Mr. Megatrends re-set pictures of the
global economy and the tech revolution
«Forget the Next Big Thing»
with the author in Lisbon, February 2006
in 1996 about "Megatrends Asia"
"We are in a time of digesting, extending and
perfecting the technological and geopolitical breakthroughs
we've seen in the last period of the 20th Century: the
Internet, biotech, nanotech, the rise of the new China.
We are in a period of incremental evolutionary change.
We will spend the next half century absorbing and upgrading
the big revolutionary innovations. Period. There's no
next big thing anytime soon", says John
Naisbitt, 77, one of the most famous American futurists.
This sounds unpleasant for tech pundits and hype "spin
doctors" in search of the "next big thing".
The big opportunity is talent. "The New Era is
mass customisation of talent". And he recommends:
"With talent becoming an interchangeable global
commodity, Education assumes paramount position. In
today's global economy it becomes the NUMBER ONE economic
He is best known for his bestseller Megatrends
of 1982. The book was a runaway sensation, enjoying
106 consecutive weeks on the New York Times best-seller
list. "Megatrends" turned a global buzzword.
His approach is quite simple: the future is always
'embedded' in the present. "My point of departure
was always the present". But you must know how
to 'see' the present: "Look for what really is
happening. Not for what people say. Pay attention for
improbable things that happen".
For more than 10 years he wrote sequels about the theme:
Megatrends 2000 (published 1990), Megatrends
for Women (1992), co-authored with his wife at that
time, Patricia Aburdene, and Megatrends Asia
(1996), written when he had been living in Kuala Lumpur,
Malaysia. Then Patricia continued alone this saga, publishing
Megatrends 2010. In this period Naisbitt wrote
other books of reference: Re-Inventing the Corporation
(1985) and Global Paradox (1994). His Japanese
language book Japan's Identity Crisis was a bestseller
in Japan (1992). In 1999 he published, with his daughter
Nana, High Tech, High Touch, a follow-up book
devoted to one of the tem megatrends he predicted in
1982, at a time when the Web didn't even exist.
He forecasted a number of major trends that would shape
the 1990's and the beginning of the 21st Century: the
Information-based Society, the networking and greater
human interaction, globalisation ("national economies
are blending into a global economy), the emergence of
Asia and the role of China, the buzzword of the 1990's
("think globally, act locally", the famous
"glocal" - yet, later, he 'corrected' the
motto for "think locally, and act globally"),
privatisation of the Welfare State, the Age of Biology,
political power gravitating toward the centre, with
main parties looking more and more alike. Some of them
may seen obvious today, but it wasn't so obvious in
the 1980's and the 1990's. Other trends only now began
to emerge to public perception: decentralization, women
leadership in politics, direct participatory democracy.
In the year 2000 John,71, made a big shift in his life,
in the dawn of the new century. He married Doris, an
Austrian, his publisher in German language, and move
to Europe, to Vienna. "It was a new beginning.
My favourite definition of growth - also applied to
humans - is regrouping in a higher level. Change of
base would be interesting. Vienna is so beautiful and
in the centre of Europe. Also closer to Asia",
he explains with a smile. He continues his long range
relationship with China: he is current faculty member
at the Nanjing University. He adds: "As an American
from Chevy's [the car, the Chevrolet] culture in Utah,
now I can have a slightly different picture of the U.S.".
His forthcoming book is to be released in October 2006.
Deals with "pictures" of the global economy.
The long title "talks" about his goal with
the book: Mind Set! Re-set your thinking and see
the future. Our responses to reality, depends on
a crucial element - our mindset, our "fixed"
mental attitude. Naisbitt urge us to re-set our views
about geoeconomy and geopolitics. He insists: we must
correct the false impressions about reality; we have
to see the big picture behind the false impressions.
From the megatrends of 1982 which of them came true?
You must ask which of them didn't came true. [big laugh].
Megatrends Asia in 1995 was also a big success...
Yes, now everyone talks about this great engine.
How you "sense" the megatrends? What's
Look for what's really happening. Not for what people
say. How improbable was "los blancos" of Real
Madrid to be beaten by Zaragoza for 6-1 in the first
hand of Copa del Rey? So, look for the scone of the
game. Pay attention to the improbable. The future is
always 'embedded' in the present.
Woman touch is the big megatrend in politics and
management in the 21st Century?
Look: how extraordinary was the German case! Who thought
possible that a woman become Chancellor? Mrs. Merkel
become Germany's first woman leader. Yet, it's a slow
process. It's coming. Once I said that woman's leadership
style is more in tune with the Information Society.
I am not discourage. I am very much in favour! (laugh).
You referred in your book co-authored with your
daughter that high touch is the leading differentiation
for businesses today. Why? What are the consequences?
High touch differentiates companies. In a tech world,
the question is: how they can humanize? As I said in
1982: the more high tech around us, the more the need
for humam touch. That's why DESIGN is so important -
because design humanize. Anyway we need a balance -
a balance between high touch and high tech. The danger
You are currently working on a new project about
the global economy. Can you anticipate the guidelines
of your forthcoming book?
The book is all about what will dominate the first half
of this Century. I describe the "pictures"
of the future I have in my head. Mind set!, because
mind sets are frames how we look the world, how we 'filter'
it. For the moment, I would refer five "pictures":
1. The shift from Nation-States to 'economic domains'
- the world is a collection of economic domains (for
instance the automobile domain in Portugal) and the
force that is behind them it is decentralization; 2.
China - there's a lot of great exaggeration about its
growth; 3. what´s going on in Europe - there's
lips service about reform, but nothing happens; 4. The
fact that visual culture is taken over the world; 5.
and the worse less idea of searching for the Next Big
But you choose to leave in Europe, despite the decline?
I like the lifestyle and my wife. It's a real dilemma.
The short list in Europe is high taxes plus big government.
Europe has a choice: or reform, or continue the social
model. I think Europe will continue with its model in
a decline context. But in the meanwhile I have good
time! (big laugh). I must add also: European companies
work well in the economic domains, even if countries
You refer the fight for talent and the paradox about
'politization' of outsourcing...
Outsourcing is politically sensible. But in sports that's
something we are used to - and no one rejects. We never
call this recruitment of talent, outsourcing. Outsourcing
is a big issue when it refers to common mortals. Why
it was ok for professional sports, but it was considered
an outrage to offshore labour, even knowledge one? The
new Era is one of mass customisation of talent. So be
With talent becoming an interchangeable global commodity,
Education assumes paramount position. In today's global
economy it becomes the number one economic priority
for an individual or a country to function in the world
of today. Look: South Korea has more PhDs per capita
than other country in the world.
Do you believe in the upcoming clash of civilizations?
I do not believe that. A lot of radical Muslims are
creating an impression of an apparent clash of civilizations.
It's a "spasm"?
I think it's a "spasm" against modernity.
You said that there's a lot of exaggeration about
Yes. I mean, they need 30 to 40 years to catch up with
America. And at that time the geopolitical scene will
be very different. We can't anticipate that. We only
can anticipate big shifts. I think they will dominate
the world sports before the world economy. They will
have global supremacy in sports. We will see what happens
in the Olympics of 2008. But be aware: China is more
than the workshop of the year. China designs and will
become a great designer centre. China is also moving
in the innovation side, with the reverse brain drain
from the U.S. to mainland.
You refer also the visual thing as a big shift.
What you mean by that?
I think the written world is been substituted. We are
witnessing a slow death of the newspaper culture. We
see a serious decline of the novel - Harry Potter gave
only a momentary correction. We see fancy designs for
goods. And the role of architecture and visual art.
Look at the Guggenheim effect - the Museum in Bilbao
by Frank Gehry. It's an unbelievable Renaissance! Art-Fashion-Design
are driving forces today. Visuality dominates the digital
world. We are living in a visual culture, in a visual
world. We must speak of a new visual language. We communicate
You are 77. If we take Peter Drucker as an example
(he died with 95 last November) probably you have more
15-20 years for your work as a futurist. How you see
this period of your life?
Peter Drucker was an amazing person. I met him in Malaysia
in 1985 - he was 76 -and he said to me in a coffee:
"Let's go for a hike". He is an example for
all of us. He died with his boots on.
John Naisbitt Profile
He is 77 (2006).
He studied Political Science at Harvard, Cornell and
Utah Universities. But as a high-school drop out, he
is mostly self-taught. He was an executive with IBM
and Eastman Kodak. Also assistant secretary of Education
to President Kennedy and special assistant to President
He is current faculty member at the Nanjing University,
in China. He is director of the World Future Society.
Recipient of 15 honorary doctorates.
His official website at www.naisbitt.com