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Unsettled Times: A 5-year-old scenario study portends today’s world choices


December 1, 2001
By Pulp & Paper Canada

The Post-Industrial Revolution — Rough Neighbors. At this point in time, we appear to be on the verge of spinning into the orbit of one of these scenarios, each of which have very different implicati…

The Post-Industrial Revolution — Rough Neighbors. At this point in time, we appear to be on the verge of spinning into the orbit of one of these scenarios, each of which have very different implications for the global economy. The following is a look back on the world as it was seen and described in 1996:

Why is it that …

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Globalization would seem to offer so many exciting opportunities but so often delivers only anxiety?

The success of the few seems only to highlight the failure of so many?

National models of economic success seem almost impossible to transplant beyond their own frontiers?

Commoditization can stifle creativity?

The [1996] study — Unsettled Times — offered the premise that the next decade [the 00s] will challenge many of the fundamental precepts underlying commerce, government and society, and that strategies set without proper exploration and assessment of these challenges may lead organizations astray. The heart of the issue is the challenge to industry and government to accept and successfully adapt to economic, technological and social change.

Unsettled Times highlighted key areas of concern for:

Companies: Re-engineering is not enough. Corporate activity must achieve a balance between commoditization and innovation.

Government: Governments can no longer meet the costs of their commitments. National [or Provincial or State] competitiveness can be elusive and fragile. Government must take responsibility for adapting to change, harnessing diverse interests and expertise to focus its scarce resources on laying the basis for both economic success and social cohesion.

Politics: The political system must take up the challenges, which the increasing pace of change will demand in order to develop and communicate a clear, integrating vision.

Society: Individuals cannot cope in a vacuum. Social structures must enable the creation of tools, which will help us all to adapt to change and participate fully in a global economy.

Unsettled Times did not claim to come up with the answers, but its far-reaching analysis offered valuable ideas and original insights. It concluded with three scenarios — a proven and effective tool in planning for the future:

Faster, Faster: As the consequence of accelerating commoditization, social cohesion is always on the edge. This is a rat race, where only some rats will thrive.

Post-Industrial Revolution: This is possible if individuals, corporations and governments in the industrialized world can create defensible advantage and an environment receptive to social change. The constructive capacities of competition are renewed.

Rough Neighbors: These arrive on the scene when social stress creates a fragmented industrialized world and an aggressively rejectionist majority elsewhere. Many seek not to compete on the terms of the economically successful.

Why is this important?

While these scenarios were defined back in 1996, their perception and vision for today’s world in the light recent catastrophic events [Sept 11, 2001] is very sobering. Over recent weeks, it has been often said that “we are now in a different world,” without much indication as to what it is that will be different. It is clear that confidence has been severely shaken, as evidenced by dramatic changes in just about everything from airline travel to the local U-brew store. We are likely entering a recession, according to the financial forecasters. However, while recessions are times of retrenchment, they are also times of opportunity. The next business cycle will eventually unfold, and it is a certainty that the business landscape will not be the same. Just as has happened with previous business cycles, there will be new challenges that will present either opportunity or serious threat — depending on your state of preparedness.

The author has a copy of the report Unsettled Times; it is unknown if it is still be available from the originators. Recent work by the same organization can be viewed at http://www.chforum.org/.

Alan R. Procter can be reached at futureviews@alanprocter.com. For more information, visit www.futureviews.net


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