Archive: recession

June 3rd, 2011 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | 11 Comments

The Future of Jobs

Today in the U.S. we received bad news regarding employment, as the number of new jobs created in the past month fell, after several months of relatively robust gains. While one month does not make a new trend, the news has shaken the markets as they fear a slide backward into higher unemployment rather than a continuation of the long slog out of the deep recession. The website, Calculated Risk, has been keeping track of how the U.S. job picture compares in this recovery to past recessions, and the chart below illustrates how challenging it has been. What is going on? One issue is that interventions to stimulate the economy have been too small, and now, in a spooky repeat of 1937, the U.S. Congress has decided to focus away from jobs and toward austerity. At the same time, however, something deeper may be going on as well, a change in the nature of work itself. Follow me below the chart.

From Calculated Risk: Job Losses and Recovery Across U.S. Recessions

So, the question is, is something deeper at play that a mere recovery from recession? Recently I was asked by a publication in Sydney, Australia called HR Leader to write a short piece on the future of work. You can link to the article here, in the May 2011 issue. And, below is what I had to say about the changing nature of work itself.

“Daddy, what’s a job?”– The future of employment

In the future, people will work “stint rather than jobs”, writes Glen Hiemstra

There was a time in history when no one had a job as we think of it. It was only in the last century that the modern concept of a job as work exchanged for wages and benefits was invented.

In the past three decades the social and economic fabric that created this employment system has frayed and now is rending before our eyes. Around the world floods of young people face economies in which there may never be a sufficient number of jobs by the standard definition. In older industrialised nations the ability of employers to pay both good wages and benefits is increasingly challenged. Employment has gone completely global. The acceleration of technology has meant that fewer people are required for many tasks.

So what will become of employment in the next twenty to fifty years? Any quick search will offer lists of exotic-sounding jobs of the future – gene pharmers, space tour guides, body part makers, Hollywood holographers, and the like. Such lists are entertaining. They may even be accurate. But they miss the deeper story of the future of employment.

In the real future you will be working at a stint rather than a job. To work at a stint is to become part of a project team for 18 months, followed by joining three friends doing a start-up business that folds after two years, after which you sign on with a multinational which disappears in a merger…and the beat goes on. This requires a reinvention of the social contract around security and benefits.

Since you have become a stint worker, you will have shifted from being an employee to being a free agent. This will not be new, as increasing numbers of us are already free agents in 2011, but for most of us it requires a change in perspective. The biggest change involves learning how to think of your self as a company of one.

The most profound shift may be the disappearance of employers as we have known them, as they are replaced by amoeba-like networks that come together to complete certain projects and tasks. Consider a feature film production. The project is conceived, some key people flesh out a proposal, funding is arranged, a global network of talent is hired, they work together for weeks or months, and then disband, never to work in that exact combination again.

Obviously there will remain many exceptions to this enterprise model. The corner grocer, the local coffee house, the dry-cleaning store down the street will likely continue to be small and stable, with fixed employees, though even these employees will likely be free agents working on a stint.

The places that we work will change, especially for knowledge workers – those of us who commute to offices today mostly to sit and type words on machines, look at computer screens, and talk to other people in person and by phone. Tomorrow’s machines will make today’s computing and communication look primitive, as they enable full 3-D, immersive and visual interaction with others in real time wherever you are. Data and information will be in the Cloud – available everywhere, all the time. Thus, we will come to the office only when it is really desirable to get together. The offices themselves will consist of inviting meeting and collaboration spaces, and “hotel” stations for free agents to plug in. The typical company may use half the office footprint it uses today for the same number of people.

By 2050 a surprising amount of work will be done directly by intelligent machines. Think of how certain jobs have become similar around the world, using the same technologies, processes, designs and so on. Consider engineering, construction, manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail services, even hotel and restaurant work. Watch a re-run of the IBM computer “Watson winning the TV game show “Jeopardy the week of 14 February 2011. Imagine this machine with 20 years more learning, add in improved vision and better dexterity for robots, and with the right economic scenario it is easy to imagine literally millions of jobs currently performed by humans being done completely by machines.

In such a world where fewer people are needed to produce all required goods and services, what will people do? The answer may be surprising – replace technology with a world made by hand. More people, rather than fewer, will be working the land by hand, making things by hand, teaching and entertaining others in person. Many people will work in this way by choice as a counter-weight to an overly technological world. It is even possible that, in one particular economic and energy future where the global economy retracts drastically in the face of energy shortages and climate change catastrophes, work will become more human-centered and less technological by necessity rather than choice.

Whichever future emerges, employment of tomorrow will differ from the jobs of today.

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May 8th, 2009 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | 9 Comments

What Comes After the Great Recession?

My year as a consulting futurist and speaker began on January 8, 2009 with a speech on future trends for Cobalt, a company that does websites and other marketing and computer services for the auto-dealer community, historically General Motors dealerships. They obviously face some big challenges in 2009.

In that speech I said, for the first time, “This is not your father’s recession, but it could be your children’s renaissance.” Since that time most observers have suggested that when we come out of this recession the world economy, national economies, and our personal economic outlooks, will be different. As one friend, formerly a city manager, now CEO of a municipal development corporation put it, people hoping to get back to normal are going to be surprised the learn that the next normal does not look like the old normal.

So, here is my question. If what emerges on the other side of this economic chasm is something new, what does it look like? I hope SNS blog readers will weigh in on this via comments.

In the video interview below, I suggest some preliminary thoughts. The interview was conducted by Brenda Cooper, futurist, science fiction writer, and technology executive. Brenda happens to be a featured speaker at FiRe 2009 in the program slot on the final day, where we look “further ahead.” (I will be interviewing Brenda on-stage.)

We live in a time where exaggeration of all things is the norm, and thus it is easy to become caught up in the idea that “everything is going to change,” (a familiar phrase, no?) because of the economic meltdown. We need to be cautious with our forecasts. But a few things seem likely – a less debt-driven consumer culture which translates to slower growth in consumer spending, a financial culture focused more, for a while at least, on investing in innovation and productive capacity rather than merely manipulating digitized money in the global casino, a more cautious corporate culture when it comes to debt financing, ditto for the construction industry. Most of all, a shift in societal values toward sustainability and back to thrift as admirable habits. These value shifts may manifest most of all in the newest generation, the Millennials, if we believe what they say they want. Admittedly, we will have to see if these value-shifts hold and become long lasting as the long climb out of the recession continues.

The video interview also explores what keeps me up at night: the chance of a run-away negative feedback loop if Arctic methane meltgets out of control and we get a quick spike in global warming, and also the deep political divides in this nation that lead people to prefer to be right rather than happy. The latter shows up especially when people express a hope that certain economic remedies fail, and fail spectacularly, so that a particular point of view can be proven right, never mind the consequences for communities.

And finally, in the interview with Brenda I discuss the concept of optimism, about which I am asked all the time. To be optimistic is to believe, as I think Mark Anderson once said, that human beings have the capacity, when it matters, to choose the right problems and apply workable solutions to them. This is not guaranteed, but always an option.

Let’s hear from some of you: If the world on the other side of this recession is actually different from what came before, what are a few of its new features?

Here is the video interview of Glen Hiemstra on the future and what comes after this recession.

[This blog entry is cross-posted at the Strategic News Service blog site.]

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April 2nd, 2009 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | 2 Comments

Economic Turn-Around Leads to Slow Recovery

Yesterday, on April 1, 2009, not as an April Fools Day gag but as a serious forecast I posted my Quarterly Forecast for 2009 Q2, titled “Economic Turn-Around Leads to Slow Recovery.” As far back as my 2009 annual Outlook article and video for 2009, I have run counter to the prevailing wisdom on the length of the current global recession, by suggesting that it will bottom out sooner than most expect, and that by year’s end we will be on the recovery.

Events of this very day, April 2, 2009 are already supporting this forecast, events such as the G-20 agreement, an increase in factory orders, and a recovering stock market.

At the same time, I encourage you to read the full article, or the press release that went out over PRWeb, because I explain how the situation is more complicated than a simple headline suggests.

A recovery will begin sooner than most experts thought because of three interrelated factors – a build up of available cash via increased savings and months of withdrawals from the equity markets, national and international economic stimulus efforts beginning just now to have an impact (which will grow over the next six months), and a growing understanding by investors, with available cash, that investing in new technologies and business models is the way forward. Check out a recent Business Week for an exploration of game changing ideas for business.

The downside, which I explain in the article, is that to say we will begin a recovery does not imply that we will snap back to some kind of old normal. On the other side of a turn-around is something new, a revised economy will take a long time to develop. To understand this, you must begin to grasp how the current deep economic recession is not caused by the financial crisis – rather the financial crisis is a symptom of deeper causes, which include disruptive trends in energy, technology, and global culture that have been building for decades, and converged in the global casino we have called the financial system. We can fix the financial mess, difficult though that may be, but the disruptive trends remain – ever more expensive energy and technology developments capable of disrupting traditional industries and global culture.

The bottom line in my Q2 2009 Forecast is this:

We have entered a new energy era, in which global economic growth is necessary to fix the debt problem, but the same growth will drive up energy prices, which will lead to a new bust, in a probable cycle of rinse and repeat for the near future.

In addition, Internet and wireless technologies have developed and spread globally to the point that their long-forecast disruptive effect on publishing, music, sales activities of all kinds, as well as organization structures, are now coming to a bifurcation point.

On the other side of this recession will emerge different ways of conducting business and pursuing economic development.

Read the full Forecast, here. Read the press release here, or at PRWeb.

While you are at it, check out this slide deck from a recent speech on the Future of Technology, receiving good viewership at SlideShare.

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet video host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

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March 24th, 2009 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy | 4 Comments

How Long Will the Recession Last?

A topic on everyone’s mind is how long the current recession will last? That this recession is steeper and deeper than any since the early 1980’s, and it looks now like any since the Depression, is becoming fact. But when do we turn around?

I have been addressing this question and the economic meltdown for some time, here, and in my Outlook 2009. Recently I discussed the question with media futurist Gerd Leonhard in a video we produced for our ongoing series,

Gerd, based in Europe, believes as of now that we have a long way to go before a recovery begins. I argue in the video, as I have here at, that a turn-around is coming sooner. The amplifying effect of the 24-hour news cycle and mostly the Internet has had several effects – exaggerating our sense of what is happening, and speeding up the down cycle. This amplifying effect will work on the up cycle as well, and while this is not the only factor, it is one of the factors that will lead us to turn-around by year’s end. A turn-around does not mean we have recovered, but that the bottom has been reached and a recovery has begun.

Now, what comes out the other end is not the same economy as we had prior to this recession. Gerd makes the case in the video that the recession is partly the culmination of several disruptive changes, the Internet chief among them, now deeply impacting business models. On the other side of this recession is a changed set of business rules, and a new cultural outlook. Watch our conversation, recorded via Skype video, below.

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February 26th, 2009 | By Glen Hiemstra | Posted in Business & Economy, Innovation, Science & Tech | 6 Comments

Innovate our way out of recession

This is a google alert for an amazing piece in Business Week, based on interviews with me, Glen Hiemstra, and a few other innovators and thinkers, by a terrific writer, Damian Joseph.

Damian offers an overview of the need for and power of innovation, followed by a list of 20 innovations for the next 10 years.

I will say more this weekend about this material when I am off the road, but for now, here is the google alert that I received.

Google News Alert for: glen hiemstra

Innovations of the Future
BusinessWeek – USA
Glen Hiemstra, author and founder of, wants to see universal coverage, while allowing folks to purchase insurance privately. …

Innovation from Recession (this is the set of 20 innovations, with a nice piece on each one).
BusinessWeek – USA
So BusinessWeek asked several futurists, including’s Glen Hiemstra, consultant David Zach, and author Howard Rheingold, to describe what they’d …

Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet video host and founder of To arrange for a speech contact

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