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The Renaissance Society: How the Shift from Dream Society to the Age of Individual Control will Change the Way You Do Business

The Renaissance Society: How the Shift from Dream Society to the Age of Individual Control will Change the Way You Do Business

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by Rolf Jensen, Mika Aaltonen

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Your future. Our future. The future of companies, the marketplace, and society.

According to futurists Rolf Jensen and Mika Aaltonen, we are currently "between dreams." We've managed to achieve many of our material goals,




Your future. Our future. The future of companies, the marketplace, and society.

According to futurists Rolf Jensen and Mika Aaltonen, we are currently "between dreams." We've managed to achieve many of our material goals, only to face ever-growing global competition in an ever-slowing economy. Here's the good news: With the rise of social media and online resources, consumers are growing more powerful. Individuals are exploring more options. And smart businesses are discovering more ways to appeal to this powerful new community.

Welcome to The Renaissance Society. A world-class network of ordinary people who are changing the way companies and communities interact, they are the future--and they are us. This forward-thinking book guides you through tomorrow's hottest trends to help you:

  • Make an emotional connection to your customers
  • Create a value-driven company that engages your employees
  • Adjust your business strategy for a flatter, global marketplace
  • Reward individual expression and spark a tribal spirit
  • Identify future trends to build long-term success

Jensen and Aaltonen's razor-sharp predictions offer a much-needed headsup--and a major head-start--for your future success. You'll explore revolutionary ways in which the individual's role will shift from consumer to creator--much like it did during the European Renaissance. You'll find out why learning will become the world's largest industry and how services will become the twenty-first century's biggest growth market. You'll see a powerful shift in the concept of ownership, the role of employees within a company, and the role of companies in society. Most important, you'll be able to turn these fascinating predictions into real-world opportunities for decades to come.

In The Renaissance Society, everybody matters. Each and every one of us has the power to reshape the future of our companies. To reignite the passion of our communities. And to restore our faith in ourselves, our dreams, and our limitless potential for growth.


"Jensen and Aaltonen have created a captivating portrait of tomorrow, one that inspires us to think of alternatives. Decision makers in all fields will find that this book provides powerful reasons to question their grasp of the present." -- Riel Miller, Foresight Director, UNESCO

"Mika and Rolf inspire our thinking and action with a book based on solid theory--and their vast experience working with leading international companies. It is a valuable reference for leaders in both business and politics." -- DR. STEFAN BERGHEIM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR SOCIETAL PROGRESS, GERMANY

"The Renaissance Society is a fascinating and highly readable guide to the future and the possibilities it holds. These are hard times for many people but this book helps to lift our sights and see the scope now emerging for a step change in human achievement." -- Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, Royal Society of Arts

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Business consultant Jensen (chief imagination officer, Dream Company; director, Copenhagen Inst. for Future Studies) aims here to refresh and extend concepts and predictions first launched in his best-selling book, The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business, in which he captivated audiences ws ws ws ws ws ws wvent conflict with China over resources, trade, and human rights, and therefore improve its own economy as a result.

Verdict This is one of those rare books that places political economy into understandable, even enjoyable form. Academics, researchers, and certainly policy makers would do well to purchase this work.—Duncan Stewart, Univ. of Iowa Libs., Iowa City
(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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ISBN: 978-0-07-180606-0



The Material World

Here is the global overview: in a globalized economy, the geography of wealth and poverty is the reason for trade, and it underlies the strategies of many U.S. companies. What consumers buy is determined by their income, and income is not distributed equally—far from it.

Chapter 1 presents a snapshot of the distribution of wealth among nations today and a long-term forecast: how rich will nations and their citizens be in 20 to 30 years, in the 2040s? We study the material, physical world: stuff, products, and services.


Imagine traveling between the extremes. You start in Bamako, the capital of Mali, a small nation in Western Africa and one of the poorest countries in the world. You fly to New York, one of the richest cities in the world. These are extremes; the average New Yorker is more than 50 times wealthier than the average person in Bamako. The New Yorker need not worry about where his next meal is coming from; the person living in Bamako has to worry every day about getting enough to eat. This chapter presents an overview of the world economy: which nations are rich and poor just now and especially where the nations will be in the future—an inspiring look into the next 20 to 30 years. The world is the marketplace for many companies, and they will need to know the pattern of consumption. For any company that is taking an interest in the "extended now," this chapter will inspire its strategy. For all of us, a snapshot of the economy in a globalized world is a must if we want to understand the world and put our lives in perspective.

No company is isolated from the national and the world economy. If it is growing, so can your company. Of course it is possible to prosper during a recession, but this is the exception, not the rule. GDP is the best measure of our ability to buy things. What is the state of the world economy at the moment, and what are the prospects for the future? We do have a globally accepted system for measuring material values, both on the national level and internationally. Some experts criticize the way it is done, but the figures from the World Bank are the ones that economists and governments use. Can we forecast as much as 30 years ahead? The answer is, this is not an exact science, but long-term forecasts often have a better chance because we have a pattern from the past to help us. If you want to guess what the temperature will be next Tuesday, you may well fail, but if you are asked what the average temperature for 2018 will be, you are likely to succeed. It will not deviate much from what we know about past temperatures. The same rule applies to long-term forecasts for GDP.

Mr. or Mrs. World Average

For the average person in the world (the average consumer), GDP per capita today is about $10,000. Countries with GDP that is close to this global average are Brazil, Belarus, Costa Rica, Iran, and Lebanon. How can we understand this figure? What does $10,000 mean in practical terms? It is measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) by the World Bank. It reflects how much you can afford to buy, irrespective of fluctuating currencies; it is real. The per capita figures are simply GDP divided by the size of the population (and remember that children are persons, too). Most people live in families. The five countries mentioned have an average household size of four or a little more; thus, the family income is about $40,000. How much can this family afford to buy? It can buy enough food, including meat; it will live in a small apartment or even a house, it can visit the doctor now and then, it will own bicycles and a motorbike, and it can afford education for the children, but it has no car, no holidays abroad, and no insurance.

Mr. and Mrs. Rich

The richest consumers, on average, have a per capita GDP of around $50,000. Countries close to this top of the world today are Norway, Kuwait, Singapore, and the United States. The household size will be between two and three persons, and the family will have two cars, travel abroad, own a house, be fully insured, and have a pension to look forward to.

Mr. and Mrs. Poor

The poorest of the poor in the world have a per capita GDP of about $700. They live in countries like Togo, Mali, Malawi, Niger, and Ethiopia. Having enough to eat every day is a constant challenge for them, and their home has just one or two rooms for a family of perhaps five persons and may not have running water or electricity.

This huge gap between rich and poor is real; it's not just some figures in the economists' books. A GDP of $700 will buy the basic needs for survival, but not much else. If you have $50,000 per person, your family may have a Jacuzzi in the bathroom and shopping is a leisure activity; it's about your lifestyle.

Remember that these are national averages. There are a few people in Mali who are richer than some people in, say, Norway, but for most companies, the average is the more important figure.

This is a snapshot of the present. Let's move to the important question: how rich will we become in the future? When we talk about the growth for next year, listen to the economists, but when we are talking about the next 10 or 30 years, listen to the past, to the pattern as it has developed over time.


Let us start with 1820; this is a good year, since it was the start of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom—the beginning of a period in which economic growth was a normal thing. From 1820 to 2000, the average annual growth of GDP was highest in the Americas (North and South), a staggering figure of more than 3 percent. In the rest of the world, it was slightly above 2 percent. That is a lot for such a long period. Your income doubles in a little less than 25 years if growth is 3 percent per year. If it is 2 percent annually, it takes 35 years for your income to double. (Income includes both what you can buy and the value of the services available from society, such as schools, roads, hospitals, and law and order.) In the 180 years between 1820 and 2000 the average world citizen has become about 50 times richer. The lesson from the past is clear: despite two world wars, local wars and revolutions, bad government, famine, diseases, and recessions, the economy is growing in the long term. Compared to our forebears, we are filthy rich. We would gladly give them some of our money if we could. Inheritances go to the next generation (for good reasons), but imagine if we could do it backward!

Can we expect this pattern of continuous economic growth to go on and on far into some distant future? Yes. For more than 180 years, we have seen a consistent pattern of growth. That is a solid base for looking ahead. What about pollution? We have started to clean up, and wind and solar power are included in the GDP. What about too many people on the planet? The growth of the world population is declining, and even when the population was growing fastest, GDP per person was growing fast too.

Let us look at some likely regional and national long-term growth figures.

China in the 2040s

China has been growing at a rate of nearly 10 percent for many years. Let us assume that China's GDP will grow 7 percent each year from $6,000 today (we can't be sure, but that is a sensible, conservative figure). In a little more than 30 years, China's average GDP per person will equal that of the richest nations today, like the United States, $50,000. But of course, as China has more than one billion consumers, the market for most products and services will be much the same as that in Europe and North America combined. If we are less conservative and expect 10 percent growth annually for 30 years, the figure is more than $100,000. This is an awesome figure. In this optimistic case, China will surpass the United States in per capita income and will of course become the world's largest economy by far. The world's finance ministers will want to visit Beijing very often.

South Korea in the 2040s

Not only China but all of Asia is growing fast. South Korea's per capita GDP is currently about $25,000. If its economy grows at 4 percent (again, a cautious estimate), Koreans will be as wealthy as Americans in 30 years, with $81,000. The East is catching up. The question is, will high growth continue when the material needs of the majority have been satisfied? (Remember what happened to Japan.)

The United States in the 2040s

The United States has been growing at 2 to 3.5 percent for many years—actually a bit faster than Western Europe. If the United States grows by 2.0 percent for the next 30 years, the average U.S. GDP per person will go from $47,000 to $85,000.

Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom in the 2040s

The big economies of Western Europe (Germany, France, Italy, and the United Kingdom) are expected, for a lot of reasons, to grow more slowly than the United States, at say 1.5 percent. At that rate, GDP per capita will grow from $34,000 to $54,000 in 30 years. People in China and the big countries of Western Europe will be slightly less well off than Americans, but Europe will be on the same level as China, and South Koreans will become richer than people in Western Europe if our assumptions come true.

The Poorest in the 2040s

What about the poorest countries in 30 years, those with $700 per capita today? If we assume that they will have a growth rate of 5 percent (which is optimistic, but not unrealistic), the figure will be only $3,000, much like the per capita figure for India today. Catching up from a low point takes a long time. But for today's poor families in Africa, the difference is vital—from not enough to eat, to enough.

* * *

This way of extrapolating the past into the future of the world economy is "surprise-free." There may be surprises; we cannot be sure. Perhaps some economies will stop growing fast, as Japan's did 20 years ago. Perhaps the European Union will reinvent itself and become a successful innovator, "the European Lion" (the reader may smile). The future of growth and GDP levels is a scenario (a scenario says: given this assumption, which we deem likely, this will happen, and then this will be the situation in 30 years time). We are using history as the best yardstick available. The time horizon is long because it gives a clearer perspective—a better idea of the economic world as it may look in the 2040s, when the last veterans from World War II have died, when the last drops of oil and gas (we assume) have been pumped up from mother earth, when today's schoolchildren have grown up and are managing the companies, when the 2010s are looked upon as "the good old days" and historians are writing books that tell us, no, they were really not that good.

Also, extrapolations provide us with an idea of what to expect during the next 10 years, irrespective of recessions, elections, and interest rates. When you wish to know about the economy in the next quarter or the next year, consult the economists; they will do their best.

In the 2040s, our economic world will have been transformed a lot. First and foremost, the economic gap between East and West will have disappeared. The Americas, Europe, and East and Southeast Asia will be nearly equally rich. There will be no need to move production from Europe to China any more, since labor costs will be about the same. Perhaps Africa will become the future "factory of the world."

Humanity has been around for 100,000 years or a little longer. But for most of this time (actually about 99,800 years), there was no permanent material progress—that started just 200 years ago with the factories in England and Scotland. It is a fantastic story of material success, and we can expect it to continue for many years to come. Unfortunately, it is not the end of poverty in the world, but fewer people will be poor and the aid programs can focus on just a few areas.


If we look at the size of national economies instead of at the personal level, the United States today is by far the largest economy—nearly two times bigger than the second largest, China, when measured in PPP terms. In 30 years' time, China will surpass the United States, even assuming a growth rate of 5 percent for China and 2 percent for the United States. The result is that we will have two economic colossi, the United States and China, one the economic leader of the West and one of the East.

In times of crisis in the mature economies, even some experts are suggesting that stagnation or even recessions will continue—that the period of growth that began 200 years ago is about to end. Admittedly, this is a risk, but the more likely future is growth. Downturns have never lasted; even the Great Depression in the 1930s ended, and so will the recession that we are currently in. However, high growth rates for the West depend on something new happening—a new dream, a new nonmaterial dream.

Economic inequality among nations is narrowing. Recent figures say that per capita PPP is $1,500 in low-income countries with 1.3 billion people, $6,000 in middle-income countries with 4.3 billion people, and $36,000 in high-income countries with 1 billion people. Recent growth patterns indicate annual growth figures per capita of 4.2 percent for low-income countries, 7.2 percent for middle-income countries, and 1.8 percent for high-income countries. We can expect this narrowing to continue, but of course the gap between poor and rich will remain for the next 30 years. The gap between rich and poor nationally is tending to increase in many countries, including the United States, but the international trend is the opposite.


Average growth means average, not the same every year. Let's look at the likely fluctuations. Imagine a walk on Wall Street. Here we find many bank headquarters and the famous New York Stock Exchange with its impressive Roman columns. It looks like a temple—and it is. It is a building that signals trust, and it appears timeless. But is it timeless, and can we always trust the buildings with the Roman columns? The pillars of trust? Normally, we can trust them, but not always. When is not always? Average figures for growth are useful—they give us an idea of direction—but they are averages; sometimes the figures are a bit higher, and sometimes they are zero or even negative. When do downturns happen, and can we predict them?

During the 1970s, macroeconomists fell in love with physics. They wanted to transform their research into something as scientific as physics. For this they needed computers, mathematics, and models, complicated ones. These models did the forecasting for GDP and for the stock exchange. They got more and more sophisticated, and the idea developed that we now had the tools for precise forecasting. Macroeconomics had arrived; it was science—almost. When the models failed (and they still did), we would come up with an improved one.

OK, the models did help, but most economists forgot about the old ways. There is another tool that is equally important and illuminating: simple empirical research—the study of economic history and the business cycles of the past. History tells us a lot, especially that ups and downs have always existed. They follow each other as surely as winter follows autumn. During the ups, most economists tell us that "this time it is different": the government has much more precise figures and more resources, and the banks have got almost perfect forecasting instruments, so there will be no more recessions. Trust us. You shouldn't.

Economics is not an exact science; it is about human behavior as well. You need to get into the brains of bankers, regulators, and investors and determine how they think. We haven't been there, but one human factor is obvious: greed. It is embedded in our DNA. We cannot remove it; it is a fact; it is part of our lives. Such a thing as "economic man" (the rational decision maker) does not exist in isolation. We go to the casino, we play lotto, we gamble, although we know very well that the likely outcome is loss. Still we do it and come back; memory is short. Homo sapiens is emotional and rational at the same time. That's how we are.

According to the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research, a recession is defined as a fall in GDP for two or more consecutive quarters. Older contractions are just referred to as troughs. The figures say that the United States has had 47 contractions since 1790. That is one every 4.6 years. Of course, the foundations of the economy have changed a lot over the years, so let us look at some more recent figures. Between the beginning of the Great Depression (1929) and 2009, we have had 14 recessions; that is one every 5.7 years. Since 1945, we have had 11 recessions; that is one every 5.8 years. These recessions lasted on average 10.9 months.

The trend is toward longer periods of growth (an average of almost 6 years since 1945). One lesson is crystal clear, however: recessions are normal; they are part of the pattern. The averages tell us that the next recession will come in 2018, if we believe our history and not the experts telling us that "this time it is different." If we consider the extremes since 1945, the longest growth period was 10 years (during the 1990s) and the shortest was 1 year (1981–1982). Most figures are close to the average, though.

Excerpted from THE RENAISSANCE SOCIETY by ROLF JENSEN. Copyright © 2013 by McGraw-Hill Education. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author

Rolf Jensen is Chief Imagination Officer at Dream Company. He is also a bestselling author, lecturer, and advisor to major international companies around the world.

Mika Aaltonen is a research director at Aalto University in Finland, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in London, and CEO of Helsinki Sustainability Center.

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The Renaissance Society: How the Shift from Dream Society to the Age of Individual Control will Change the Way You Do Business 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name: Darkfire. Age: 21 moons. Appearance: Shape shifter, i only have unchanging blue eyes. Personality: Cunning, ruthless, energetic, DIE DIE DIE. Gender: She. History: Learn it. You'll figure it out eventually. Theme Song: Set Fire to the Rain by Adele. Other: Has wings. Anything else: Just ask
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ditto with Thorn's