First in a Series
The Long Boom: A History of the World’s Future, 1980-2020, by Peter Schwartz, Peter Leyden, and Joel Hyatt (Basic Books, 2000)
We are now at the end of The Long Boom. This one of the first books that we presented for a book synopsis. Several clients found it to be useful, and so, we went several places to talk about it. Today, we will talk about this book, and how much of what the authors predicted actually came true. This is the first part of a series, called “What Happened for….”
Peter Schwartz is co-founder and Chairman of the Global Business Network. Author of the international bestseller, The Art of the Long View, he lives in Berkeley, California. Peter Schwartz is an American futurist, innovator, author, and co-founder of the Global Business Network, a corporate strategy firm, specializing in future-think and scenario planning. As of October 2011, he has served as Senior Vice President Strategic Planning for Salesforce.com.
Peter Leyden, former managing editor of Wired magazine and special correspondent in Asia for Newsweek, has written and spoken about technology, economics and politics since the mid-1980s. He lives in Berkeley, California. He is the founder of Reinvent, a company that drives conversations with leading innovators about how to build a better future, and creates events and media to spread their ideas. He’s also a frequent keynote speaker on new technologies and future trends, working through Keppler Speakers.
What we thought in 1999
“Imagine this world as the authors imagine it, viewed in hindsight from 2050: We humans have fixed the damage we had done to the environment, without denting anyone’s standard of living. Cars now run on hydrogen fuel cells refilled twice a year. Machines the size of molecules and 120-year life spans are realities for today’s George and Jane Jetsons, and nothing is out of the realm of possibility not cold fusion energy, not anti-gravity devices, not cooperation with alien life forms. This is a mind-boggling book. These authors see the present moment as a watershed in human history. Emerging technologies and new modes of deploying human capital, they argue, are in the process of bringing about an unprecedented leap in the progress of civilization. If we can all get it right, the result will be good times throughout the planet we currently inhabit and beyond. There will be bumps in the road the overthrow of Saudi Arabia’s government by Islamic fundamentalists will cause another oil shock in the economy, for instance. But an evolving civilization, in which all peoples are bound together by common interests and increasingly shared prosperity, will be able to work through such rough patches, in the view of Schwartz, Leyden, and Hyatt.” (BookPage, Review by Thomas Wood, October 1999)
“A book for anyone seeking an uplifting view of the future. The authors argue that the world is halfway through a “long boom” of 40 years that started in 1980. The second half could be more vigorous than the first, achieving robust global growth rates ranging from a plausible four to an imaginative six percent a year. Billed not as a prediction but as a desirable vision, the book identifies the technological and economic possibilities and warns of the political obstacles that need to be overcome. It argues that innovation is proceeding apace, especially in computation, communication, biotechnology, and even nanotechnology — controlled processes taking place at the atomic level. Meanwhile, the mobilization of technology, particularly fuel cells, can avoid the environmental costs of more rapid growth. In turn, economic growth can lift millions into an emerging international middle class, creating a new global identity that coexists comfortably with traditional cultures. Writing from the perspective of historians in 2050, the authors project a big picture stripped of the momentary tribulations that dominate daily life and preoccupy contemporary writers.” (Foreign Affairs, March/April 2000)
What we now know
The U.S. is officially in its longest expansion, breaking the record of 120 months of economic growth from March 1991 to March 2001, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
Starting in June of 2009, this record-setting run saw GDP growing cumulatively by 25%, far slower than previous expansions.
While the unemployment rate has dropped to 3.6% in May, the lowest since 1969, job growth has been relatively slower than during other postwar recoveries. (CNBC, July 2, 2019)
“Nearly every country confronting the coronavirus pandemic sees a recession in its future. A staggering 3.3 million unemployment claims were filed last week in the United States alone. Economists are predicting that the damage to the global economy could last months if not years, despite bailout packages and massive stimulus efforts like the $2 trillion intervention approved by Congress this week….The coronavirus, though, is a force unto its own, and it is overwhelming even the strongest and most privileged of countries. Australia, along with many other parts of the world, has come to a virtual halt, shuttering its borders and restricting domestic travel….Every day brings another round of huge layoffs. On Thursday, Flight Center, a major travel agency, fired 6,000 people. Two of Australia’s largest retailers also said they would close for at least four weeks, leaving 15,000 more people out of work — on top of tens of thousands more from smaller businesses, many of whom have never been unemployed….Before the coronavirus, about 700,000 Australians were receiving unemployment benefits, known as job-seeker payments. Over the next few months, some economists say, that number could jump to 1.7 million — and the country’s social safety net is already buckling under the load. ( New York Times, March 27, 2020)
What this means
Forty years have passed. Did the boom last? How did the world change? If so, it is for the better?
Under any definition, this was clearly a boom. The Clinton years were the greatest and profound in the era. Yet, in spite of the successes, the White House was only able to hold on for eight years. After Gore was defeated, Bush was elected, and the country turned to ignite support against terrorists. Citizens were outraged with revenge, and the country adopted defensive strategies.
There were setbacks We lost our leading status in science, medicine, and technology to Japan. The price of oil rocketed to new heights, with fees over four dollars a gallon. We have not taken care of the environment. Global warming is stronger than ever, and while people give lip service about it, is not that very high in the priorities that politicians talk and campaign about. The crisis in health care shows no progress. America still has the world’s greatest health care that very few people can use.
We learned to fight against threats to cybersecurity. We found ways to limit illegal immigration in a humane way. We found worked around efforts to undermine our political enemies. Expenses against the budget became out of control, especially during the coronavirus, where businesses closed, and many people were out of work. But until recently, we had very low employment, and as I write this today, as an example, Texas has 450,000 new jobs, just waiting to filled.
Yet, America stayed strong. The creative mind has never been stronger. The GDP has shown we are productive. When we are safe to work again, there is no reason that think that we will not have good recovery,
Perhaps a look of the world shows that it has been a great division between those “have,” and those that “do not” – for many things. It is not just America. Looking back 40 years, that is the biggest difference in the world. We have more babies, but are less able to bring them in a world that they can be proud of, and prosper. Like much of the boom, we find that “less” is not always better than “more.”
I invite comments on this post. I am interested in your reactions.
Please stay tuned for posts that will have a theme such as “what happened to……”
- How well did it work?
- What were the results?
- What is different now?
- What are the implications for future work?
SuperCorp: How Vanguard Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good by Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Crown Business, 2009)
The Long Boom: A Vision For The Coming Age of Prosperity by Peter Schwartz, Peter Leyden, Joel Hyatt (Basic Books 1999)
Customers for Life: How to Turn That One-Time Buyer Into a Lifetime Customer by Carl Sewell and Paul Brown (Currency, 2009)
The Long Baby Boom: An Optimistic Vision for a Graying Generation by Carl Sewell and Paul Brown (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008)
Among the most popular titles we presented at the First Friday Book Synopsis were those from Jack Welch. These were three best in his collection, and two of them were delivered by Randy Mayeux:
Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book (with Suzy Welch, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999)
Jack: Straight from the Gut (Hachette Book Group, 2003)
The Real-Life MBA: Your No-BS Guide to Winning the Game, Building a Team, and Growing Your Career (Suzy Welch, HarperCollins Publishers, 2015)
Welch lived between November 19, 1935 and March 1, 2020. For the 19 years when I taught Management, Welch was considered top of his game. You may remember that I was a corporate trainer for many years. But, how many people that Welch a was teacher in classroom while he was President and CEO? Many corporate officers did not even know had a training department, let alone teaching in one.
One of the best books about Welch is Control Your Destiny Or Someone Else Will: How Jack Welch is Making General Electric the World’s Most Competitive Corporation by Noel Tichy and Stratford Sherman (Doubleday, 1993).
As a professional, Welch was an American business executive, chemical engineer, and writer. He was chairman and CEO of General Electric (GE) between 1981 and 2001. When he retired from GE, he received a severance payment of $417 million, the largest such payment in business history. Welch greatest fan was Noel Tichy, was author of the first book we every presented the First Friday Book Synopsis, (The Leadership Engine with Eli Cohen, HarperBusiness, 2002). I heard Tichy several times in person.
When he started his run, skeptics wondered how much of a difference the Welch could make in a company that was huge, profitable, and more than 100 years old. To the surprise of many Welch pushed the company to double-digit growth during his two decades at the helm. During the 20 years he led the company, its market value grew from $12 billion to $410 billion.
Here are some of the major quotes from his books:
- “An organization’s ability to learn, and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage.”
- “Strong managers who make tough decisions to cut jobs provide the only true job security in today’s world. Weak managers are the problem. Weak managers destroy jobs.”
- “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
- “Giving people self-confidence is by far the most important thing that I can do. Because then they will act.”
- “If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings and put compensation as a carrier behind it you almost don’t have to manage them.”
- “The essence of competitiveness is liberated when we make people believe that what they think and do is important – and then get out of their way while they do it.”
- “I’ve learned that mistakes can often be as good a teacher as success.”
- “Willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.”
- “Face reality as it is, not as it was or as you wish it to be.”
- “Be candid with everyone.”
To attract the right followers, Welch instituted a strategy that earned him the title of “Neutron Jack.” Welch insisted that all of GE’s divisions be market leaders. ″Fix it, close it or sell it,” he was fond of saying. He had GE cut all businesses in which the company could not dominate the market in first or second positions. He had managers fire the bottom 10% of GE employees, and he fired the bottom 10% of management. Welch’s housecleaning cleared away layers of bureaucracy, and made way for a quicker flow of ideas. The new commitment to competition came with large rewards, especially as stock option grants increased in value and GE continued to grow rapidly. GE soon became one of the most coveted places to work and attracted the best in the world
Fortune magazine once called him “manager of the century.” His books are well worth re-reading. He gave great insight about management and leadership, in a way that no else has ever duplicated.
The books by Amor Towles are wonderful. The two in the covers are best-sellers, and are award-winners. You can read his biography below.
“Born and raised in the Boston area, Amor Towles graduated from Yale College and received an MA in English from Stanford University. Having worked as an investment professional for over twenty years, Mr. Towles now devotes himself full time to writing in Manhattan, where he lives with his wife and two children.
“Mr. Towles’s first novel, Rules of Civility, which was published in 2011, was a New York Times bestseller and was named by the Wall Street Journal as one of the best books of 2011. The book has been translated into over 20 languages, its French translation receiving the 2012 Prix Fitzgerald.
“Mr. Towles’s second novel, A Gentleman in Moscow, which was published in 2016, was on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year in hardcover and was named one of the best books of 2016 by the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the San Francisco Chronicle, and NPR. The book has been translated into over thirty-five languages including Russian. In the summer of 2017, the novel was optioned by EOne and the British director Tom Harper to be made into a 16 hour miniseries starring Kenneth Branagh.“
“An irresistible and astonishingly assured debut about working class-women and world-weary WASPs in 1930s New York…in the crisp, noirish prose of the era, Towles portrays complex relationships in a city that is at once melting pot and elitist enclave – and a thoroughly modern heroine who fearlessly claims her place in it.” —O, the Oprah Magazine
“With this snappy period piece, Towles resurrects the cinematic black-and-white Manhattan of the golden age…[his] characters are youthful Americans in tricky times, trying to create authentic lives.”—The New York Times Book Review
“This very good first novel about striving and surviving in Depression-era Manhattan deserves attention…The great strength of Rules of Civility is in the sharp, sure-handed evocation of Manhattan in the late ‘30s.”—Wall Street Journal
“How delightful that in an era as crude as ours this finely composed new novel by Amor Towles stretches out with old-World elegance. “A Gentleman in Moscow” offers a chance to sink back into a lost attitude of aristocracy — equal parts urbane and humane — just what we might expect from the author of that 2011 bestseller “Rules of Civility.” But if Towles’s story is an escape we crave, it is also, ironically, a story of imprisonment… – Washington Post”
“Beyond the door of the luxurious Hotel Metropol lies Theater Square and the rest of Moscow, and beyond its city limits the tumultuous landscape of 20th-century Russia. The year 1922 is a good starting point for a Russian epic, but for the purposes of his sly and winning second novel, Amor Towles forgoes descriptions of icy roads and wintry dachas and instead retreats into the warm hotel lobby. The Metropol, with its customs and routines, is a world unto itself… – New York Times Book Review”
“Spread across four decades, this is in all ways a great novel, a nonstop pleasure brimming with charm, personal wisdom, and philosophic insight…. This is a book in which the cruelties of the age can’t begin to erase the glories of real human connection and the memories it leaves behind. A masterly encapsulation of modern Russian history, this book more than fulfills the promise of Towles’ stylish debut, Rules of Civility (2011). – Kirkus”