A scary report. Garland tells us that top executives and government officials simply don’t want their assumptions challenged. I have personally encountered this in small companies, but the size and scope of what Garland reports should give us all pause.
The world around us continues to change. Problems will not “magically go away” – We need to take a hard look at where we really are, and where we are going, and how we deal with the real problems that are out there.
Some of the examples Garland sites
One senior executive shut down a half-day event about future trends within the first ten minutes after a slide warning about “global aging populations” came up. The silver-haired alpha dog not only refused to discuss the fact that their average customer was near the age of social security and getting ready to leave active economic life, he asserted that Baby Boomers are not in fact aging, that “60 is the new 40,” that all future strategic problems will be solved by “getting our numbers up,” and that nobody in the company was to mention aging populations ever again.
When a colleague of mine was brought into his employer’s “corporate strategy group” a couple of years ago, he saw it as a great honor to be included in the one unit dedicated solely to the company’s long-term success. Once allowed in to the secretive confines of the group, he discovered that the mandate of the position had, after 2008, been radically altered. Rather than mapping out how the markets were likely to change and his company might stay ahead, he was made to flip through old spreadsheets to find which products were most profitable, then get salesmen to “sell more of them.” When he asked if he should perhaps include analysis of trends in society, technology, and economics to anticipate what long-term options they should be exploring, he was informed, “You need to go back to grad school if you just want to study stuff for no reason.”
A 2008 U.S. government report on “Future Trends 2025” made the following predictions: that the U.S. dollar might not be the world’s reserve currency forever, Iran would continue to be a rogue nation, China would have more economic power, Russia would be rife with corruption and organized crime, and oil would be replaced by some other magic, stable, powerful, liquid fuel for the world’s increasing fleet of cars and trucks. The report cost the U.S. government millions of dollars, all to produce a document that effectively predicted 2006, plus an extra pipedream forecast of getting out of the world’s peak oil predicament, supported by zero technological forecasts from experts in the field.