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PHIL HARDWICK — Megatrends in business, Part 2


In Part I we looked at how John Naisbitt’s predictions in his 1982 book, “Megatrends,” had played out in Jackson, Mississippi. In this column we will look at his 10 predictions in the context of the broader society. Each prediction or forecast or direction, whichever you like to label them, is listed followed by a brief commentary on what happened.

1. From an Industrial Society to an Information Society.

In an industrial society, the focus is on the production of goods. It’s about making things. There is a hierarchy in the industrial society, with factory owners at the top and workers at the bottom. The social structure also tends to reflect same. Workers socialize with other workers who are similarly situated either by job or by income. Physical labor is an important commodity. In an information society knowledge is the more important commodity. Indeed, it is knowledge that drives the creation of wealth. Naisbitt’s prediction in this category is right on target.

2. From Forced Technology to High Tech/High Touch.

“Think globally, act locally” is a popular phrase that illustrates how global our society has become. In our high tech/high touch society, we use technology to make life easier. Think about the ways that businesses now connect with customers, especially through social media. Consider ways that retail transactions occur, especially those that occur on-site, such as checking out at the grocery store. It’s about using technology to make people feel human, not part of the machine

3. From a National Economy to a World Economy.

When I look at this category I can’t help but think about Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” It seems that the world economy, especially the political side, has gone past this prediction, and is in retreat. The current political issue regarding tariffs is an example of how our economy is truly a world economy. Also, consider the dominance of goods made in lower-wage countries versus the past when most goods were produced locally. It truly has become a world economy.

4. From Short Term to Long Term.

Although businesses still focus on short-term outcomes, long-term issues such as the environment and the ability to constantly change. This prediction seems not as well-defined. Let’s just use the phrase, “The only thing constant is change.

5. From Centralization to Decentralization.

America is decentralizing business, politics, and culture, resulting in a more diverse society, one in which unions, the presidency, and the Congress are becoming more obsolete while states and regions are becoming more important.

6. From Institutional Help to Self-Help.

Have you ever had a pain or medical condition you couldn’t diagnose or figure out? In the past, you probably went straight to your doctor. Now you go to the internet and to peers. We used to get much of our information from institutional sources, such as the government, educational institutions, and corporations. Now we look more to self-help through home gardening, hospices, alternative cancer treatment programs, natural childbirth, parental involvement in education, venture capitalism, and various self-help groups.

7. From Representative Democracy to Participatory Democracy.

In a representative democracy, citizens let others make certain decisions for them. We now see more of a participatory democracy, resulting in the appearance of many nontraditional issues on the ballot, and in activist shareholders and worker involvement in management.

8. From Hierarchies to Networking.

In the past it was about organization charts, who reported to whom and distinct chains of command. Now it’s about matrix organizations, networking and independent contractors.

9. From North to South.

The shift is from North to South, specifically from Northeast to Southwest and Florida, resulting in the emergence of three dominant states (California, Texas, Florida). This has happened in a big way. Why do people move? According to the Census Bureau between 2012 and 2013, 35.9 million people one year and over living in the United States moved to a different residence. The mover rate for this period was 11.7 percent. Why did these people move? Housing-related reasons were the most popular response with 17.2 million (48.0 percent). Family-related reasons were the second most selected choice with 30.3 percent, followed by job-related (19.4 percent) and other (2.3 percent).

Businesses are also moving south. There’s no better documentation of this than Mike Randle’s Southern Business and Development magazine and website (see http://sb-d.com).

10. From Either/Or to Multiple Option.

Tenth is the shift from either/or to multiple options. In the past this, meant that people had fewer options about work/life issues. Now there are more choices. Many more choices. There are more roles for women, flextime in the workplace, various arts, specialty foods, cable television, religious variety, and educational opportunities.

In summary, most of Naisbitt’s prediction have come true and were right on the mark. In fairness, there were many others making similar predictions. Some called themselves futurists. There were many books on this subject. In the 1980’s society was in the middle of a change in eras. The current one is called The Information Age. I highly recommend the book, “Post-Capitalist Society,” by Peter Drucker. Written in 1993, it is an excellent bridge between Naisbitt’s “Megatrends” and the world today.

We now ask the question: What’s next?

» PHIL HARDWICK is a regular Mississippi Business Journal columnist. His e-mail is phil@philhardwick.com.


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