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The Pharmaceutical Strategist
"We steal if we touch tomorrow. It is God's!" Henry Beecher
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In The Age of Heretics, Art Kleiner tells the story of a monastic foresight priesthood that resided in Philae temple up the river Nile. Their vocation was predicting the level of the annual flood.
Every spring they would check the color of the water. If the water ran clear they predicted that the Nile would flood mildly that summer. If the water ran brown they predicted floods. On the twentieth day of the fourth month of each year, they would send a boat down the river with their predictions to Pharaoh in Cairo.
Predicting floods was a serious business and their predictions left a lot to be desired. So they constructed a Nilometer and kept obsessive records of the river's water levels year after year. The records rorschached into a discernible cyclical pattern that helped improve their predictions.
Trying to communicate time series analysis to a non-mathematically inclined Pharaoh is not easy. So the priests communicated their findings to Joseph who was allegedly sleeping with the Pharaoh's wife.
A true player, Joseph used the device of storytelling to communicate the findings . He let it be known that the Pharaoh had a dream of seven fat cows and seven thin starving cows. When asked to interpret the vision, he told of the coming of seven good years followed by seven lean years.
Pharaoh appointed Joseph as his scenario planner, the second most powerful position in Egypt after Pharaoh himself. Joseph set a mandate that farmers give one fifth of their grain produce to Pharaoh to be stored in silos during the good years and ensured that these silos were left untouched.
When the predicted famine arrived, the grain was redistributed back to the farmers. That was the first social security system in the history of mankind. It saved plenty of lives and Joseph ended up becoming a Pharaoh himself.
Three thousand years later, an Austrian economist by the same name, Joseph Schumpeter, reformulated this vision in his groundbreaking work on business cycles. And strategists adopted Joseph’s communication technique and called it Scenario Planning.
In its broadest sense, scenario planning is a conversation with interesting introverts who are obsessively gazing, through their powerful telescopes and microscopes, at the bleeding edges of their science. Then interpreting what they see and communicating it in a simple manner to the extroverts in the executive branch.
There is certain magic in weaving Scenarios. They tend to behave in a quantum way. Like Schrödinger's cats, expertly woven scenarios tend to turn into self-fulfilling prophecies.
Today, with space-time compression, one can see into the future just by looking at spatial relations between events. Anyone with access to satellite imagery watching the Ethiopians building the Renaissance Dam can pick up his smart phone and text pharaoh in Cairo:
“Pharaoh, you are in for a very long drought.”
“How do you know?”
“I can see it right now. Your future has just happened!”
It is not really that difficult to see into the future. William Gibson, the SciFi author of Johnny Mnemonic, once explained that the future is now, it is simply not equally distributed. The trick is in what are you going to do about it?
Scenario planners have come along way from the time when they used to see into the future, Cassandra style. They’ve learned that the future is the result of the collective actions or inaction of all of us, the current participants in the here and now. They have joined the Justice League and harnessed the power to change futures!
Wish for a demonstration?
Close your eyes. Travel back in time to August 5th 1945. Try to picture, in your mind’s eye, Paul Tibbets as he was about to press the button that released Little Boy.
As Paul was looking down from the cockpit of his mother named Enola Gay, was he looking down at the future of the Hiroshimans down below? or was he changing the future of humanity?
With a simple touch of a button.
Your future is not what it used to be!