Future Shock. The Third Wave. Power Shift. And now, Revolutionary Wealth. Having read the first three of Alvin Toffler's bestsellers on how life is changing and why, I searched for his fourth major work in 2000. His series clarified for laypeople the evolution from a "first wave" agrarian-based economy to a "second-wave" industrial to the knowledge-based "third-wave" economy, and his prognostications were very useful. I needed the one I was sure would be out in 2000, but it wasn't there.

Future Shock, published in 1970, prepared us for the information age; The Third Wave, published in 1980, further interpreted the movement toward electronic empowerment; Power Shift, published 1990, prophesied a change in the very nature of power. Then, the Tofflers, as Alvin included his wife Heidi, stated they would not publish a book in 2000. The turn of the millennium was not a good time --too many uncertainties. Finally, in 2006, Revolutionary Wealth joined the line up of hallmark achievements for these very special authors.

What's in their book for you? A mind-blowing discourse on what goes on in the first decade of the 21st Century and what to look for; an expansive digest of world trends and events that are churning up the "third wave." A reader might be lucky enough to amass revolutionary wealth by keying into one of the featured trends of the knowledge economy. For example: "The new wealth system demands a complete shake-up in the way increasingly temporary skill sets are organized for increasingly temporary purposes throughout the economy." This prediction may lead you to challenge your staff to find ways of meeting American customer desires by supporting their new and changing family configurations.

Or, you may be the powerful player who pushes legislative change to keep pace with societal need. The Tofflers note that while business and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are moving at speeds of 100 or 90 mph, labor unions, education and legal institutions are lagging at speeds of 30 to only 1 mph. This is an amazing dilemma if your law suit is never settled until your actual business need ceases to exist.

Knowledge Described
Taking a bird's eye-- or more like a satellite-view of production and human labor over history, one sees a bright future despite the glaring hardships besetting nations, economies and workers at the present. A glance at the facts of knowledge reveals why the knowledge-based economy holds immense potential for people relative to the agrarian and industrial epochs… Knowledge...

  • is inherently non-rival - the greater the number of people who use it, the more likely it is that someone will generate more knowledge from the same bit of it.
  • is intangible
  • is non-linear - tiny insights can yield huge outputs
  • is relational - a unique piece attains meaning only in context with other bits
  • mates with other knowledge - the more there is, the more possible combinations there are
  • is more portable than any other product - can be distributed instantaneously to the next cubicle or to ten million in Hong Kong at the same near-zero price
  • can be compressed into symbols or abstractions - unlike tangibles
  • can be stored in smaller and smaller spaces - coming soon is storage nano scale
  • can be explicit or implicit - shared or not
  • is hard to bottle up - it spreads.

(The above list is an edited version of the ten features on pp. 100-101 of RW.)

Can you now understand why more job creation is simply a matter of exercising our collective imaginations? Factories exported to Mexico? So what. China manufacturing more and more: Big deal. America, you are the giant of the knowledge economy! Realize your prowess!

Other messages are not so fun: Desynchronization between the deep fundamentals like time and space and our major institutions is a serious dilemma. MUCH more troubling: Our educational system is not preparing students to work in the new economy that is striving to get in sync with the deep fundamentals.

The Tofflers put stock in science. If the trends and realities of this accelerated day and time are shocking and unwieldy, apply scientific method and planning. This, in their view, is an effective salve for the human condition.

Prediction: In an age of NGOs becoming past-masters at negotiations and missions accomplished, we can expect human cloning and such other possibilities to occur. One NGO will fight against particular agendas; another will successfully advocate. The clout of NGOs will eclipse that of nations.

Insights for the US
RW is not blithely proglobal. It does not turn a blind eye to China's military budget "estimated to have shot up at least sixfold between 1991 and 2004" (p. 322) and its theft of intellectual property (p. 377).

RW sees that the great powers including America are less and less great. And in the current climate of anti-American sentiment worldwide, where is the appreciation for her contributions? Winston Churchill's statement about the U.S. Marshall Plan under which the WWII-torn nations were rebuilt as "the most unsordid act in history" is quoted.

As you can see, the book runs the gamut from reasons to regard your prospects with amazement to woeful potential turns of fate for the red-white-and-blue.

From the "24 hour street" in Curitiba, Brazil, to "obsoledge" in the internet, to the unpaid work of prosumers, to the rise of para-money, to sensor technology that is emerging as one of the most important industries of the future, you will like Revolutionary Wealth, if you enjoy roller coaster rides.

Revolutionary Wealth, by Alvin and Heidi Toffler. Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006.

employee group

"You can eat your cake and have it too when you're counting on your chickens to hatch."

There are great rewards for the company that encourages its employees to be innovative. In this fractured analogy, your cake is your profits, the chickens are your employees, and their eggs are the new ideas you need to have profits.

In the past a company could count its chickens but not make them hatch, and most companies didn't even care if their chickens hatched any new ideas as long as they were in the coop scratching away at their jobs. Today, companies must have the ideas and insights of their employees. And when you have involved everyone in the quest for new ideas, then go ahead and eat your cake, that is, use some of your profits on their ideas, because only in that way will you have more cake, more profits.

Here are some ways to involve your staff in the quest to be innovative. First, explain why it is so important. In a highly competitive marketplace, innovation is crucial to survival. Next, set a goal such as, "We will come up with three new services this year," or "We will improve our products in a certain measurable way by year end." Encourage employees to get close to customers or in some cases, to meet with other employees for cross-functional idea sharing. Ask for their ideas on what might improve their jobs or what projects they would like to work on to facilitate innovation. Invite an expert on creativity training to your firm. Many large corporations have realized significant benefits from such seminars. Plan with employees how to carry out their vision. Have contests and give rewards for great ideas.

In Peter Drucker's book, Managing for the Future, he discusses how the Japanese organize to innovate. Every major industrial group in Japan now has its own research institute whose main function is not technical research but research into knowledge, that is, to bring to the group awareness of any important new knowledge in technology, management and organization, marketing, finance, training, developed anyplace in the world. These think tank groups have emerged from the Japanese belief that leadership throughout the developed world no longer rests on financial control but on who knows the most.

Why couldn't your organization have a research institute? Why not stage a monthly meeting where people come together to share their discoveries, with each one responsible for an area such as technology, marketing and so on. Just by compiling the reports and taking minutes on the discussion that would ensue, new ideas would be generated from which innovations would emerge.

Another way to organize to innovate is through the Inquiry Center. This is an idea introduced by Gerald Zaltman and Vincent Barabba in their book, Hearing the Voice of the Market. The concept is to have a group of people within your firm whose job is to listen to or do research to discover what customers want and what they are willing to pay for. This group then makes known their findings to the various departments, and is also responsible to understand the voice of the company and to reconcile these two voices.

How would you implement an Inquiry Center? Very loosely, say Zaltman and Barabba. 1. Find the right people who are good inquirers and change agents. 2. Give them broad goals. 3. Let them go. 4. Figure out what they did. 5. Institutionalize it.

Make your chickens hatch so you can eat your cake and still have it!

©2001. DAY Communications. All rights reserved.