Tuesday, April 10, 2012

THE SHIFT

Predicting the future is pretty dangerous.  Lynda Gratton, the author of "The Shift" has tackled the challenge better than most.

She identifies key forces (admitting they could be configured differently) and applies them to key questions. She then draws a range from dark side to more positive. She maintains the dark side scenarios are more likely if we just let things continue, but that the brighter side can happen if humans intervene. The five forces are technology, globalization, demographics and longevity, society and natural resources. The trends within these forces will direct the future and to some extent we can shape them and with better understanding predict a more accurate (and better) future.

To make her points she describes different fictional people in different parts of the world and how the five forces have shaped them. We will live in an globalized world but also fragmented. Technology lets us do more things that we once only imagined, but more of us are isolated and many decisions are based on the very high cost of energy. Ironically transparency has caused us to trust politicians and business even less, but at the same time living our lives guided by corporate agendas even more.

A brighter future is possible if people work towards it. To survive in the future individuals will need to master a marketable skill. The author gives some guidelines to achieve that including of course lots of time devoted to it, but also to find an element of play. She suggests an individual develop a (figurative) signature that identifies them as unique.  Unfortunately no skill can guarantee a positive future so individuals also have to have the flexibility to develop and master new skills. Technology will likely continue to change with unpredictable effects. It is also true that globalization ensures that competition will be pervasive.

A second shift is necessary. In a world of dispersed families and impersonal work places it will become important to build social networks. One network is of close friends that can be counted on to support you. A bigger network of experts that can help you with problems of work and leisure. Although much of this can encompass social media it is most important you need to have a feeling of a physical community.

A third shift is aimed to make it all meaningful. We have lived in a consumer oriented society. A quote that encapsulates her meaning comes from Robert Reich, "It is time for a longer discussion about what combination of economic dynamism and social tranquility we want for ourselves, our families and our society and about the public choices we need to make in order to achieve this balance."

In summary Lynda seems to be saying that the five forces she has identified are key to understanding the direction of the future and indicate where an individual should examine future options, both as an individual and as a member of society. These five forces are not static, some parts are beyond our control, but others that can be shaped by thoughtful humans.

As I said this book gives you a lot to think about. Your own future and that of your children and of society in general. And the choices you make can make a difference. To keep up to date and read more of Lynda visit her website: http://www.lyndagratton.com/

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