Monday, 29 January 2007

Global Remix


ISBN 0-7494-4871-7

At first I was confused by this book. I couldn’t quite make up my mind whether it was a futures text about the future of management, or whether it was a management text about the application of foresight in management. About half way through the book I decided that it was both. There are elements within the book that will appeal to those who wish to engage in management issues, and there are elements in the book that contain some very useful insights into the future.

This book is an ideal purchase for those managers and corporate planners who are looking for an introduction to foresight and futures studies. It is not too demanding and it does not require a great deal of technical knowledge in order to get the best from it. I would thoroughly recommend the book as a corporate gift for junior managers looking to raise their game. This is the demographic to which the book is aimed.

READ the full review.

BUY from Amazon UK.

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Why Europe Will Run The 21st Century


ISBN 0-00-719531-1

I really enjoyed reading this book. Mr Leonard has a style of writing that makes it easy to follow the argument. The book is divided into digestible sections, which makes it easy to put down and pick up again without losing the thread of the argument. This book is well recommended to those who would like to study the case for Europe put by an enthusiastic Europhile. The fact that Mr Leonard is a British Europhile is just an added bonus.

READ the full review.

BUY from Amazon UK.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Turning The Future Into Revenue


ISBN 0-471-79293-4

I really enjoyed this book. It is well written, the argument flows very well and the topics are quite easy to follow. This makes it an easy read. The book is not too long, and does not dwell on points, which helps it to avoid being long winded. We can thoroughly recommend the book as it covers an important topic in an informed way, with a style that helps the reader to understand the points being made. I would recommend the book to strategic planners as a text to describe the preliminary activities to strategic planning, and to act as an introduction to the study of the future.

READ the full review.

BUY from Amazon UK

More Pieces In The Jig-Saw

Sometimes I find it useful to consider the future as a large unmade jigsaw puzzle. A puzzle where we currently do not have all of the pieces, and where, in the course of our travels, we find the odd piece here and there. Generally, the pieces that we find are relatively small and do not always link with other pieces that we have found. Every now and then, however, we do find a couple of interlinked pieces that help to reveal a good part of the overall picture.

Last week was a bit like that - we have acquired two important and linked pieces in our puzzle. The first was a very small piece on ITV News (ITV is the tabloid TV Channel in the UK) on the fate of the Carteret Islands. Click here to access the piece. I spent a little while trying to find out more about the islands. The Wiki entry is the best I have found so far (click here to see this). Anyway, it appears that the residents of the carteret Islands are about to become the first climate refugees.

The second piece to my jigsaw came from a piece on Yahoo News about Carbon Footprints (click here to access the piece). It always struck me as odd that Dubai, whilst being as hot as the desert, has the worlds longest indoor ski-slope. An estimate by the WWF now suggests that the UAE (of which Dubai forms a part) has the largest per capita Carbon Footprint in the world. What will surprise many in Europe is that it even larger than the US.

We can argue that the small population of Dubai rather limits the impact of this per capita footprint, but that is not the point. The point is the degree to which the indoor ski-slope impacts on the climate refugees. We are soon to reach an important milestone in global warming - the point at which we can no longer say that our activity (or inactivity in some cases) does not impact on the plant as a whole. Far from being a victimless phenomenon, global warming is now becoming personal, starting with the Carteret Islanders.

Monday, 22 January 2007

The Search For Meaning

An interesting invitation came across my desk recently - to go Tankballing. Tankballing is the latest version of the sport of Paintballing, which I believe, is known as 'wargames' in the US.

The idea of Paintballing is that a team (usually a group on a corporate team-building day) dresses up in army fatigues and goes around an enclosed environment shooting an opposing team with pellets of paint. Tankballing is the mechanised version of this, where teams go around a course, in a tank, shooting paint pellets at other tanks. (See Link).

It is interesting to reflect on why people do this sort of thing, as it has something quite profound to say about our futures. If we accept Maslow's 'Hierarchy of Needs', then as our more basic needs of, say food and shelter, are met, then we find that we are likely to progress on to higher orders of needs, such as finding meaning in our lives. Looking at this globally, last year over 100 million people in India and China moved out of poverty. As their disposable incomes rise, so, once their more basic needs are met, will their consumption on goods and services that help them in their quest to find meaning in their lives.

Tankballing might be at the extreme end of the spectrum in finding meaning - it recognises that we weren't always human - but it does represent a desire for adventure that is within modern societies. This desire manifests itself in many ways. For example, those who desire adventure in the form of the Merchant Explorers could be catered for by companies such as Fred Olsen, who operate a Star Clipper service (see, where the traveller can sail the seven seas in a Tall Ship. Once the rising consumers in the BRIC nations latch onto this form of consumption, demand is likely to grow commensurately.

This will have quite an impact on resource use and the environment in the future. One could question the sustainability of ever more growth in adventure tourism. A diminishing resource is likely to be peace and quiet when on holiday. Paradoxically, it could become the case that the only way to find peace and quiet is to stay at home!

Friday, 12 January 2007

Demographic Redundancy

We nearly lost a dear friend over Christmas - the Little Chef chain of restaurants. The Times had a piece that gave the facts of the story (View Article), but there is more to it than the financial pages can convey.

We need to provide a bit of background for those who are based outside of the UK. The road sytstem in the UK has been constructed at a number of levels. The primary routes are the Motorways (the 'M' roads). The secondary routes are Trunk Roads (the 'A' roads). Facilities are provided on the Motorways by a series of service stations that are regulated by the Department of Transport. Facilities on the Trunk Roads are not regulated so closely, and are determined by market forces. The Little Chef is a national network of facilities (about 300 of them) based almost exclusively on the Trunk Roads. They normally provide a petrol facility, a dining facility, and a rest room facility.

The emphasis of the Little Chef chain is 'slow'. In a world of instant service and fast food, the Little Chef restaurants provide a counter-balance to the pace of modern life. The chain works on a model of service at the table and the food is cooked to order on the premises. It is almost diametrically opposed to the McDonalds model of food service. They appeal to people like me, who like to travel slowly, who want a bit of company when on the road, and who want their meals individualised rather than mass-produced. Sadly, this demographic is diminishing.

As we rush into the future at even greater speeds, the emphasis is on 'fast'. The Motorways are congested, as people choose this route in an attempt to travel at faster speeds. This is despite having a parallel network of Trunk Roads that are almost empty. We all consume food that is ready to eat as we purchase it, in a restaurant that is designed for 'throughput' rather than comfort. Sadly, this demographic is growing.

The Little Chef chain is in trouble because it no longer provides what the public wishes to buy. It has become a victim of a demographic shift away from the core of its business model. Even though the rescue package has been agreed, we fear that the chain will be saved by becoming more like its nemesis. This could make it even more demographically redundant. We have become used to the concept of being 'technologically redundant' (remember the 'typing pool'), but it may take a bit of time to become accustmed to being 'demographically redundant'.

Perhaps that's one of the costs of the Information Age?