2/13/08

“Future Shock” - Review

. 2/13/08

The book “Future Shock” has been written by Alvin Toffler a renowned futurist. He is an American writer and futurist, known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communications revolution, corporate revolution and technological singularity. A former associate editor of Fortune magazine, his early work focused on technology and its impact (through effects like information overload). Then he moved to examining the reaction of and changes in society. His later focus has been on the increasing power of 21st century military hardware, weapons and technology proliferation, and capitalism. His wife Heidi Toffler is also a writer and futurist.

Accenture, the management consultancy, has dubbed him the third most influential voice among business leaders, after Bill Gates and Peter Drucker. He has also been described in the Financial Times as the "world's most famous futurologist". People's Daily classes him among the 50 foreigners that shaped modern China.
Here is a list of political leaders tutored by Alvin and Heidi Toffler

* Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the Soviet Union, in 1986 as he was formulating perestroika.
* Zhao Ziyang, the reformist Chinese premier in 1988.
* Most of the Japanese leaders from Hirofumi Nakasone to Junichiro Koizumi. In Japan, he is highly respected by both politicians and business leaders alike.
* Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, former prime minister of Malaysia
* A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, former President of India
* Kim Dae Jung, former South Korean president and the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize recipient

The book written in 1970, gives startling insights into the working of organizations in the future (which is today). The book is widely regarded as a masterpiece on futurology.

The author foresees that, the two strengths of an organization, permanence and hierarchy (which the author calls, bureaucracy) will be doomed and will be replaced by "Adhocracy".

The author foresees the following scenarios in the future (i.e. 90's and the early 21st century):

There would be a fair amount of mergers and acquisitions taking place, which would continuously overhaul an organization, which the author terms as the "organizational upheaval". These phenomena would threaten its permanence.

The work will mostly be done by project teams, which would be promptly discarded after the job is completed. This would make the organization highly unstable.
With the exponential increase in production, the production time will be reduced; this would make the downtime very costly and will require faster flow of information for faster execution decisions. This would result in the bypassing of the hierarchy, the " hands" will take the decisions and not the managers.

The solutions to these problems, the author opines is, "Adhocracy". He says, like modularism in architecture, we have to strengthen the structure by using disposable components. We've to use highly adaptive work systems. The prediction made in the book has been more or less true and organizations that have survived have made certain changes, as foreseen by the book e.g., flat structures, faster information flows and development of task-team, etc.

The important lessons about strategic management learnt from this book are that though the components of an organization may change frequently, the structure remains the same (or relatively so). This forms the basis of future decisions. The structure should be such that, the changes (which are inevitable) should affect the components and not the structure. This gives an organization a better chance to survive in an environment which changes continuously and where permanence is non-existent.





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