Book Review: Future, Inc. How Businesses Can Anticipate and Profit from What's Next

I mentioned in a previous blog that I like “future” stuff and strategic impact. In addition to just finding it interesting I think knowing about trends and anticipating the future is an invaluable skill for consultants and senior HR people. This is especially true for the latter if they want to be a strategic player. If you truly want to make your “place at the table” being a “business futurist” is one way to do it. I just finished reading Eric Garland’s Future Inc.: How Businesses Can Anticipate and Profit from What’s Next and I think it is excellent. Garland steps you through the process of viewing the world as a system, recognizing trends, developing scenarios, drawing pictures to make those scenarios easier to communicate and then actually communicating the future to your target audience. One tool that I found to be very helpful, in fact I have already applied it to one consulting situation, is what he called the STEEP model. It is a model that you can use to think about all the potential impacts on your situation, as an example, your current recruiting method. STEEP stands for:

  • Society
  • Technology
  • Economics
  • Ecology
  • Politics

Thus, if you were trying to determine what future recruitment for you company might look like you would consider these areas and what their impact might be on recruiting. For example, society might include, Gen Y considerations, talent shortages, demographics, migration patterns, and educational shortages. Technology might include the impact of Internet recruiting and video resumes. Economics might include inflation, cost-of-living, and relocation expense. Ecology might include “green” considerations and your company’s reputation. Politics might include federal and state legislative changes that would change discrimination definitions. If you get nothing else out of this book other than the use of this tool it will be well worth the price of the book.

Garland then finishes the book with his take on what he calls the “Drivers of the Future.” He discusses: Aging, Information Technology, Health Care (versus what we do today which is ‘sick care’), Biotechnology, Energy, Nanotechnology, Media and Communications, and Ecology and Sustainability. All of them are important, but for the HR professional the first three are of particular importance.

The key point of his book is to view the world as a system and to realize that there are multiple impacts on whatever you are working on and to be effective in anticipating the future you must consider this system. That is why the STEEP tool is so effective. This can be put to use today in ALL HR departments and it will have an immediate impact on how you view the strategic aspect of your job and how you are viewed as a contributor to strategy.

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