Saturday, 31 January 2009

A Pre-Obama Prediction re: the Influence of Youth on His Election

Jun. '08: What’s happening out there?

What trends are beginning to take hold of the people around the planet that might affect companies of all sizes and stripes today?

1. Globalism – selling products and services worldwide.
2. Rejection of the old ‘push’ marketing model and a demand for total honesty.
3. A growing recognition of human impact on the planetary ecosystem.
4. Change. Wholesale, mind-boggling, life-altering change -- in our lifetime.

‘Change' is the New Status Quo

Most of us are familiar with the quote “Nothing is constant but change” and we all know, inherently, that the one thing most people hate more than anything is change – we are most comfortable with what we know and some people (especially older folks) will stubbornly cling to the familiar even as their seaside cottage is slowly becoming a houseboat. The kind of change we have been facing since the year 2000 however, is tough to wrap our heads around.

What’s About To Change?

1. The rhino, tiger, orangutan, jaguar, and over 46,000 invertebrate species (amongst many others) will vanish forever from the wild in the next 5 to 15 years.

2. Oil is running out. The cost of transporting cheap cargo from Asia to the developed world is about to go up by a thousand-fold. Average citizens will no longer be flying to vacation destinations unless they’re doing it in nuclear powered aircraft. Really. What did we think would happen once the oil ran out? << >>

3. The generation who went to primary school in the ‘80’s and ‘90’s in the developed world have a fundamentally different life/work ethic than ‘Gen X-ers’ or the ‘Boomers’ before them.

4. There will be 30 million MORE male than female Chinese becoming adults over the next 12 years, while China will become the world’s largest economy and single largest creditor to the US, but will have zero national debt, only large reserves of cash.


1. Extinctions will happen, in large part, because of the last point above. In the same way as the powerful, and non-eco-minded Europeans denuded the forests of North America and wiped out species wholesale in the 17th and 18th century, China will do the same to Africa and South America in the coming decade (offer a rhino preserve game warden making $100 a month $20,000 for a nighttime access to the park with machine guns and the results are inevitable). China will soon surpass the US as the world’s policeman and they’ll do as they please (e.g. the US never listened to the UN’s proclamations). The nouveaux riche in that culture like to demonstrate their wealth by eating rare animals.

2. Oil IS running out. Alberta’s vast plains and water resources are already being laid to waste simply because easy-to access oil reserves are now sufficiently low to justify the expense of extraction. (There are no ecological recovery plans either completed, nor even underway, in Alberta.) Nuclear power is the only currently viable cheap energy to meet the growing needs of the developed world and those of both China and India, but we still have no truly safe or effective disposal process for the spent fuel. Given human resourcefulness, we’ll likely come up with viable alternatives, but we haven’t yet, so when are we REALLY going to initiate the push to do so? (Here’s an idea: let’s have as much fun as we can right now, make as much money as we can, and let the next generation worry about it! Human nature has changed little in a couple of centuries.)

3. “Gen Y-ers”, or “Millennials”, were educated (worldwide) in school programs that were heavily weighted with ecological lessons and projects that focused upon disappearing indigenous cultures and creatures. Philanthropy runs in their veins -- ‘working for the man’ 40+ hours a week does not. Mr. Rogers and Barney told them they were all equally ‘special’. They were not rewarded for their accomplishments; they were rewarded just for participating. Many believe having four jobs on their resume in their first year or work is a sign of ‘smart career planning’ (i.e. not doing what ‘doesn’t feel right’ for little Bobby). This new supply of workers has no problem quitting a promising job to go surfing in Polynesia for the winter, or, to be fair, building housing for the poor in Latin America. Get used to them. They feel entitled and they are the future. It’s not that they will not work, just that they’ll only work at things they like and feel are worthwhile. Millennials in China are much the same, having grown up as ‘only children,’ although only 11% are entering post-secondary education vs. 64% of American kids...

4. Do the math. Even if the Chinese prove to be 100% benevolent dictators, they have countless and enormous technologically advanced production facilities, huge reserves of low-cost labourers, vast reserves of cash to buy technology and arms, 30,000,000 young men with low education and no prospect of getting married, ever, and a Politburo dictatorship that must continue to leverage nationalism (‘manifest destiny’), hyperbole and distraction to maintain control. The Chinese will control virtually the entire world economy in 15 to 20 years. Everyone is already reliant on doing business with the Chinese today, and tomorrow, even if the oil crisis slows their exports, their economic health (the purchasing power of average Chinese) will mean the rest of the world will continue to have to do business with them. Plus they’ll have the money to buy, or the strength to take, the raw materials they’ll need -- and there’ll be no one to stop them from doing so, or from building huge nuclear-powered facilities to supply their growing energy demands. They might become democratic, but then America was the first true democracy and the US became the world’s most powerful and dominant nation. Like the Roman Empire and so many other world powers, the ‘developed West’ won’t be in charge anymore, and this will happen very soon.

Even ‘Change’ is Changing!

What all this means is that change is not going away, rather it’s accelerating. Hillary Clinton could not keep up with all this change; she focused on bringing a decades old plan for universal healthcare to fruition. Beneficial, clever, absolutely necessary for the US, but not in tune with what is happening from the satellite view of the entire planet and the role that the US must now take, given the mistakes it has made. McCain is trying to leverage fear of change (“not the right change”), but it is looking increasingly likely that a brand new factor will prove the GOP’s undoing (see point #3 above!)...

Millennials are not apathetic when it comes to voting like their Gen X parents were (this latter tendency was understandably, given that the parents of Gen X were the Boomers and they told their kids “our generation has everything under control” as, in their own minds, the Boomers were destined to change the world for the better). Millennials, in fact, believe that everything they say and do is ‘special’ and that participation counts more than accomplishments. When everyone is ‘special’, then voting is the only way to change things. Speak to this group about ‘change’ and they’ll FLOOD the voting booths.

Integral to this latter point, pollsters are making dire predictions about the impact on the upcoming election, telling us that the voting force who have traditionally been the most influential in America (i.e. old folks), will not vote a black man into the White House. The retired whites and all the Hispanics may not vote for a black man, but is anyone taking a close look at the 18 to 24 year olds who, in the past, never voted?

Even the whitest white kids from the ‘red south’ of the US (including the young Hispanics), look up to black culture as the coolest, most aspirational culture they can imagine. In the Millennials’ few years of adulthood, blacks have dominated the global music scene, Tiger Woods has dominated golf, the Williams sisters have dominated tennis, Collin Powell and Condoleezza Rice were front and center on the military and political arenas and integration is everywhere in the media and their schools. Bubba and Biff down in Alabama dress like black rappers, talk like urban ‘brothers,’ dance like the hip-hop aficionados they are and, for the most part, see NO problem voting for a black president.

When the polls open us this time round, it is most likely that, not only will more young people vote than ever before, they’ll vote independently of their prejudiced, aging parents and grandparents. It is most likely that they’ll vote for what they stand for, the thing their parents and grandparents feel most uncomfortable with: change.

So we all best get ready for a whole bunch of change! It’s already all around us and both the pace and volume of technological and cultural change will only increase. This will mean more and more specialization, more narrow focus for businesses, more flexibility, more strategic thinking, more niche marketing, not mass marketing. Businesses will have to be specialized, not in a producing a single product, but in being adaptable and flexible within a certain area of production or service. The days of spending years and years serving up exactly the same recipe, year after year, are over, but the days of knowing how to cook superbly are not.

What is now in demand are ‘chefs’ who have mastered the science of cooking to the point that they can not only put together ingredients that have never been combined before, but quickly learn new methods of cooking (in vacuum bags at low temperatures over a 48 hour period) that make their product taste both unique and far better than the competition’s. It is now all about both being two steps ahead of your nearest competitor, but also about being more creative and quick to adapt to unexpected changes in the marketplace or your area of expertise.

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