[Reviewed in THE FUTURIST, July-August 2007]
Profits and Prophecy
By Cynthia G. Wagner
Glen Hiemstra's unambiguously titled Turning the Future into Revenue (a sell-out at the World Future Society's 2006 annual meeting) seems to acknowledge that business leaders are not necessarily future-averse just because they focus on meeting quarterly profit estimates or increasing share value. They may just need some practical guidance on understanding the impacts of the conflicting, converging, and confusing trends we face.
Business futurist Hiemstra, founder of Futurist.com, here provides a clearly written overview of business-relevant trends in the major sectors of futures analysis (society/demography, technology, economy, environment, and government/politics) and guides the reader through the potential impacts andmore valuablyinspirations for new ways to turn a profit.
For example, shrinking populations in Europe and Japan would represent a crisis to businesses that only see a dwindling customer base. But Hiemstra finds the silver lining in fewer people demanding the same amount of resources. "The same resources available to fewer people ought to, if managed well, lead to greater per capita wealth creation," he notes. "This is particularly true when combined with prospects for ever doing more with less and less, as Buckminster Fuller used to say."
Another opportunity is environmental improvement. If shrinking populations lower the cost of living in downtowns, it could help curb suburban sprawl, Hiemstra points out, recommending the development of policies to enhance urban living and return once-sprawled-upon lands to a more natural state.
A workforce that's shrinking due to an aging population also presents opportunities, such as to develop technologies and policies that enhance worker productivity. Hiemstra suggests "mid-life retirement" or universal sabbaticals in which workers nearing the traditional retirement age take time off to reeducate themselves for new careerskeeping themselves and the economy productive.
Hiemstra's book is both practical and visionary, business oriented and personal. He concludes with a mission statement for humanitya "twenty-first century do-over"that encompasses a rapid conversion to the next (post-petroleum) energy era, universal affordable connectivity through broadband communications, an integrated global labor system, and a reawakened "hunger for peace rather than war."
About the Reviewer
Cynthia G. Wagner is managing editor of THE FUTURIST. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
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