Power to the people

Toronto-based author/futurist G. Robert Switzer has a vision for high-tech business that embodies what he has trademarked “Spiritual Economics.”

In Switzer’s view, the world of business – notably the IT business – is moving towards a communal harmony based on a fresh era of cooperation, communication, and improved social values. His new book, Business And Social Trendz, offers 63 trends to look for when trying to understand the future.

Speaking before a gathering at the Network World Live! conference and exhibition in Toronto on Oct. 18, Switzer described society as being on the cusp of some amazing changes, while attempting to give the audience his insights on where we’re collectively going and why.

“The key to profit and service competitiveness in the new age and the new economy is the level of service that your companies are providing,” he began. “Companies need greater internal collaboration…these new requirements of business all rely on communication…the whole area of communications is vital to fuelling the new economy.”

Switzer cited corporations’ willingness to work together to achieve a common goal as being sound evidence for this era of creative collaboration, such as the 1,800 company-strong Bluetooth project. And he did not hesitate to use advertisement after advertisement to illustrate his point of empowering the individual employee with freedom, responsibility and respect, by showing slides of current marketing schemes from a variety of enterprises (IBM, Dell, Calvin Klein, Kellogg’s, Ford) that have tuned into that train of consciousness.

“I’ve just produced a top 10 list of what I think are going to be the advertising themes in the next decade and they’re all based around innermost spiritual values,” he said, while displaying a recent Tommy Hilfiger ad for cologne. “Values like Freedom that Tommy Hilfiger is tapping into with its new line of fragrances. Calvin Klein has followed with a new line called Truth.”

Despite this, Switzer did identify two major forces he said is defining the future: converging technology and changing social values.

“The level of collaboration in today’s world is fuelling convergence,” he said. “We’re sitting on the fulcrum in the year 2000 of this change, by the year 2020, we will be firmly established in this new age and new economy. I call this new age the age of the sovereign individual.”

Shift in focus

According to Switzer, the convergence of hardware, software, telecommunications, and the budding fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and IT, is driving the planet towards three distinct movements: the ecological movement, the wellness movement (focus on longevity, health), and personal growth.

“We’re seeing a shift from a focus on causes to global concerns…this is a shift towards taking responsibility for our lives. We’re seeing ourselves as global citizens,” he remarked. “Some of the values coming out from this really are spiritual values. During the Industrial Age we were focused on things; acquiring certain goods, displaying them, and defining ourselves in terms of what we owned, the house we lived in, and the car we drove.”

Which raises the question as to why Switzer relied frequently on advertisements to illustrate his points if we as a society no longer use possessions to define our individuality. Still, with more than 20 years of corporate strategic planning under his belt, Switzer did raise some interesting views.

He pointed to the technological revolution the world is experiencing and suggested there is a symbiotic relationship with the cultural/spiritual evolution in modern workplaces. Not a religious impact, but a spiritual impact on social values in general.

“Spirituality in the workplace is becoming very important to people,” he continued. “Today there are about 50 million North Americans participating in the personal growth movement alone,” he said.

“As the electronic world begins to bring the buyer and the seller closer together…the key difference will be service. This is paramount and it will create the cutting edge, the recommendations that you make as communications professionals and the decisions you make in your corporations will be vital.”

Switzer said corporations with intelligent thought leadership, who empower their employees by allowing them a creative environment, will realize the greatest financial success. However, he added those same corporations will be a skeleton of what they appear as today due to this spiritual and technological evolution.

“The workplace is moving towards empowering its associates, every position in the new organization counts, everybody has a value and a place,” he said. “The new organization works on a new harmony and a new teamwork…the value shift here is moving from production-based labour to a creativity-based and technologically-reliant corporation. The new capital of corporations is creativity and innovation.”

Switzer added that in order for the new capital of creativity to be fully harnessed, North Americans need to learn to operate at a slower pace.

“It may not seem like we’re slowing down, but if we don’t we won’t be more competitive in the new economy,” he warned. “You can’t be creative unless you slow down.”