Small decisions—Large Shadows

Kirjoittaja: Samuli Kaidesoja

11 joulukuun, 2020


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Peter Schwartz was one of the world’s leading futurists. Obviously as I read this book, it was charming to see how some of his visions of the future have come together, as the book was released in 1991. Some of the theories on how to plan to the future in an uncertain world still apply though, especially now on corona time as nobody is certain on what the future will hold.

I think that when this book came out, the world was also in uncertainty. There was dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, opening of eastern bloc and all kinds of massive changes in the world order what was established 46 years ago when World War II ended in 1945. I feel like planning to the future back then was kind of similar state of uncertainty as it is now, because coronavirus and long lasting effects of it. That’s why I feel like this book was at some parts helpful, even as it is 29 years old. Although this certainly wasn’t the most useful book in history to me to be honest. But at least I loved the book otherwise because I am a massive history nerd and it had a lot of stuff about falling soviet economy and politics in it……….


The book starts with the Pathfinders’ Tale. In Pathfinder’s Tale, the pathfinder’s objective in the tale is to find all possible outcomes of pathfinder’s choices or decisions, and through those outcomes plan the path in the world and in the future. The world is a complex place and every decision has a different outcome. The key on how you can prepare on what’s to come, you need to realize the possible outcomes of decisions. In the world of uncertainty, those outcomes can vary a lot, but all outcomes need to be prepared for. In corona time, I can make a lot of decisions which can affect long term future. For example, I can decide to stop working and be lazy as I have to be at home, but that outcome would be terrible.

On what the name of the pathfinder comes, the path is found through the decisions and outcomes. Every decision you make affects your life and shapes it to the way it is right now. In this theory the capability to plan your life in uncertain world is established on your decisions and understanding the consequences. You just need to know where you want yourself to go with your own choices.


Continuing the last chapter, the book offers a theory of a “large shadow in small decision”. It means that even the smallest decisions can have massive long term consequences. I have seen this when trying to shape the spirit inside the team. If you aren’t careful at all on what you do, it can cause hidden or open anger in the team. Obviously, it is the team’s business to figure the argument out but making a small different decision whole massive argument could have been avoided.

Same thing on my personal life when I made the brightest choice ever as a child to run off the roof of our house and hurting myself in the process. No clue why I thought that to be a good idea, but it has had effects that I still feel in my shoulder every day. So don’t jump off rooftops. That was something I learned. And a split second choice can have consequences for over 10 years.

I experienced these decision/consequence theories to be most useful parts what I got from this book, parts which can be used in the modern world. Book had a lot of “futuristic” business strategies, but I found those outdated. Obviously I learned a lot about the state of soviet oil reserves in 1987, Eastern bloc future visions from 1990, which were quite accurate actually now as I see what has happened to eastern bloc countries during these 30 years. I found those fascinating.

I also got some information on how 1987 Latin debt crisis and London stock crash will affect in the world on long view. But as these are really interesting subjects, I still doubt they are any use to me except maybe in trivial pursuit. This book was like 300 pages, but if there is anyone interested in 1980s world visions and business, I strongly recommend this.

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