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Can you Predict the Future? The Anticipatory Organization Model

I heard Daniel Burrus speak for the first time at the 2022 AIAMC Annual Meeting. He lived up to his billing as a futurist. He described some concepts from his book, The Anticipatory Organization (1), which he dedicated to unveiling the Anticipatory Organization Model (or AO Model). 

Section I -Transform Planning: Burrus defines anticipatory thinking as ‘the learned competency that allows you to proactively anticipate disruption and change and, from there, plan with the confidence that certainty can provide’ (p. 14). Hard and Soft Trends are at the core of the AO Model; a Hard Trend is a future fact that WILL happen (e.g., technology will increase, the population is aging). On the other hand, a Soft Trend MAY happen; the assumption may be hard (based on research/facts) or soft (opinion or gut instinct). Hard Trends can also be described as cyclical (like seasons – or arrival of new learners and exit of graduates), linear (like retirement of older faculty) or exponential (like adoption of smart watches). You can use both Hard and Soft Trends to your advantage once you identify them correctly. 

Next, Burrus describes three digital accelerators - computing power, bandwidth, and digital storage – which acting together have placed technological change on a rapid upward climb past an Exponential Inflection Point. In his words, “new and innovative technology has no intention of slowing down – it’s only going to become faster, and exponentially so” (p. 37). He also notes that new technology rarely replaces existing workflows right away, and recommends organizations use a ‘both/and’ rather than an ‘either/or’ approach to integrating the old and the new (think about virtual national meetings, including AIAMC’s Annual meeting in March 2022 which was a hybrid of in-person and virtual gathering).      

Section II - Transform Innovation:  Speaks to two more concepts in the AO Model. Everyday Innovation can be used by employees at all levels to devise inventive solutions to everyday problems, and Exponential Innovation is ‘game-changing, disruptive innovation;’ he deems both essential. In the ideal organization everyone would have an Anticipatory Mindset, encouragement of which promotes engagement; yet it is possible for individuals to innovate alone or in small groups.

There are 8 Hard Trend Pathways to Innovation, which may be used alone or in combination. 

1. Dematerialization refers to making things smaller. 

2. Virtualization is familiar – taking something ordinarily done in the physical world into a digital world. 

3. Mobility incorporates use of tablets, smartphones, and wearables. 

4. Artificial Intelligence will increasingly be added to products and services. 

5. Networking – wired, fiber, and wireless – is increasing. 

6. Interactivity can be used to transform products and services. 

7. Globalization is enabled by technology. 

8. Convergence of features and functions creates added value.

Burrus challenges his readers to move beyond the competition rather than focus on benchmarks that will be exceeded by others; ‘focus on identifying the Hard Trends that are shaping the future and the Soft Trends you can positively influence’ (p. 65). He also charges leaders to ‘when introducing a new strategy or policy, be sure to tie it to a Hard Trend certainty…’ (p. 76). He discusses Problem Skipping as a way to deconstruct or accurately perceive problems in order to solve them sooner. He also notes that Hard and Soft Trends hold strategic value when connected to actionable opportunities; effective ‘Opportunity Managers’ rank and prioritize opportunities according to their potential pay-off vs risk and financial commitment.

Section III - Transform Culture:  focuses on elevation. On how one’s ‘Futureview’ determines how people plan ahead or invest. How all members of an organization should share the same mission and vision – and transmit this to customers and vendors. How ‘Failing Fast’ – learning from a failure, sharing the lesson with like-tasked people, and changing course – may be preferable to staying the course and trying in vain to fix things (or people).

Section IV – Transform Results:  cautions that relationships based on trust excel technology as a means of unlocking the future. Burrus discusses how ‘Time Travel Audits’ can be used to determine if clients or colleagues are past-oriented or present-oriented, and how to help them develop anticipatory mindsets. This approach can mitigate mistrust related to generational differences – a topic discussed by Dr. Margot Savoy at the AIAMC Annual Meeting (2).

My reflections related to the concepts in The Anticipatory Organization include:

Are there ways to blunt the ‘July effect’ – a Soft Trend/Soft Assumption that patient outcomes are worse in July as interns start residency?  I found that a recent national study (3) showed no difference in outcomes over thirty years.

Was a trend in my scholarly activity to collaborate with females more often than males? That turned out to be a Soft Trend/Soft Assumption; my PubMed record had equal numbers of male and female co-authors. 

Am I keeping up with technology?  That’s a Hard Trend clinically and educationally – and an opportunity to incorporate skill sets across generational lines. (My son just helped me arrange the apps on my smartphone.)

I have seen the power of Problem Skipping in ambulatory quality work. Skipping the problem of patient outreach calls not being done and latching onto the underlying problem that we no longer had the capacity for nursing to fulfill that function allowed us to move the responsibility to our patient service specialists, with significant success.

I look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead!


1. Burrus, D. (2017). The Anticipatory Organization: Turn Disruption and Change into Opportunity and Advantage. Greenleaf Book Group Press, Austin.

2. Savoy M. Communicating Through Generational Differences: Tackling Bias & Leveraging our Strengths. Podium presentation at: AIAMC Annual Meeting, New Orleans, LA; March 25, 2022.

3. Zogg CK, Metcalfe D, Sokas CM, Dalton MK, Hirji SA, Davis KA, Haider AH, Cooper Z, Lichtman JH. Reassessing the July Effect: 30 Years of Evidence Show No Difference in Outcomes. Ann Surg. 2021 Feb 25:10.1097/SLA.0000000000004805. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000004805. 

Dr. Kolade is Interim Co-Chief for Quality, Wellness & Research, Sayre Internal Medicine, The Guthrie Clinic, and Clinical Professor of Medicine & Regional Clerkship Director for Internal Medicine, Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine.

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AIAMC Book Review Editor: Deborah Simpson, PhD