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Ten years hence

Ten Points About Handling Change Summary

April 17, 2009

On April 17, 2009, Edie Weiner, president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown Inc., a futurist consulting group, presented “FutureThink: How to Put Change in Perspective and See More Clearly What is Coming,” which contained the following excerpts:

  • The future can seem very gloomy with dire predictions about the coming years, but we encourage our clients to not think about this as a recession. The key to understanding what is going on today is not that things are changing; it’s the speed of change that really challenges us now.
  • To think about the future, you have to recognize and avoid educated incapacity: knowing so much about your profession that you’re the last to be able to see the future for it differently. The real trick is to look at a situation through the eyes of a child or an alien from outer space.
  • We see eight major growth areas for the future: inner space (mapping of the human brain), micro space (nanotechnology), cyberspace (such as learning via video-game applications), outer space (satellite use, exploration for materials and tourism), green space (products designed to be “green” from the outset), design space (crafting products based on what the human brain likes), storage space (storage solutions for private property and data) and time space (the concept of time is changing; people want products delivered instantly).
  • As we learn more about the human brain, we increasingly will become the addicted society. We tend to think of addiction as negative, but you can become addicted to positive things: bird watching or doing good deeds. There will be products and services designed so they attach more to the brain, so that consumers will become more and more addicted to them.
  • With more than half of the world’s population living in cities, we will see a move to urban agriculture. That means we have to figure out how to bring food to cities. There is increasing talk of multilevel farms within cities, using solar energy and water in different ways within a building, and using terraces or roofs for agriculture.
  • Compared to a couple of generations ago, today’s children are brought up with much more stimulation such as toys, games and computers. But when they reach age five, we put them into the same slowed-down, verbal, instructional school systems that our great-great-great-grandparents attended. We should not force-fit the future into the institutions of yesterday.
  • When a new distribution system comes along, we often think it will take away from an existing system. But history shows that it typically multiplies the opportunities. The advent of television did not kill the movie industry; the studios adapted toward blockbuster films, offering an experience you couldn't get at home. Movies, television and radio all created an entertainment industry with greatly multiplied sources of revenue.
  • As times change, sometimes what’s in the background becomes important. For example, when you think of the vibrant workforce of the 21st century, you probably think of people age 21 to 55. But the population is rapidly aging and there will be many workers age 60 and older; they’ve been in the background. As they get older, people get more differentiated from each other, but marketers typically segment and study the younger people and lump together all those age 55 and older. We need to move them to the foreground.
  • Housing design needs to meet many trends. We need flexible rather than permanent spaces for extended families – those with stepchildren who visit several times a year, and parents whose grown children are moving back home. Single parents want childcare arrangements with safety and security; they need single-story multifamily housing that faces around a central courtyard so there’s a safe place to play. People over age 85 need a place to live other than nursing homes.
  • We are rapidly moving to an age where people won’t pay for information anymore. Information – what doctors, lawyers, engineers and financiers know – will go onto software. What we will pay for is intelligence: the ability to figure out things that you’ve never learned before. The schools that teach for intelligence rather than information will find their graduates get the better jobs for the longer term in the marketplace.

Edie Weiner is president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, Inc., a futurist consulting group formed in 1977 that serves more than 300 clients in business, academia and government in identifying opportunities in marketing, product development, strategic planning, investments, human resources, public affairs and advertising. A contributor to publications including Harvard Business Review, The Futurist, and The Wall Street Journal, she is the co-author of several books including Insider’s Guide to the Future and FutureThink: How to Think Clearly in a Time of Change.


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