Executive Times






2007 Book Reviews


Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future by John Naisbitt








Click on title or picture to buy from amazon.com






Something you’ll read on the pages of John Naisbitt’s latest book, Mind Set! Reset Your Thinking and See the Future, will surprise you. There’s some factoid you didn’t know that may have a profound impact on you and your organization. For those who have read Naisbitt for the past quarter century, there will be some déjà vu moments on these pages, and I felt some tiredness when I thought he was plowing over old ground one too many times. Despite that shortcoming, the potential to be surprised remains, and that make make Mind Set worth reading. Here’s an excerpt, all of the chapter titled, “Mindset #7: Resistance to change falls if benefits are real,” pp. 57-61:


Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité ou la mort!

Réglage, Egalisation, Bureaucratie ce la rnort!



“The European constitution is perfect—although maybe a little less el­egant than the Constitution of the United States,” said Valery Giscard d’Estaing on April 20, 2005.

On May 29, the French people answered: “Non!” The French, and a little later the Dutch, saw no benefit in a constitution written for and by the political elite, 800 pages of regulations and old treaty agreements that would make the European Union neither more transparent nor easier to understand. The “elegant” American Constitution has 12 pages and holds only principles, understandable for anyone. The political earth­quake that followed the French and Dutch rejections sent reverberations across Europe. But the no-referenda, which were disasters for supporters of constitutional change, opened a great opportunity for those who want a constitution that serves the people of the 25 member countries of the European Union, all of whom have to approve it.

Not too much has been moving in the European Union since then. More energy went into defending the necessity of ratification instead of the need to change it. The resistance of people will not fall until changes are made and benefits (if there are any, which is still questionable) are apparent. The European Union faces the challenge of responding to reasonable demands of people, like a meaningful constitution, and of establishing understanding for economic necessities such as cuts in unaffordable welfare programs. This is a difficult responsibility for the European Union, which does not yet know who it is and where it is going.

More than 40 years ago, when the European Union was taking its first steps as the European Economic Community, I would not have be­lieved it if someone told me that one day I would live in Europe. I was on my way to Asia to spend a year in Thailand. It was in 1967, during my time with IBM, when I had my first big experience of the impor­tance of making benefits transparent before change can be expected to be embraced. I was in Thailand to develop a project to help accelerate agricultural development in the northeastern part of the country. We tried to interest the farmers in the idea of planting a third crop of rice and also planting other crops between the rows of established crops. But the farmers resisted. They resisted—we found out later—for a very good reason: They knew that their distribution infrastructure could not handle such an increase in productivity. Once we solved the distribution problem, they embraced the new ways of farming and the additional income that resulted.

Ever since then, I have visited Asia several times each year, and I have always been fascinated by the energy that the Asians, especially the Chinese, put into proceeding against all odds and dealing with any change, as long as they were sure of the benefits. During the Cultural Revolution, many left their country and became a strong economic power as Overseas Chinese. They are now coming back as they see the great opportunities returning to the homeland. While Overseas Chinese add their financial and intellectual potential and entrepreneurial verve to the Chinese talent pool, within China millions of the rural population are seeking ways to get out of poverty. We got to know two of them in Shanghai.

The couple Li Fong and Li Chuang grew up in a little village in central China. Li Chuang’s father was a vegetable farmer, and from early in life young Li worked with him on the farm as his grandfather and his great-grandfather had done. When he married Li Fong, it seemed clear what was ahead of them. But the talk of good work in big cities had found its way even into this remote small village. Chuang began to speculate that with a better income he could send his child to better schools, support his parents, and at the end, improve life for all the family. The benefits seemed strong enough to fight for permission to move to the city.

Doris and I got to know about Li Chuang several years ago during one of our stays in Shanghai.

We always stay at the Portman Ritz-Carlton, not only because of the wonderful hospitality we experience there but also because the hotel is next door to a typical Chinese neighborhood. Old and new China meet within a few meters. Adjacent to our five-star luxury accommodations, where some suites costs more for one day than most Shanghainese earn in a year, are old town houses with laundry hanging out of windows or simply hung on wires attached to trees or streetlamps. (Every time we go to Shanghai, more of those houses have been replaced by modern build­ings with modern equipment.)

Around the corner from the hotel was a hut, a little stand where a couple was selling fruits, snacks, and drinks. Behind the stand was some­thing that looked like an attached tent. We thought it might be a storage room. Doris was especially interested in how the couple experienced the discrepancy between their stand and Ferragamo and Louis Vuitton just 50 meters away. She asked Michelle Wan, the marketing manager of the hotel, who over the years has became a friend of ours, about the couple, and Michelle told us Li Chuang’s story.

The Lis had risked a big change in their lives. Their bet had been that in Shanghai, where a vast amount of construction is going on, selling snacks and drinks should be a good business. They built that little stand near the hotel, and because construction in the neighborhood goes on around the clock and their customers are mainly construction workers, their service is 24 hours a day. What we thought was a storage tent was their home, where they take turns sleeping.

Such conditions of living are upsetting to us, but we cannot make the mistake of putting ourselves in their condition. Michelle assured us that they are quite content; the steady stream of workmen coming and going generates enough revenue to sustain them and their child living with their parents back in their village, and a little leftover. Sometime near the end of 2005, Michelle added, she had asked Li Chuang why she didn’t see his wife at the stall very often anymore. He told her that she was running their second stall down the road. When we were in Shanghai in July 2006, we bought some peaches at their booth and we noticed that they did not sleep behind the stall anymore.

In China the eagerness for a share in the growing economic pie is driving people to where the action is. What a difference from what I monitor in Europe. The European mindset is upside down—benefits first, and then we’ll see. Instead of moving to where the jobs are, many in Europe still expect jobs to come to them, still believe that a job and a house are for a lifetime. I was upset when I recently watched a TV discussion in which young Viennese said they wouldn’t move to a job a hundred miles away. They would rather stay unemployed, supported by the government.

Fortunately, those young Viennese don’t represent all Austrians or all Europeans. Europe does stand for tradition and constancy, but that does not mean that everything will stay the way it has been and that work and money will be distributed as they have always been, bound to old ways of thinking. The constancy is that we have to make our living, as employ­ers or employees, and the ones who embrace necessary change early on will benefit the most. Again, sports can be taken as a model.

Looking back to the basketball example that I used in discussing the first Mindset, “Most things remain constant’ the game stayed the same, but few would argue for a stubborn resistance against Hank Luisetti’s new technique of one-hand shooting when the benefits were so clear: winning with it versus losing with the old way of two-handed shots. Nat Holman’s desperate statement, “If my boys ever shot one-handed, I’d quit coaching,” was proved foolish.

It was the same after the introduction of the Fosbury flop, when Fos­bury’s coach first tried to get him to switch back to the straddle method. Dick Fosbury’s method was a challenge to the conventional thinking, but it broke world records and changed high jumping forever—or for as long as forever is in sports. In sports, results define quickly the path to the future.

In the business world, change might sometimes take a little longer, but in the end the market decides—just as it does in sports.

There are, of course, cases in which resistance to change is the result of stubbornness or ignorance, but people who like to move on in life usually do not resist change just because they can’t stand change. On the contrary, people usually embrace change when they perceive that it is to their benefit.


Mind Set begins with Naisbitt’s foundation of eleven mindsets. Part 2 presents a picture of the future in five dimensions. As with all prior Naisbitt books, many readers will feel that they already know what he’s presenting as a revelation. Mind Set can be best appreciated when approached with the attitude that there is something new here to discover.


Steve Hopkins, February 23, 2007



Buy Mind Set!

@ amazon.com

Go To Hopkins & Company Homepage



Go to 2007 Book Shelf

Go to Executive Times Archives


Go to The Big Book Shelf: All Reviews





·       2007 Hopkins and Company, LLC


The recommendation rating for this book appeared

 in the March 2007 issue of Executive Times


URL for this review: http://www.hopkinsandcompany.com/Books/Mind Set.htm


For Reprint Permission, Contact:

Hopkins & Company, LLC • 723 North Kenilworth Avenue • Oak Park, IL 60302
Phone: 708-466-4650 • Fax: 708-386-8687

E-mail: books@hopkinsandcompany.com