Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Tuesday, July 11, 2006  

Boomer Prosumers, Revolutionary Wealth and a Flat Earth

Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

“This song here is Chapter 6, I think. And If I’m wrong about that, I can be corrected on the Internet. But one thing is …and I hope I don’t step on any religious feet here … but the Devil lives in Greendale. I don’t think he’s restricted to just Greendale either; he lives in the jail in Greendale that was built in 1911. It’s a little box. It’s very funky, so just a small little box with bars, but he walks through walls and things, so it doesn’t matter. He just likes it there….“

Neil Young & Crazy Horse “Greendale”

DOUBLE NICKEL RANCH: The marketing mantra has been that every 8 seconds a Boomer turns 50, and will for two decades. In 2005 the first of three waves of Boomers were rediscovered as it began moving through its 50s en masse. That coincided with a flurry of attention from marketers and the media.

Journal of 2020 Foresight: Why the sudden interest in Boomers?

Trailblazer: Because 50 year olds will exercise a different and growing impact on the economy. Now, and in the future.

J2020F: How so?

Trailblazer: The oldest tip of this 78-million consumer group turned 59 in 2005. The youngest of three Boomer segments passes through its peak earning and spending years in this decade.

J2020F: What are the implications?

Trailblazer: Right off the bat you can imagine the 78 million consumers will change industries like healthcare, financial planning, consumer spending, real estate appreciation, and others.

J2020F: But, we also reviewed the many different flavors of Boomers? They don’t all buy the same way or choose to live their life the same way right?

Trailblazer: True. We profiled the whole Boomer extended family, their parents (the Silent and G.I. Generation that make up the elderly in nursing homes, assisted living or as candidates for care-giving), their brothers and sisters (Boomer – Gen X in some cases) and their children (Generations X & Y – maybe Z) and grandchildren (Gen Z)

J2020F: As consumers, they’re known by their social status group and lifestyle profiles.

Trailblazer: Yes.

J2020F: Boomer marketers skip Claritas’ M4 “Sustaining Seniors,” and target the F1- Accumulated Wealth, M1-Affluent Empty Nests, M2 – Conservative Classics, and M3- Cautious Couples instead, right.

Trailblazer: Yes. But, for Boomers in our groups issues like the immediate future for their parents and their children were more on their minds while grappling with the “Big R-Word.”

J2020F: The what?

Trailblazer. R-Word, you know what used to be known as retirement – as in will we ever be able to or do we really want to -- given the current state of world affairs?

J2020F: How do you mean?

Trailblazer: I guess I should back up. Two books, “The World is Flat” by Thomas Friedman and “Revolutionary Wealth” by Alvin and Heidi Toffler served as catalysts.

J2020F: They triggered deep discussions around events going back to 1) the fall of the Berlin Wall near the end of 1989 and 2) the Netscape IPO in August of 1995 – two of Friedman’s leveling principles?

Trailblazer: Yes – including the other eight: 3) Work Flow Software; 4) Open-Sourcing: Self-Organizing Collaborative Communities like Wikipedia itself; 5) Outsourcing triggered by an event know as Y2K in 2000; 6) Offshoring; 7) Supply-Chaining; 8) Insourcing or servicing supply chains as UPS does when it manages logistics for companies ; 9) In-Forming as in your personal supply chain of information and entertainment (Google, Yahoo! , MSN Web Search); and 10) The Steroids: Digital, Mobile, Personal, Virtual – what some call Web 2.0 taking advantage of music and video entertainment on portable media players and the ongoing wireless convergence.

J2020F: How technology not only made the world smaller, but flatter?

Trailblazer: As in a level playing field – meaning the United States doesn’t necessarily enjoy a significant lead in science, technology and innovation – the drivers of Tofflers’ revolutionary wealth. And the center of influence may leave the United States in the not-too-distant future for new hubs of innovation in Asia.

J2020F: Which all weighs heavily on fears of job loss – following the outflow of jobs overseas.

Trailblazer: Right. And what it will mean to those 30 or 40% of baby boomers who may have had their next eggs wiped out in a 401Ks heavily invested in dot-com high fliers or who had been outplaced before they became eligible for pensions.

J2020F: If they even had pensions.

Trailblazer: At any rate, many voiced concerns over bridging a 30-year period, formerly known as the golden years, on diminished fixed incomes.

J2020F: Any conclusions?

Trailblazer: Well, what Friedman described as today’s reality – as in it is better to come to grips with the reality while there is still time to do something about it – the Tofflers provided context.

J2020F: Context?

Trailblazer: In much the same way that Strauss and Howe presented history in terms of succession of generations with similar characteristics – the Tofflers spell out in more detail how boomers will spend their midlife years during an Unraveling, and their old age in a Crisis.

J2020F: How so?

Trailblazer: They update their argument that a new revolutionary wealth system is gaining ground – how their Third Wave is accelerating in terms of its their deep fundamentals, as compared to the Second Wave – the unraveling influence of the industrial revolution.

J2020F: How does their analysis help out boomers facing the prospect of spending their old age in a crisis?

Trailblazer: We agreed that we will be confused in the coming crisis -- and yet those who grasp what is going on can find opportunity out of that crisis.

J2020F: I feel like we’re already in a crisis – what’s their take?

Trailblazer: Well, here’s what they say in their introduction: "The 'slice' it took to write this book was the twelve years bracketing the arrival of the twenty-first century, and no reasonably alert person interested in the world could have escaped the dramatic headlines during that period.”

J2020F: So this is time frame bridges Pathfinder’s last two sets of 5-year timeframes and your most immediate, right.

Trailblazer: And, Friedman’s, as well.

J2020F: The headlines?

Trailblazer: “An obscure cult's murderous sarin attack on the Tokyo subway; the cloning of Dolly the sheep; the impeachment of Bill Clinton (the first baby boomer president); the decoding of the human genome; the nonoccurrence of adreaded millennial attack on our computers; the spread of AIDS, SARS and other diseases; the 9/11 attack; the war in Iraq; the great tsunami of 2004, followed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

J2020F: It’s amazing how much we forget.

Trailblazer: But wait, there’s more: “These news stories were matched by economic and business drama as well -- the Asian crisis of 1997-98; the dot-com rise, crash and stock market comeback; the introduction of the euro; runaway oil prices; a succession of corporate scandals; out-of-sight U.S. fiscal and trade deficits; and, above all, the ascent of China."

J2020F: I’m numb.

Trailblazer: You know why?

J2020F: Why?

Trailblazer: According to the Tofflers, who wrote “Future Shock” and “The Third Wave,”: "Yet even with all the reportage on business and economics bombarding us in print, online, on TV and on our mobile phones, the biggest story of all -- a historic transformation of wealth -- was missed or buried in an avalanche of less important factoids.”

J2020F: What is that historic transformation?

Trailblazer: To brain-driven “knowledge economies.”

J2020F: How is that revolutionary?

Trailblazer: They claim it is an upheaval even more devastating than “the industrial revolution -- when thousands of seemingly unrelated changes came together to form a new economic system, accompanied by nothing less than a new way of life, a new civilization, called 'modernity.'

J2020F: So, just what is their revolutionary wealth system?

Trailblazer: Remember when they coined the term, “prosumer?”

J2020F: Didn’t have to do with a money economy and a non-money economy. A prosumer did things and created services for free, instead of paying for them, right?

Trailblazer: Right. Prosumers both create and consume their own outputs. Now, they say “prosuming is set to explode, the future of the money economy can no longer be understood, let alone forecast, apart from that of the prosumer economy."

J2020F: Like Linux and the open source software movement, Wikipedia, the Internet, most of what made Friedman’s world flatteners possible?

Trailblazer: Exactly. Earlier they told us we live our lives in a state of future shock triggered by the high speed of nouns passing through our lives.

J2020F: Nouns?

Trailblazer: People, places and things. Our past relationships with people as they move out of the area, or when we move out of the area, become broken. Broken relationships lead to loss. And loss leads to confusion, bewilderment and the anxiety.

J2020F: So the temporary state of people, places and things in our lives produces future shock.

Trailblazer: Yes, and now the deep fundamentals – accelerating disruptions in our day-to-day experiences with time, space, and knowledge – leading to the next revolutionary new wealth system – or in Stauss and Howe’s framework the High that follows the Crisis.

J2020F: I take it the wealth system is a combination of consumer and prosumer economies?

Trailblazer: According to the Toffler’s “the total annual output of the world money economy – what we have referred to as the visible economy – is something in the order of $50 trillion.”

J2020F: Not just the U.S. and Europe – but the total economic value created each year on earth?

Trailblazer: Yes, but they claim that is just half of the story.

J2020F: What?

Trailblazer: Exactly. This is the revolutionary part – “But what if the total we humans produce each year is not $50 trillion a year in goods, services and experiences, but closer to $100 trillion?”

J2020F: What if?!

Trailblazer: Remember. In Crisis you find both threats and opportunities!

Got Knowledge?
Copyright ©2002 - 2006 Aarnaes Howard Associates. All rights reserved worldwide.

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