Rolf Jensen, 57, director of the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies and the author of "The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination Will Transform Your Business" (McGraw-Hill, 1999, $24.95).
"We are in the twilight of a society based on data. As information and intelligence become the domain of computers, society will place new value on the one human ability that can't be automated: emotion. Imagination, myth, ritual — the language of emotion — will affect everything from our purchasing decisions to how well we work with others."
"Companies will thrive on the basis of their stories and myths — on their ability to create products and services that evoke emotion. Consumers will engage in 'emotional jogging.' They'll give their feelings a workout by using products and services that satisfy their desire to feel and display emotion. In Denmark, for example, eggs from free-range chickens have captured more than half the market. That's because the story behind them — the ethical treatment of animals, rustic romanticism — is so emotionally resonant. Meanwhile, ideas like quality, efficiency, and reliability will no longer sell products. In the end, I'll buy a phone because of its color, if that's what moves me."
Futurology Decoder Key
"Companies will need to understand that their products are less important than their stories. And storytellers — specialists in the art of conveying human emotions — will need to have a voice in the design process. Designers and engineers may abandon even the most ingenious technical enhancements, if those enhancements can't be integrated into a product's story.
"Storytelling will even affect the way companies hire and retain employees. Companies will recruit people based on how they express their spirit. Marx may have been right: In an ideal society, employees will own the means of production — in their heads and in their hearts."
Contact Rolf Jensen by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or visit the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies on the Web (www.cifs.dk).
A version of this article appeared in the October 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.