500 Year Delta: What Happens After, What Comes Next

500 Year Delta: What Happens After, What Comes Next


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In the tradition of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock and John Naisbitt's Megatrends, The 500-Year Delta offers an enthralling glimpse of what businesses and individuals should expect as the five-hundred-year-old "Age of Reason" segues into the "Age of Possibility."

According to visionary futurists Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker, we stand at not one but several crossroads-marked points of discontinuity between past and present. These include:

  • The shift from reason-based to chaos-based logic
  • The splintering of social, political, and economic organization
  • The collapse of producer-controlled consumer markets

For a world caught in this swirling intersection of change, Jim Taylor and Watts Wacker provide tested strategies to help companies and individuals reset their course toward an unpredictable future, offering new models to accommodate the increasing chaos of everyday life.

Describing our present point of transformation as a "triple witching hour," the authors chart a future course that is at once bracing, forbidding, joyous, and ultimately redemptive.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780887309113
Publisher: HarperCollins Children's Books
Publication date: 06/03/1998
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.69(d)

About the Author

Jim Taylor is a lecturer and consultant to cutting-edge companies.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Triple-Witching Hour

Find yourself in this story:

It is 3:00 a.m. on a weekday morning and, as so often happens in this formless, voidless middle of the night, sleep drifts just beyond your grasp. You've awakened from a dream of which you can capture only the thinnest edges. And it is between the specter of the dream and the annoyance of wakefulness--the fear of being tired at the office--that you hover. Everyone has an internalized balance sheet of life, and to occupy your mind, to draw it away from the dream into the real world, you begin to run through both sides of the ledger.

Work first: One of your employees came to you twelve hours ago with an interesting proposition. She could deliver $1 million worth of business, she said. She had it in her pocket, signed and sealed. But there was one hitch: She wanted a 10 percent commission before she delivered--$100,000, off the top. You pointed out that this was not the way things were done in your company; she was paid well to do just what she had done. "Tough," she said. "No commission, no deal." You sit on top of a decision pyramid. You run a department, a division, a company. Yet who has the greater power--you or this person who works for you? You or your most unstable variable?

You check the digital clock on your night table.


To escape work, you turn your mind to the house or the condo you are lying awake in, or the one you hope soon to buy. It is large, comfortable, and tastefully furnished. A lawn stretches majestically in front of the house. There's a view of midtown, the ocean, or mountains from the condo balcony and the mortgage is crushing: twice your annualsalary, monthly payments that attack your paycheck like a school of piranha and stretch until the threshold of retirement. Worse, the house or condo may be a diminishing asset. The one two doors down is on the market for $50,000 less than you paid for yours four years ago. What is so different about the two of them?


Work again: You've had feelers. Or you haven't had them. Inquiries have been made about your availability, your willingness to jump, your salary demands. Or they haven't been made. Either way, you worry--worry that if you leave now, the career ladder you have been carefully building these past two, five, ten years will collapse beneath you; worry that if you don't jump now, there will be no ladder left to climb; worry that you will be leaping into the unknown, that you have no market value, that in your chosen career, you have suddenly become invisible.


Your spouse or significant other: He or she is lying beside you, a regular breathing that could be sleep or could be its pantomime. You would like to nudge your significant other and ask about these things--about your career, about the possibly diminishing value of your greatest asset, about the $100,000 you have been asked to pay. Truth told, you would like to nudge your significant other and suggest something more intimate. He or she still arouses you. Even in the unalluring first light of day, you rarely fail to be struck by her beauty, his profile. Better still, you sleep like a log after sex. But middle-of-the-night protocols won't allow this. Your significant other has just as much need of sleep as you do, assuming he or she is asleep and not playing possum beside you. And, truth told again, there have been problems. You work too long; he or she works too long. Your moments of intersection have been too few in recent months and too crusted with tension, and you are not the only one with career-ladder concerns. If your significant other does take the new job that has been offered, what will that mean for the dynamics of your relationship? How much change can one relationship, one life, absorb?


Work: The directive you received last week sits like a rock in your stomach. You are to come up with five-year goals for your division, a five-year plan for achieving them. The goals are easy: greater profits, greater efficiency, larger market share, better communication. But every time you try to map a route to get there, the variables seem overwhelming. Is it make-work that you can kiss off? If it isn't make-work, how can you defend a chain of causality that is as fragile as a butterfly's wing?


Your daughter, your son, a stepchild, a younger brother or sister: Love is not adequate to describe your feelings, nor fear adequate to describe your concerns. She is beautiful, and she is careless--with her clothes, her room, her words, maybe her body. He is smart, gifted, and talented--who isn't these days, you remind yourself--and careless with his intelligence, too. If he doesn't get into the right school, what claim will he be able to make on the future? If she doesn't begin to make better choices, what claim can she hope to have on life? There is a lack of direction, a casual recklessness, a fear of engagement--with work, school, friends, family. There seems to be no anchor, only drift. This is no world for anomie. It is a jungle out there.


Work once more: You know something about that jungle at least. A proposal for a $15 million contract was sitting on your desk when you finally left the office past seven o'clock last evening. Lying in bed now, you subject it to a systematic scrutiny. Has the planning procedure been adequate? Has every contingency been taken into consideration? Every possible source of information consulted? Every relevant data bank crunched? Are the cost projections adequate? Has the contract been priced out right? Has the team you put in place to work on it been up to the challenge? A team, you tell yourself, is only as strong as its weakest link. Who's the weakest link on this team? And who is responsible for the weakest link being there? You? Everyone needs $15 million, but your division specifically needs this $15 million contract. It has a multiplier effect built into it. From this one job many more will flow. A rising tide lifts all ships . . . and a falling tide drops them. If you don't win the contract, who will you keep? And who let go? And the contract is only one of your worries. Your chief planner is leaving unless you double his salary to keep him, and if you double his salary, you won't have enough left over in the salary pool to keep your management information director or your brilliant thirty-three-year-old systems analyst. Assuming there will be any systems to analyze. Assuming the ground has not already shifted so far under your feet that you are directing a department, a division, a company that has no marketplace left to pursue. Not to mention the $100,000 bribe you were asked to pony up this afternoon.


Maybe there's something in the medicine cabinet that will help you get back to sleep.

If you cannot find yourself in the story we have just told, congratulations. You are leading a charmed life. We believe, though, that most readers will find themselves in it multiple times because the dis-ease, the discontentment and anxiety it describes, is precisely where history has brought us: to the end of a five-hundred-year experiment with reason as the controlling force of logic, to the breakup of consumer markets and economic relationships as we have known them, to the collapse of patterns of social organization far older than consumer markets or the regency of reason, to a time when attitudes and behaviors are disconnected--a pervasive social condition we call "cultural schizophrenia."

We long for order in this world. We long for clear lines of causality, for stable relationships, for predictability in our work and personal lives. But the order we keep finding is best expressed in the two-ball metaphor advanced by the great philosopher of science Hans Reichenbach earlier in this century to explain the workings of fusion and quantum mechanics.

Imagine, Reichenbach said, two balls traveling through space. Imagine them moving through the three vectors of space--longitude, latitude, and depth--in such a way, along such predictable paths, at so precisely the same rate of acceleration, that we can predict with absolute certainty where and when they will collide. Then imagine that at each instantaneous moment the balls travel through space, they change color. If the balls are the same color when they collide, they will fuse, but if they are not the same color when they collide, they cannot be in the same place.

Whether or not we fully understand Reichenbach's fourth dimension, most of us intuitively know it to be a true picture of the modern condition. Cause has come unhinged from effect. The balls not only change color constantly, they arrive along vectors and in sequences that only the insane could translate. Loyalty has disappeared, in business, in marriage, in life itself. The rules we learned to live by no longer explain our successes or failures. Nor do the old rules of corporate life apply. Coherence has turned into incoherence. There is no stability anywhere. To comfort ourselves, we keep grasping for new explanations--reengineering, Edward Demming's finely tuned theories of Japanese management practices, the Third Wave--only to find each of them poor guides to problem solving.


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