never been a more important time to develop a grasp of what’s possible in the near and distant future, not just for futurists and think-tank-philosophers but for the average person who wants a more firm grasp on what the future holds for them personally and the world they occupy.

Going behind simply attempting to predict what’s next, the book provides a framework for how to do it yourself— and ample inspiration for why doing so is such an important calling. Meanwhile, Smith and Ashby make no attempt to convince readers that the future is easily predictable, stable, or singular.

Perhaps the most refreshing element of How to Future is that it’s not written dispassionately with the cold gaze of a historian, but rather with a moral purpose that is downright infectious. It leaves the reader with the belief that not only will embracing uncertainty and confronting the future with a sense of purpose help improve your life, but it will make you a better human being in the process.

In the end, this is the power of How to Future – not only that it provides real, actionable skills and processes for helping confront the unknown, but also that it offers an optimistic vision of that unknown.


Taylor Berrett

Taylor Berrett is a freelance writer, editor, and host of the podcast Alone in a Room. His other book reviews can be found here.