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#45—Amy Webb: Using Foresight—Not Prediction—to Guide Strategy

#45—Amy Webb: Using Foresight—Not Prediction—to Guide Strategy

Amy Webb is a quantitative futurist and a bestselling, award-winning author. She is a professor of strategic foresight at the NYU Stern School of Business and the Founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading foresight and strategy firm that helps leaders and their organizations prepare for complex futures.

Amy has advised CEOs and heads of strategy of some of the world’s largest companies, three-star generals and admirals and executive government leadership on strategy and technology. She was also a Delegate on the former U.S.- Russia Bilateral Presidential Commission, where she worked on the future of technology, media and international diplomacy.

She is the author of several popular books, including The Big Nine: How the Tech Titans and Their Thinking Machines Could Warp Humanity, which was longlisted for the Financial Times & McKinsey Business Book of the Year award, shortlisted for the Thinkers50 Digital Thinking Award, and won the 2020 Gold Axiom Medal for the best book about business and technology. She also wrote The Signals Are Talking: Why Today’s Fringe Is Tomorrow’s Mainstream, which won the Thinkers50 Radar Award, was selected as one of Fast Company’s Best Books of 2016, Amazon’s best books 2016, and was the recipient of the 2017 Gold Axiom Medal for the best book about business and technology.

Amy was named by Forbes as one of the five women changing the world, listed as the BBC’s 100 Women of 2020, and the Thinkers50 Radar list of the 30 management thinkers most likely to shape the future of how organizations are managed and led.

In this podcast, she shares:

  • Why we should be doing 'back-casting' rather than forecasting

  • Why strategizing for the future is NOT about predicting it, but instead about shifting your mindset to be prepared for the future’s uncertainty

  • Some practical advice about who should be doing the kind of future planning work that that is so critical for today for any organization that wants to remain relevant


"If you're on a three-year strategic planning cycle,'re marking milestones and KPIs...on that corporate strategy. The problem is that it doesn't account for uncertainty. This is where a lot of companies fall short, and they don't have the ability to recalibrate. So I do not use a line, I use a cone it's a different shape. So the intersecting vectors where that cone begins on the left that represents today. And the further out in time, you go, the wider, the angle becomes on the inside of that cone. And that represents uncertainty over time."

-Amy Webb


  • Episode Timeline:

    00:00—Introducing Amy + The topic of today’s episode

    2:10—What is your definition of strategy?

    3:32—A model for thinking about time and foresight

    6:05—What's a tip or go-strategy for getting people to appreciate the importance of thinking of long-term horizons?

    8:15—Could you explain the difference between predicting the future vs. being ready for many possible futures. Could you explain the difference?

    10:22—Using data and evidence to model out plausible next-order impacts

    12:24—The term and history of the futurist

    13:50—Could you describe your work in synthetic biology?

    17:16—You mentioned that synthetic biology will become as commonplace a term as AI, could you explain how other industries could be affected that seem unrelated?

    19:27—Do you have any other tips for how people can learn more about this topic?

    20:34—What is a science fiction book or movie people should know about?


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The 4th Option Junto
The Outthinkers podcast is a growth strategy podcast hosted by Kaihan Krippendorff. Each week, Kaihan talks with forward-looking strategists and innovators that are challenging the status quo, leading the future of business, and shaping our world.