John Naisbitt, 68, leading trendmaster. Author of the bestselling series of global forecasts that began with Megatrends.
The acceleration of technological progress has created an urgent need for a counterballast — for "high touch" experiences. Heart transplants and brain scans have led to a new interest in family doctors and neighborhood clinics; jet airplanes have resulted in more face-to-face meetings. High touch is about getting back to a human scale.
High touch recasts the terms of a company's interaction with its customers. German carmakers have incorporated into their product the ultimate symbol of high touch: the owner's thumbprint as a car key. Forward-thinking retailers are transforming shopping into an experience of place. Barnes & Noble recognized that people yearn for community and designed its stores to suggest living rooms and home environments.
High touch also plays into corporate structure. Microsoft's Seattle campus, where no building is taller than the trees that surround it, better reflects the high-touch era than the mammoth towers under construction in Asia.
Futurology Decoder Key
All change is local and bottom-up. And what monitors local events? Local newspapers. If you keep track of local events, you can see the shifting patterns. Also, remember that high-tech/high-touch isn't an either/or decision. You can't stop technological progress, but by the same token, you can hardly go wrong with a high-touch response. Give out your home phone number. Send a handwritten letter. FedEx has all the reliability and efficiency of modern electronics, but its success is built on a form of high touch: hand delivery.
For more information, call Megatrends Ltd. (970-728-5323).
A version of this article appeared in the December 1997/January 1998 issue of Fast Company magazine.