Margaret King, 52, and Jamie O'Boyle, 54, director and senior analyst (respectively) of Cultural Studies & Analysis, a Philadelphia-based think tank whose clients include Walt Disney Imagineering and General Mills.
"We are going through an interesting social anomaly. Our culture is no longer dominated by positive visions of the future. In the past, business and technology helped generate such visions, whether through movies, theme parks, or journeys into space. Goodrich tires, GE refrigerators, even commodities like steel and aluminum positioned themselves against the backdrop of a glittering, castles-in-the-air future. All of that fueled a cultural belief that used to drive our purchasing habits — the belief that the future will be better than the past. We've lost our instinct to think positively."
"Two factors inhibit our ability to think positively about what lies ahead: the overwhelming velocity of day-to-day change, and the unusually large cohort of aging baby boomers, whose shifting priorities — from "get off my cloud" to "get off my lawn" — have big implications. A growing interest in hanging on to what you've got, rather than in creating something new, is a normal part of the aging process. But regardless of age, all of us want one thing: a positive vision of the future."
Futurology Decoder Key
"The companies that succeed will be those that can maintain a consistent, positive vision of the future. Disney, once the preeminent purveyor of such a vision, has lost its step. Disney used to tap into our lifeblood by telling us who we are, how we got here, and, just as important, where we're going. Companies must find a new way to contextualize their products. They need to tell stories that will capture people's positive imaginations."
Contact Margaret King and Jamie O'Boyle by email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
A version of this article appeared in the April 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.