“How often have you seen someone who does brilliantly at work and wondered why they can’t apply the same skills to the rest of their life?”

That’s the idea behind Futurescaping, and author Tamar Kasriel sets out to convince us that borrowing techniques from the boardroom and applying them to ourselves and on our hopes and aims will pay dividends. Kasriel believes the book is “… different from both typical self-help and business books and instead brings together ideas from both genres.”

There are two problems with this. Firstly, this isn’t different. Life coaches bring all sorts of ideas to bear when coaching – and writing books about coaching – and if you’ve read many of these books, you’ll recognise many of the ideas in this book.

Secondly, Futurescaping says nothing new in its 200+ pages, and in summing up the insights of others provides few tools to allow you to go on to conduct further reading or research or even check where the ideas came from. There is no bibliography, the index is perfunctory, and the attribution of quotes strange to say the least. On page 2 we get this old chestnut

Wayne Gretsky has said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A Great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.

And immediately under this, the footnote informs us where the quote comes from:

In conversation with the author”.

Really? This quote has been around for decades. It’s been in dozens of management books, and those are just the ones I’ve read in the past few years. There are whole web articles on it, here’s one.

Of course this is one quote, but it typifies the first 100 or so pages, which spend a huge amount of time making a few simple points, namely that the future is coming, it’s good to plan, businesses make plans, so why don’t we?

Assuming you have the patience, eventually you get to, say, page 101, Chapter 7, where you get a long quote from Erich Fromm (correctly attributed, though his name is then mis-spelled in the opening line) and then Kasriel says

This chapter is about getting people to improve how they deal with the different things that drive them and their future, pointing out some of the irrational baggage so it can be parked and we can move forward more smartly.”

Ignoring the mixed metaphors, the sudden shift to referring to the reader in the third person  (the previous paragraph was “we”) and the mangled syntax, this is a perfect summation of the confusion which follows. In fact the book then becomes a series of case studies showing the application of a kind of PEST external analysis, but done intimately on personal problems. So we have financial journalist Ines deciding if she should buy a dog, (she should) and whether Joanna and Ben should relocate to the Netherlands (they need to do more research before deciding).

It’s not to say that going through this process wouldn’t be useful – any analysis of our personal situations is useful, and using a framework from business is one way of doing it, but it’s strange that the two mechanisms that are employed – PEST and Scenario planning – are such odd choices, since the former is most commonly employed on the macro environment, and Scenario planning, despite what Kasriel says, is considered expensive, long-term, suitable for large multi-national corporations with the resources to devote to it and again, is very macro.

Why were these chosen? We are not told. And why were others not considered, or considered but discarded? What about the insights which could have been gained from, say, Six Sigma, Lean Accounting, Benchmarking, Enterprise resource planning or even Porter’s Diamond of National Advantage?

What’s more if you are giving advice, you either do so from personal experience (“I overcame this problem, now I’ll show you how I did it”), or from the position of an expert. The author mentions working with some extremely important companies as well as the British Government but there’s little evidence of expertise. The insights come from various life coaches the author has interviewed, though we only get a few lines from each one, perhaps because they have books of their own.

We get run-throughs of popular theories (Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs anyone?) and two versions of PEST analysis – also called PESTO here, though adapted to mean just about anything that might effect us externally, but the flippant approach to much of it undermines the message. One final example: there is a brief mention of Victor H Vroom’s Vroom-Yetton decision model (on determining the different kinds of leadership best suited for a particular situation). No book or journal is referenced, and you won’t find it in the index or bibliography. If you want to know more, presumably you have to Google his name. Instead, you get the footnote, “This really is his name”. Perhaps because it is spelled correctly.