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Josh Bernoff

Josh Bernoff’s entire career as an analyst and author has been focused on the future. In this episode The Futurists discuss forecasting: What is the difference between strategic insight and tactical decisions? Why is it so difficult to predict the timing of forecasts? Why organizations have a bias towards the status quo, and why futurists have a bias towards change. Josh explains how summarizing “What It Means” can bring a liberating clarity to forecasts and strategic plans.

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[Music] this week on the futurists Josh bernoff we now have a tool that makes it
extremely efficient to create hack level writing so if you're a writing hack you
are in big trouble because now we have an automated tool that creates hack level
[Music] writing well hi there and welcome back
to yet another episode of the futurists each week we talked someone who's busy inventing building and designing the
future that they Envision and this week we got a great guest for you I'm joined this week by Brian sues hi Brian good to
see you again good to see you Robert how you been ah you know just uh living the
life of luxury and hotel rooms or or or I could just say this by podcast Studio
my portable podcast Studio nice nice very very post-pandemic of you and and
this week we've got an old friend and acquaintance business colleague uh that I'm very happy to reconnect with is
someone I won book on the show for some time and in fact has a new book out which we're going to talk about because
it's very timely it's relevant to our show so here's a big welcome to Josh bernoff Josh hi thanks for joining us on
the show today hey it's great to be here and hey I live my whole life in the future so I'm really excited to talk
about it I know that and by way of introduction I want to explain that to people because um those who are watching
on video are going to notice that Josh prominently has displayed a poster for
Build a Better Business book which is which is his most recent book and since Brian and I are both book authors we're
keenly interested in the subject so we're for sure going to talk about that and you know the kind of the future of the book publishing business but what
some people don't know is that Josh actually spent many years forecasting and projecting and
analyzing the future when you were at Forester research tell us a little bit about your background in Forester and how that got you into the book
publishing business sure um so the humiliating way to start is is to say
that uh I got hired at Forester to help them predict the future of CD
ROM this was this was in 1995 and after a short time they're like you're not
doing CD ROM anymore because nobody gives a crap so uh yes I was an analyst there
for 20 years I I actually focused for most of that time on the future of
Television so things like HDTV and streaming uh at one point I made the
prediction that the uh the television schedule as we know it would be
vaporized and we'd be watching everything on whatever schedule we wanted got people prediction well got
people in the industry really upset and you know that's the one thing I was right about I also said HDTV would fail
oops so so and then you know we can talk about how these predictions work and why
they don't work um about halfway through my stint there I tried to quit and I
said to the CEO George Colony I've loved working here but I need to go and write
books because that's what I've always wanted to do and to his credit he said why don't you write books for us and
Charlene Lee another analyst there and I had had noodled around with this idea of
a book on social media so I said hey I could write a book with Charlene Lee on social media and George was like great
do it well that book is the one you see behind me uh with the bright AR bright
yellow and green cover groundwell Earth shattering book on social media sold 150,000 copies and changed the way
everybody thought about that and from that moment forward I was an author and I worked with other authors edited
content and basically focused on books in the last 10 years of my career at
Forester producing a total of five books uh three that I co-authored and two that I edited um and so when I left there in
in uh 2015 I focused exclusively on working with authors mostly about books on
marketing on technology and and the future and that's what I've been doing since then and so some respects there's
a real through line it seems to me in your career because even when you were at Forest or as an analyst part of your
job was to interpret Trends and and kind of process them analyze them I guess and then put them into written context that
other people could easily understand so uh you know the way I look at that is the world's coming at us in a series of
short headlines and if anything that's accelerated in the last 20 years so you know we're just inundated with headlines and they're Grabber headlines a lot of
facts out of context a lot of Snippets of stories it's pretty hard for most people to make sense of more than one or
two subject areas that they're quite knowledgeable about so generally when we read the newspaper it's a sort of flurry
of of news bits but they're ripped out of context so it's hard to understand what the bigger picture is uh you know right now you could get think of examp
examples of that from the war in the Ukraine the politics in Capitol Hill whatever the heck is going on there the sort of reality bending politics but
also things like climate change climate science uh economic forecasting the conflict with China or whatever our
relationship with China is these things come at us in Snippets and what we tend to do is rely on someone who is
knowledgeable or expert or has a time or or perspective to assemble them into a
narrative and ideally it's a narrative that we can accept right it either matches our bias or it's something that
we're inclined to want to understand better uh and so we'll go with that narrative but that's a pretty powerful role right so whether you're doing it as
a forecaster or an analyst for a forecasting firm or an a book author what you're doing is you're taking a lot
of disperate information a lot of disperate headlines and you're kind of repackaging them into a narrative context did I get that right is that
kind of the narrative way it works it's it's fantastic to talk to somebody who really understands this stuff Robert yes
you got that exactly right what we're trying to do on the show every week the the job of the Forester analyst is to
first of all do a lot of research about what's really happening out there so they basically are getting primary
information from surveys and from talking to people about what is happening among practitioners in a given
area and then to analyze that that's something people don't really understand what that means but that means to
assemble the information into a cohesive hole and figure out what it means and
then to talk about the significance of that where it's going and what a uh
client uh business person in that situation needs to understand about the future so they can prepare for that
future um and I in some sense it's not any
different from what a science fiction writer does except that a year and a half later people can say you were right
or you were wrong right but you're you're trying to see around corners you're trying to look at not only at
Trends but at how those Trends intersect you're trying to see when there's an event like the release of chat GPT that
is going to change everything and when there's some other event uh that that
everyone is all excited about that you say no no that's not really the main point um and to figure out what the
significance is uh and have a little bit longer view um and you know this is when
I came to to Forester this is actually sort of funny um right I had being a cdrom developer and everyone kept
talking about well you need to write about things that are strategic and I'm like uhoh I don't know what strategic
means what do they mean by strategic I guess I got to like listen and figure it out and then I figured it out it's very
simple strategic simply means actions that a company takes to prepare
themselves for a future that's different from the current present I'm like oh
okay that I can understand and that's really what the what a u analyst or an
author or a futurist really needs to do so let me see let me play that back so you're saying most companies in a way
they're like on autopilot right even as they do like let's say budgeting every year sometime around September this time
of year companies start thinking about next year's budget and what most organizations tend to do is they just say okay we're going to do the same
thing we did last year but we're going to add 5 percent and submit that and see what the CFO says maybe we'll be lucky
and get away with it or maybe they'll cut some 5 percent and we'll have to like figure out how to do a little different but they don't really sit down
and say should we be doing a different thing entirely and that's really hard I
mean like look at Ford Motors launching an electric version of the for of the F-150 truck non-trivial right because
you got a lot of motorheads in Detroit a lot of people who love like internal combustion engines getting them to set
aside 20 or 30 years of experience in that field and adopt basically what is it a rolling PC you know like a big
computer on Wheels that's a that's a big shift for them conceptually right to do that uh so that is what you're referring
to as strategic thinking that's that's exactly right and um it's it's I'm going
to I'm going to tell you something about predicting the future now which is crucial for people to understand it is
really easy to predict the future it is very hard to predict the timing oh
that's good so so let's just take the electric vehicles that you're talking about so suppose I make a prediction and
I say uh the future is a future in which uh transportation is dominated by
electric vehicles easy prediction to make almost certainly correct
but if you're Ford Motor Company or if you are um you know the the the uh city
of New York or you are a company that makes components you know you make tires
um it's important to you to understand is this GNA happen next year is it gonna happen five years from now is it gonna
happen 25 years from now and the nature of these changes is that it's like it's
small you can ignore it it's small you can ignore it it's small it's small but growing a little so will sort of pay a
little bit of attention to it oh crap it's growing like mad and we're behind and to figure out when that takes off is
the hardest thing to do in prediction and if you're in a big organization there are an awful lot of
people with a very strong vested interest I mean a financial interest in maintaining the status quo absolutely so
as you come in saying like hey here's the future I'm pretty excited about it might be really good but I have no data to tell me exactly when or how big this
opportunity is going to be there is dozens of people that come out of the woodwork to say nope he's wrong you can ignore him don't worry about it we got a
really good business here why would we wreck it I know this uh you probably can tell uh from when I was at Sony Pictures
I was a consumer of your research at the time I was a big fan and uh we were very
successful in the TV business in particular and um I kept saying we need to make make some serious changes here
uh and and there was a chorus of people right not just the network people but the people who sold the cable and the people did syndication and and so forth
like there was an army of different people who would come forth out of the woodwork and say ignore that guy he's just the internet guy yeah I I I I'm
gonna tell you something which I think is their own about about biases here so
all existing companies have a bias toward the status quo because that's
what they're good at you know they're really efficient at it and they and they it's like uh this is why Clayton
Christensen wrote wrote The innovator's Dilemma it's about how hard it is for companies to change but there's a bias
among futurists and analysts too which is always a bias toward change so let's
say you do a bunch of research and you decide that the market that you're you're covering is going to stay pretty
much the way it currently has for the next five years it's very hard to get
people interested in a research report that says everything's going to stay the same you don't have to do anything nobody wants to pay for that so it's
always this thing is going to change this is going to be different this this is going in a different direction these
are the things you need to invest in and so they have a bias toward change the companies have a bias toward stability
and somewhere in the middle there is the moment when the strategist at the company somebody like you Robert needs
to say ah this is when we have to start investing in this so the three years from now when it's really big we'll be
prepared but that's the that's the catch right so the three years from now is is the exactly difficult thing so first of
all in any business it takes 18 months to figure out what the heck you're going to do and it takes a further 18 months to get that project off the ground so
three years is a good timeline but if we ask our audience right now the people are listening to this show to think for a second about some of the trends that
we've talked about some of the futurists that we've interviewed on this show previously and ask yourself how soon is
that going to be real how soon is something like synthetic biology going to change uh where we can actually manufacture plants that create things
for us or tap the generative power of biology we've been hearing about it since 2010 or maybe even earlier than
that um it doesn't seem like it's here well hang on though modna the vaccines that actually was an example of it
working so maybe it's here but it's here kind of in a peripheral way important if you're in Pharma I suppose but hard for
most people to see how it's going to affect their own day-to-day life and there's other examples of that you know you can think about the way we buy food
or the um you know the way we consume energy in our own lives at what point are we going to need to make a change
the funny thing is I'm talking to you in July of of 2023 uh when it's apparently the hottest
the how does year on in recorded history like by some measures at least it doesn't bother me I moved to
Maine right on but you know you everyone realizes at some point we're going to have to change Behavior right on this
planet we're going to have to change the way we consume and the way we make stuff and the kind of energy we use and so forth those are big sweeping changes
right there'll be societal changes not just an economic change or you know a business change and um and there's going
to be a tremendous amount of resistance you could say there is right already a tremendous amount of resistance to it so in a way it's like a macro uh a macro
example but every individual in every company uh who's thinking about the future has to deal with this on an
individual or a micro basis as well he Brian you probably run into that as well because you advise a lot of
organizations to think about the future right uh do you into resistance like that it's it's the whole it's so much so
that it's become the foundation for my next book um it is taking a step back to
as Josh you so wisely observed is everything's always a bias and you know
when we talk about things like the Jedi mind trick essentially in this case it's how do you navigate that bias uh for for
seen or observed and unseen uh opportunities to not just
change but to be better so for example in the climate change ex example that
you were just talking about we've known for a long time we need to do things differently but our biases in large part
at a societal level are preventing us from doing so uh just like it's the
biases for a beverage you enjoy like say Bud Light uh becomes instantly uh
something that you no longer enjoy just simply because of something that challenged your own bias against it uh
so the hardest part about this is getting people to open their mind
willingly uh maybe on their own accord to to hear something differently in
order to then consider it in what is in the best interest of them and those that they care about and that humanization of
this story uh is is probably the hardest part Josh you one one thing you taught me a long time ago maybe you don't
remember this but uh it was the whim
exercise and the whim exercise uh if I'm not mistaken was something that's
heavily practiced at Forester which is what yes they invented it right yeah and the what it means exercise is really
taking something I I try to use it as a as a way to help me navigate what it
means beyond the bias or in consideration of a bias that I know I'm going to hit head on so that I can break
it down into a conversation where someone can feel it as if they came to that conclusion themselves and not they
weren't told it uh and that was I think one of the big I I even tell that story in the next book about that how that
exercise still practice today and and and in the understanding of then scenario planning around around biases
just for clarification what is whim what what is the what it means exercise it's well I can tell you for
having done it all that time at Forester is um all analysts at all different
companies and financial analysts whatever develop analysis right they
they figure out what's going to happen and what the the uh the sort of simplest
way to describe those shifts is and how fast they're going to happen the whim what it means is like okay let's assume
that we're right about our prediction what would that mean for
where people work in offices what would that mean for the amount that people get paid what would that mean for the
geopolitical differences between China and Europe and the United States it's to to look for the nonobvious
consequences of the conclusions you have and take things that extra step um you
know the the report I wrote at Forester that was a uh most popular which was you
know about about looking at different ways that people consume technology I showed that to my wife who was an artist
because she didn't usually read the stuff that I I do and she was like well this is pretty good but what was that
wacko stuff at the end and that wacko stuff at that wacko stuff at the end is the whim it's taking
things out further okay um and and good luck Brian because you uh I hope you
don't get sued by Forester for using that well I I I I tell I tell the story of how it's Foresters IP and trying to
protect myself in that but but it is it is uh it is it is a helpful exercise
like for example like uh work work from home and uh look look at San Francisco
you know part of a whim exercise could could look at what would be the uh
economic impact of businesses in downtown San Francisco once people
started to return to work exactly yeah know in fact government is incredibly bad at this it's like a giant blind spot
for government right we see the trends you know they're they're very aware they're the ones issuing the mandate to stay at home so they know that people
are staying at home but then they don't take the next step and say what would the impact be this I had an interesting conversation with um here in Los Angeles
the the um County Health commissioner um because she was pushing she continued to
push these stay-at-home orders you may recall California kept them for much longer than many other states in the US
during the pandemic and I had a conversation with her I said Gee look you know restaurants and local
businesses are going out of business like they're closing the doors and chefs are moving to Nevada and Arizona and
other states where they can be employed so they can you know get their kids in school and so forth you do realize that
there's an economic impact she said it's not my job my job is to focus on the health standards my job is to focus on
making sure that the infection rate continues to go down and I'm gonna do my job and I was like okay so you're GNA
Chuck that over the fence to some other Economic Development group you know who never stepped up so this is a problem and it's a kind of a blind spot or I
think that falls through the cracks uh so I I see that you know I think you give advice to writers even in your book
Josh about how to write the Final Chapter I think you borrowed that win concept and you're like hey here's a here's a way one technique for finishing
your book is H is to say what it means yeah well I I basically in the book tell
people to structure things as the first chapter is to scare the crap out of each chapter about something that you have to
to pay attention to because if you don't bad things will happen or you'll end up competitively behind good advice for
futurists here the the rest of the the book explains the details of that concept and
what to do about it and everyone's like well I don't know what to write in the last chapter I'm like that is the easiest chapter to write because if
somebody's gotten to that point they believe everything you've said before so you can say whatever you want and if
they haven't gotten to that point and they gave up doesn't matter you're right so uh what you put in that last chapter
is how can we go further with this and I've actually done these sort of whim sessions with with people where I was
working on uh helping them with books and just say to their employees get 10 or uh 12 of them together and say what's
here's the platform of what we believe what's the wackiest things that could happen and people who don't usually
think that way will often come up with the most incredible ideas when you do that yeah yeah you give people Liberty
to kind of Envision stuff it's it's like a it's like a brainstorming exercise yeah I did that in my own book when I uh when I was writing vaporized the idea
that we're replacing physical stuff with software and I asked myself that question I was like how do you end this book I'm like what's the maximum like
where can I push this concept as far into the future or into the improbable and I decided gee I wonder if we can
vaporize the human body as it turns out there are thousands of people working on that right now you know that idea of
like replacing human biology with silicon and transferring human consciousness to a different substrate
and I end up interviewing some of those folks which were super fun interviews and it made the book kind of fun and I I recognize the point you're making which
is most people who buy a business book do not finish the business book and as a result it doesn't really matter what
your final chapter says you might as well have fun with it and and kind of go zoom out to the big big picture there uh
useful advice um so in in our show what we like to do at the end of the first
first half of the show is is get to know you as a person a little bit more I'm GNA ask you a series of questions Josh
um that are short questions so and just you know give us short quick answer to totally terrified right now go for it
okay uh no these are these are easy these are easy okay this is uh this is
uh usually something that's administered by Brett King but he's traveling today so I'm gonna do the honors and so this
is the lightning round okay so Josh tell me what is your
first experience of Science Fiction either a movie a book a comic book or something like that uh I loved reading
science books when I was a kid and when I ran out of stuff you know this is as like an eight or niney old uh in the
non-fiction part of the library I said oh this Isaac Asimov guy wrote some stuff that's in the other part of the
library and it just was like turned me loose on on the The Amazing Power of
Science Fiction I've been a science fiction fan my whole life and the difference between what science fiction
writers do and what analysts and futurists do is not that great so it's
all a question of just characters that's the only difference right right on and uh okay so so who is apart from Isaac
azimov who is a future thinker that has influenced you personally I you know uh
I was very impressed with uh Chris Anderson um you know the long tale um uh
these are people who I think are capable of seeing around corners uh I'm
I'm gosh I I I'll I'll just tell you right now I I just finished reading a
book called The Nine uh by by Phil Simon which looks at nine big trends affecting
the work workplace and I'm like okay there's some powerful thinking right there about uh not just one thing or two
things about all these things that are changing the way that we work right on okay cool um is there a particular
forecast that impressed you is there is there one prediction that you can point to like wow this was really great work
this was a very impressive work you mean a prediction that I didn't personally make yeah somebody else made or or one
yeah could be one that you made if you want a if you want a grand stand this is now I have to say that um if you look at
the people who who uh were involved with crisper and the the I don't know who
made the prediction so the people looked at that and said well that's going to change everything the moment that they sent the genome to the guy at at modna
and the next day he's like I have a vaccine I'm like holy crap everything is completely different now so uh that's
that's a great example of of really being able to see into the future yeah now they're trying to apply that
technique to cancer and to other other Melodies so we'll see if they are able to sustain it that's quite interesting
okay last quick question for you um what do you think is the most important invention in the history of
humanity most the most important invention in the history of humanity was
story oh r on there a bunch a bunch of people
sitting around a campfire and one of them is trying to explain to the guy next to him about how we all got
together and killed the mammoth and how great that was before story they were just animals After Story they were a
clan and you know the internet sort of comes close to that in significance
right yeah it's true it's true last week we had Michael Margolis on the show and he's the professional story tell he said
that the internet is the greatest personal story machine ever invented the way for people to Define their personal
narrative um I have to tell you when I was a child um when I was in high school
I had a friend uh named uh Eva Mockley and her father was John Mockley who was
one of the three guys who excuse me one of the two guys who invented eniac the
first digital computer and I don't think I mean they were calculating trajectories of of
projectiles you know artillery but I don't think they realized this thing is going to be
change everything and soon people will will have it on their wrist and be using it while they're sitting on the toilet I
mean watch porn with It Fabulous um okay well you are listening to the futurists
uh with Brian ciss and myself Rob Turk and this week we're interviewing Josh bernoff the author Build a Better
Business book we're going to take a short break for a word from our sponsors and we'll be right back so hang tight we'll see you in just a
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fintech podcast and radio show all right we're back I'm Brian siss
and I'm joining Rob Turk uh on the futurist and we are so we are so excited
to have our friend Josh burnoff on the show this week uh Josh is a longtime friend uh and a Pioneer in so many
things uh former analyst author uh Josh uh actually before I go to the next
question I was just thinking uh I remember attending your launch party in
San Francisco for groundwell and then I remember we got together in Redwood City
uh for an interview uh on on groundwell and that was a book on social
media and and now you could almost you could almost take that what it means
exercise and apply groundwell to generative Ai and uh I know we're going
to get into what AI means today uh from that groundwell perspective but before
we go there what does it mean to Build a Better Business book what what what did
You observe in terms of generalities what's missing from business books as a
business book author uh I I am keenly interested uh in finishing my book in a
better format yeah so uh I've now worked with 50 non-fiction authors on business
books um and they kept making the same mistakes over and over and over again
and I I'm like no you can't do that no that's not how that works oh you have
writers block no you don't I'm going to tell you why you think you have writers block and so everything from how to
conceive an idea aidea to what can your book accomplish for you to how is the book constructed to how do you write a
chapter how do you do research um what's it like to deal with Publishers is there a way to do it without dealing with a
publisher um how do you make sure that you don't unintentionally include falsehoods in your book and how do you
promote the book these are all part of the process and most of what's out there is like how to be a writer which is fine
but there's so much more involved in researching and writing and promoting a business book that that I wanted people
to have the benefit of that knowledge the other I thought was interesting in your book was that you bring up uh the
reasons why people write business books yes and I would imagine most people if you asked them why do you write a business book their idea is to make
money right but anyone who's written a book knows that's that's really not a great expectation to have yeah what are
the reasons why people write books um so I I asked people why they wrote books I
have a survey of uh of over 200 Business authors in in the book and when I said
what were the reasons that you chose to write a book the number one reason was to share the knowledge that I had um
number two reason was to boost my reputation but most people who write a business book feel like they've learned
something and the rest of the world has to see it and frankly if that isn't the reason you're doing it you're messed up
um if if you're like I'm going to be famous because I'm going to write a book well then you're not thinking about it right you need to think about the people
who are going to read this and how they're going to benefit from what knowledge that you've got and and I think the second biggest response was to
boost reputation which is they kind of go hand in hand right I'm gonna share my knowledge and I'm gonna thereby bu boost
my reputation or establish myself as an expert yeah and yes that's absolutely the case and that translates into
benefits for the author and it's different based on who the author is and what they do if you're a consultant that
generates uh people who uh feel that you have credibility and want to work with you if you're at a company it might
generate leads or uh help boost the company's reputation um and uh you know
if you're a public speaker this fuels your public speaking career so different
goals for different people uh definitely make money from the sale of books is not the best goal and uh I can tell you uh
right now one month into the sales of my book the sales are not anything that would light the world on fire I'm very
pleased with the results but it's not going to get on any bestseller list but I've already generated $100,000 in in
inbound Consulting deals specifically because people said I gotta work with
that guy he wrote the book on this stuff so that's that's in one month now your
mileage will vary obviously but it was it was worth it from a a financial
perspective but it's it means a lot more to me to have a whole bunch of the other people who don't contact me say oh yeah
I actually learned a lot from that you made things better for me yeah for those who are listening uh I read the book I
um I was I had an early review copy of Josh's book Build a Better Business book and I find it really really practical so
it's filled with practical advice that candidly I wish somebody had given to me before I tried to write a book the first time around uh and certainly I'm GNA
make use of it as I'm writing my next book right now because it's filled with practical information it goes all the
way through from the very earliest things and why are you writing motivations and how to get started and how to name how to find a title uh to
lots and lots of great advice about the actual writing process uh chapters and chapters on useful nuggets of how to do
that in a practical fashion and then also what to do when the book is done and this is another thing that authors don't realize when they embark on that
big mission of writing a book they think oh great when I get the manuscript done I'm done football in the end zone touchdown right uh no actually the work
starts then because then you have to promote the book and that's a SLO and honestly a lot of authors myself included at the the end of the writing
process we're so exhausted the last thing you want to do is get out there and write even more about the thing you've just exhaustively researched and
written about I'm sure you have to deal with that because you often help writers right when they're stuck you have to deal with that no it's the the my
favorite story about that is uh um uh about a woman named Curry Bodin who
together with uh Harley Manning wrote a fantastic book on customer experience
and she was absolutely committed to having that book be great and perfect
and we we finished it and we turned it into the publisher and she's like I'm ready to start working on another one
I'm like oh no no no Carrie now we need to promote it now we need to get the
word out about this now now you have there's always a pause of between two
and five months between when you finish writing uh and turn that in and when the
book is actually published and that's when you need to be planning how will I make as many people as possible aware of
what we have have created here that's the problem and that problem is getting harder because frankly there's a lot of
noise out there there's a lot of different media types and Josh when you and I got started in our careers uh
social media was just a figment of the imagination didn't really exist right there were only four big broadcast
networks and a few dozen cable channels today there are literally thousands and thousands and thousands of ways to get
content uh you know literally hundreds of millions of creators on social media all fighting for scarce attention so as
a book author uh you know your book isn't going to sell itself you have to contemplate that a little bit I think
there's a lot of writers who would rather hide behind the book than become self-promoters right there we kind of look down on that some people who are
writers look down on that uh they look down on influencers that seems sort of fake right it seems sort of phony and
they don't want to be that thing Brian you deal with this of course too because you're a phenomenal self-promoter and I
say that with utmost respect uh how do you go about getting the word out how do you get attention in a Marketplace
that's increasingly fragmented thank you for saying that uh it's funny
because I see myself as my worst marketer uh because I I I don't I don't
do all the things that I would maybe say advise Josh to do on uh marketing his
book I I don't practice what I preach uh so in that regard I I feel like I could be so much better I I I I think at the
essence or in the essence of what I've tried to figure out is who am I trying to reach
what are they struggling with where do they go for information what kind of questions do they ask and who's filling
those those those gaps with what kind of advice and so I've always reverse engineered all of this stuff that
process is incredibly harder today because of all of the different ways you
can reach people uh micro micro markets are are the macro markets now right uh
whether it's podcasts or or or certain voices and social media or whether it's
Tik Tok or whether it's Instagram uh and and and and the types of content that
you have to reach people in terms of their their preferences of consumption
it's it's outrageous in fact I've been anxious over this when I'm uh getting
when when I get to that stage as Josh was talking about like you got to move into that promotion stage I'm anxious
about figuring this out for 2024 in terms of what it's actually
going to take to even try to meet where I was last time with less effort so I
guess it's it's a not answer but I I think the the the only way to do this if
you really want to do it right is to reverse engineer the people that you're trying to help uh yeah to start useful to start
with audience in mind right when you write a book that's the first thing the publisher is gonna say who's it for and if you can't answer that question you
probably need to do some thinking before you put pen to paper I I was told that appearing on your podcast was all I
needed to do so I'm uh no that's for sure true watch if this doesn't launch if this doesn't uh sell a lot of books
obviously somebody don't stamp of approval from the futurist now I mean I mean I I have like a five-step process
in the book I won't go into the whole thing but uh three of the important elements are uh reach how are you gonna
get as many po people as possible in the target market to hear about you by looking at all these different Outlets
that that Brian was talking about spread what are you to give them that they can share infographics videos blog posts you
know uh what have you're going to give them that that allows them if they like your book to tell other people about it
and T is timing that's the last step is this all has to happen in a relatively
short period of time around the book launch because that's what makes sure that people hear about it over and over
again and that's what it takes to actually get them to tip over into reading the book and talking about it
it's certain interesting when you look at social media streams today um the little video ads that pop up and
sometimes you know they kind of figure out you're paying attention so you see them quite often I'm a former producer
so I'm always interested in like the technique here that's at work and it is quite astonishing how um people shoot
their own videos so they look real uh they don't look produced they don't look like commercials they look like they're
talking to you personally and it seems sort of urgent and somehow they figured out that it's relevant to you and
they're still selling a book uh but they're doing such a convincing and persuasive job of making it sound like
super relevant on a personal level to you and they've Stripped Away all the pretense all the all the Slick
production values and so forth uh that make TV look kind of you know too polished to be be real uh now now Josh
one of the things I want to mention because you know a moment ago we were talking to Brian and I were just chatting about how to cut through the
noise how challenging that is um but one of the things you point out in the book you managed to cover chat GPT just
around the time you were finishing the manuscript chat GPT debuted well of course now it's many months later and
tons of people are using chat GPT to to crank out manuscripts uh and we see that already
you know Amazon's self-publishing now is flooded with uh with artificially generated books now my personal feeling
about these books is unfortunately they're they're pretty bad right they're pretty bland yeah but not only that they
just add noise in the system because now you got to cut you got to work around them right and and uh yet I bet there's
some people who are listening to this podcast right now are thinking I'm just have chat GPD generate my book so so
let's have some words of caution for those folks okay Josh what would you advise someone who says hey I'm not going to I'm not going to go through the
work of writing a book I'm just going to work with chat GPT to generate it well let me put it this way uh we now have a
tool that makes it extremely efficient to create hack level writing so if you're a writing hack you are in big
trouble because now we have an automated tool that creates hack level writing now I don't happen to work with a lot of
authors like that in fact if I find out that an author is like that I'm like I'm not for you you need a hack level editor
right but but what do authors what real authors have that chat GPT doesn't have
in one word wit okay and wit includes humor right if you ever look at the kind
of jokes that chat GPT writes you realize it's very bad at humor but it
also includes the shocking point of view um I I was reading a
uh a uh write up in the New York Times of the the Barbie
movie and the author cited this study that showed that uh girls who played
with Barbies actually had uh less ambition than girls who who didn't even
though Barbie has all these other jobs and it said in comparison to uh a
control Mrs Potato Head and I was like that is like my
favorite sentence of the week a control Mrs Potato Head who would even think of putting that in there and yet that
author found that little nugget and said I'm just gonna drop that in there and then you'll smile when you read that and
you'll remember this now that's that's wit and that's what chat GPT can't do
that kind of wit and storytelling and um you know it there's all sorts of ways
that writers can use it to help summarize things generate ideas see if their writing is good find errors in
their writing it's an excellent tool but so is a spell checker a spell checker doesn't make you a witty writer and
neither does Chad GPT right okay so yeah it can't be useful tool right one great wait a
minute that I just gotta say that josh that was that was So Meta I don't know
that people actually picked up on that you just demonstrated the difference between storytelling and wit and and
chaty PT with spell check a reference that was that was well done well what is
spell check is about an grammar check now is about saying I've read a 100
million sentences and your sentence doesn't match the 100 million sentences
and I think the problem here is that you left a word out it's like very good nice Point you're right I did leave a word
out but if you want to write if you want all your sentences to read like The 100 million sentences that came before
you're a h yeah so sorry that's not good enough yeah no that's the biggest issue with
generative AI is it's a rearview mirror right it can it can tell you very well what happened before and whether your
stuff conforms to what happened before if you're trying to do something different it's not going to be that useful um but what I was about to say a
second ago is there's one really good technique I think there's several probably for using generative AI if
you're trying to be original um one really handy way to use it is if I'm making an argument uh on behalf of
something often I'm asked to do that right I'm not just an analyst but people want to know my opinion about things um
I'll ask chat jpt what are all the arguments against my position and it does a very good job of summarizing them
and you can go quite deep you you can keep tell me more about that right explain it to like you would to a high school student or something and so you
can get quite a Nuance perspective uh that will be opposing the antithesis View and that's great because if you
want to preempt the antithesis in your argument well you now can be equipped with all of them right you can be it's
like a forecast uh that that's a useful way to use it uh it's it's better than a search engine excellent yeah um I I'll
tell you a way it can help you be creative I did this exercise so coming up with book titles is a really
challenging thing to do um and I tried to do an exercise the same that I would
as I would do with an author where I took existing books I put the descriptions of the books in and I said hey chat G PT come up with titles for
these books and it would come up with 10 answers and nine of them were terrible
yeah terrible but the 10th one you looked at and you said that's really interesting so as a brainstorming tool
it actually helps but it has no idea which one's good and which one's not good it's only the witty human that can
look at that and say that's something interesting you know you're touching a really good point which is you during brainstorming we like to try to do two
stages right the the first part is where we're going to go wide and Broad we're not going to put critical filters or you
know criticize any ideas all ideas are good we just want to generate a lot of ideas that's the generative phase the
second phase is where you're trying to trim it down right you're trying to converge on like the best ideas and we're going to start to apply some
critical thinking at that in that second stage if you do that second stage too soon you never get to all the good ideas
and the old adage is if you want to have good ideas you have to have a lot of ideas so in the generative stage you want to just generate randomly and lots
and that's what these tools are good at they generate uh you know you literally have to say stop generating like they'll just go on and on and on if you don't if
you don't stop them so um I I get that it can be useful there but there's a little discipline and a little self self awareness required for the human
involved because you have to discern between good and bad or obvious and non-obvious I don't know if everybody or
truth and in hallucination that's true too right exactly clever clever now I'm here in
Hollywood where just down the street the Netflix building I can see it it's right there down the hill from my house and
standing in front of that Netflix building are a lot of people with signs so they are members of the writer Guild
and now the actor's guild the screen actor's guild uh and they're protesting uh they are protesting many things uh
you know the the way they're paid and some of the conditions of work and so forth but one of the most interesting complaints and I think probably the most
pre is the they are protesting against the proposed use of artificial intelligence uh to generate screenplays
or to generate literary material for a film and also more recently the writer Guild has raised the issue that they
want to use generative AI to replace human actors they just want to sample your face and voice and and gestures
record that now it should be noted it is eminently capable of doing both of those things chat gbt or gbt 4 today can
generate a uh a screenplay in the correct format um it can actually other other tools can actually generate uh
synthetic characters and we saw this recently with Harrison Ford in the latest version of the Indiana Jones
movie you take a living actor you can deage him right so you can sort of like change him or modify him it's not a huge
step to imagine that uh with a body actor you could start to map his face and his voice to that body actor and you
could replace the physical actor altogether so these are not unwarranted fears but Josh I want to hear your
opinion about the future of creativity tell me about where this is heading is AI going to replace the entire creative
industry do the writers and the screen and The Writers Guild or the actors in The Screen Actors Guild do they need to be really concerned about this uh yeah
they do um by the way just a little shout out here which ironically is to
Netflix if you look at the there's a black mirror episode on there right now called Joan is awful and and it is
centered around synthetic characters synthetic actors um and it's a really
mind-blowing thing it's self- referential and self-aware in a way that might be self defeating in context of
the strike yes well um since I'm such a fan of meta I was I was grooving along
with that but uh and I by meta I mean the idea of metanis I don't mean meta
the organization the company so um yes I think that that uh creative people screenwriters
are right to be concerned it is impossible for them to block automation
just as it has always been impossible to block automation um and uh what I said
about hack level writing applies to hack level screenwriting too yeah um you really think if if I put the plot of 10
marel Marvel Universe movies into a a a chatbot and say said write another one
like this that it couldn't come up with a movie that that you would look at and say yeah that's a Marvel movie but but
but in the end it would be soulless and it would suck and to the extent that Hollywood continues to create soulless
suckage for entertainment the writers don't have that much of a role in creating soless
suckage chat GPT is good at it but that just means that they need to get paid for the creative things that they do and
they need to understand how to take advantage of of the tools um and uh
their right to now be using the strike as a mechanism to make sure that they get paid for their contributions even
when machines are part of what they do and and listen there are 70 million people in the United States who are
self-employed in some fashion either independent Consultants like myself freelance workers gig economy workers
and so on and they don't have a union and so it's really important for people who are listening if you're self-employed these writers that are
striking that are living on their savings right now they're not just striking on their behalf they're making a stand for all working people who don't
have a union to protect them they're trying to draw a bright line that says hey we're going to be the ones to decide
how and when to use Automation in our profession and for this I think we owe them a debt of gratitude I think that
the writers are taking one on the chin for all the working people the 11,000 members of The Writers Guild are actually making a stand for the 70
million self-employed workers about 40% of the US Workforce is self-employed people don't realize that so automation
represents an unambiguous threat to most of those people in some form or fashion and of course you'll hear from people other people we've interviewed on the
show who'll say well it's not really a threat it's an opportunity if you grab a hold of it if you learn how to use it if you learn to make it a tool that you are
good at if you become a prompt engineer whatever the heck that's supposed to mean uh sure a job for 15 months until
that gets automated um I think that what we can say there is that uh there is a Monumental questions being presented
which is what's the value of humanity and what's the value of human work and how does our society uh confer value on
it and do we all share that do we share that value in common what I can tell you is that right now the motion picture
companies face an existential crisis their economics are upside down streaming does not pay the way cable TV
paid uh they cannot afford to continue to do their business the way they did in the past many many people hardly me as
you know as an outspoken uh critic of the way Hollywood has operated for many years but I'm hardly the only one saying
that they need to rethink their business model where they can find a 50% cost reduction like seriously across the board they have to figure out way to do
this so some form of automation is coming whether the guilds want it or not this is why when I wrote about the
subject on my own uh substack I said look you know the writers are right to strike this is the time they need to do this but they're doomed anyway because
at the end of the day this entire industry is going to get automated and I don't just mean the guilds or the writers or the workers I also mean the
executives the development Executives the motion picture studios and ultimately this whole process of Distributing Motion Pictures we're
already seeing examples of how automation can work you know Tik Tok is by far the most interesting new new
social uh phenomenon but it's not really social media textbook social media it's algorithmic media and uh working for the
algorithm is what you do if you're a Tik Tok Creator you're trying to guess what the algorithm is going to favor so in a way you're a biological robot that's
dancing to the tune and the tune is created by an automated system uh I think that's a really powerful portent
for the future what's your perspective on that Josh uh you really should write a book about that it's too bad it'll be
obsolete in 15 months that's we're doing the B the bog is the new business book okay um what's
my perspective on that uh you know this is this is a apocal shift in the way
everything gets created um the way code gets created the way graphics get
created but in fact uh if you don't learn to use these tools and turn them
to your advantage then yes you're you're you're hosed and that was true in some sense of the people who used to
you know assemble automobiles by hand and were replaced by machines um it's
just that this is a uh usually the shocks to the system don't happen quite this abruptly um and uh all I could say
is you know if you are a human Storyteller with a sense of wit and
humor you'll be able to find a way to survive and uh if you are a hack then
then you know now learn to learn to drive an Uber of course they're going to get
replaced too but at least for a little while there'll be a job for that it's like jumping from the frying
pan Into the Fire yeah hey hey Robert you something something you said too uh I mean I was uh I I I was really moved
by by your sentiment and it made me think it's not just the 70 million
entrepreneurs that they're they're taking it on the chin for it's it's it's anyone who it's anyone like copywriters
for example oh yeah uh marketers uh yeah there there are so many jobs yeah
agencies are doomed and they don't have a guild to represent them right so copywriters are in terrible shape and
everyone I know in advertising is panicking right now because honestly if you're in a company and you're looking to cut cost and what company isn't
looking to cut costs the first thing you do is you look at the marketing budget and you say we're paying that Agency for what social media marketing agency what
are we doing with that automate that you know and uh you can imagine someone's going to get that job in the company
like just get rid of the social media marketing department replace it so whether it's good or bad my fear is that
this is all going to be lousy so we're going to be inundated with crappy content right yes yes we're gonna we're
gonna be overrun with crap and that's why the truly creative person is able to stand out yeah right so it's not the
first time in history that there's been a flood of content and what typically happen happens is at that point some kind of digest emerges you know someone
finds a new opportunity a business opportunity yeah to kind of aggregate the best points of view and and
reorganize attention around that right and if you can be if you can find a way to aggregate attention in a world where
the there's a flood of cheap lookalike generated content out there I think that's a good business opportunity the
movie studios aren't going to do that they're not set up to do that yeah you I don't know if you've had Jeff Jarvis on
he just wrote a book A book that draws a parallel between uh gutenberg's printing
press and allowing an explosion of content and what's happening now so uh I'd be interested to hear his
perspective on this that's true he's uh he's he's big on that Gutenberg theme so yeah that's a that's
a good point I will reach out to jefff and do that well Josh it's been a great pleasure having you on the show uh it's
always fun to reconnect with you it's been too long congrats on the success of your book tell us where people can find out more about Josh burnoff okay so uh
uh if you go to burnoff domcom that's where everything I do is burnoff domcom
books will'll get you to places where you can buy the book burnoff Doom b e r nf.com that's right right b r nf.com uh
if you go to burnoff dcom blog I actually publish a substantive blog post
every single weekday um and literally today uh I just launched a newsletter on
LinkedIn that's uh for authors and and writers so if people want to sign up for
that they could get a an update every week or two I haven't decided on the frequency on stuff that's happening that
you need to pay attention to well maybe we should do a supplement to your book that's about how to use chat GPT to
write a Better Business book um until then folks if there's anyone out there in the audience that's listening that is interested in a ghost writer or an
editor or someone to bounce a book concept off of I know many many Executives who are thinking about writing a book that's what Josh does uh
he has helped new numerous authors and I recommended him to many many people because he's superb at what he does he
will put you in book writing boot camp and make sure that you come out with a book that you can be proud of okay so
that's it for the futurist this week uh thank you very much to Brian siss for joining me while he's on the road our
co-host Brett King will be back he's on the road as well he's flying today I'm Rob Turk and thanks again to Josh
bernoff I want to thank the folks that provoke media to make who make the show possible that's Kevin herschorn leeth
sance and the rest of the provoke thank you for doing it and of course I always like to thank our audience uh we have
some very very uh enthusiastic listeners and we're thrilled about that the show has been doing great and we do
appreciate your feedback your suggestions your questions your comments and the people that you recommend as
guest interviews we'll be back next week with another interview from another futurist so thanks for joining us on the
futurists this week and we will see you in the
future well that's it for the futurists this week if you like the show we sure hope you did please subscribe and share
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