Uncharted: How to Map the Future Together

Author – Margaret Heffernan

Book discussed – 19 January 2021

Review by – Valentina Lorenzon

“When we expect history to guide us, we overweight continuity and narrative, while underweighting change and contingency”.                                     Margaret Heffernan, Uncharted

Margaret Heffernan’s latest book, ‘Uncharted’ explores our relationship with the future and our tendency to over-rely on predictions and technology to forecast what, in reality, cannot be predicted. Published in February 2020, this book conveys a message that is even more powerful, in light of the level of uncertainty and unpredictability that we have been experiencing over the last few months.

The first part of the book focuses on the history-based methods that we commonly use to map the future and how they proved to be inadequate while the remaining two parts discuss which alternatives we should adopt instead. Heffernan presents this topic from different perspectives and provides multiple examples drawn from her extensive experience as an entrepreneur and a writer to illustrate the importance of shifting our focus from predictions to scenario planning, creativity and experimentation as a way to develop the mindset and adaptability necessary to prepare for the future successfully.

The book was nominated for the FT/McKinsey Best Business Book Award 2020.  However, on reading, it becomes clear that this is more than a business book, it is a book about life. It provides a new perspective from which to consider the future both at an organisational and individual level. Furthermore, it explores our addiction to making predictions and forecasting the future and encourages us to question this approach and learn how to tolerate uncertainty and accept the idea that multiple futures may exist. 

‘Uncharted’ would make an excellent read not only for business leaders but for anyone who wants to learn more about how we can create a truly innovative, diverse and collaborative mindset to, in Heffernan’s words, “navigate the future”. This thought-provoking and inspirational book urges readers to question what we currently do and know and reflect on how, instead of being in constant pursuit of answers and certainty, we should come to terms with the fact that we cannot predict the future, we can only prepare for it and have the courage to live with complexity and ambiguity. 

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