Fast Forward 2005: 12-17

The future is something to get excited about again. Here’s our look at the surprising people, ideas, and trends that will change how we work and live in 2005.

12. Local Is the New Organic

In the same way that “organic” replaced “all natural” as the label that signified a respect for sustainable agriculture and distaste for fillers, hormones, and other nasties, “local” is replacing “organic” as the key signifier to people concerned about how their food is produced. The reason: The mass commercialization of the organic label, thanks to the government standard, has diluted its meaning. High-quality local ingredients have been a selling point for chichi restaurants in places such as San Francisco and New York, but the challenge is to make “local” affordable to the masses. That’s why Tod Murphy is creating a sensation with his Farmers Diner in Barre, Vermont, an inexpensive 60-seat eatery that gets about 70% of its food — including meat — from organic producers within a 60-mile radius. Murphy’s ambitious goal is to open 1,000 diners across America. Locals, of course, will be welcome.


13. Going Off the Grid Goes Upscale

Grim survivalists, idealistic hippies, and new-age mushballs used to be the only folks interested in living in energy-self-sufficient communities. Now come off-the-grid housing developments for a more yupscale crowd, such as GreenWood Ranch Estates, 487 solar-powered homes near Kingman, Arizona (about three hours from Phoenix and two hours from Las Vegas). GreenWood could become the model for other similar communities in the western deserts, where land is cheap and the sun is free. Expect to see more real-estate developers latch on to the idea.

14. Nike Puts out Its Recycling

Sustainability isn’t just a food or energy thing; Nike’s forays into recycled clothing show how even the apparel world can experiment with it. The sportswear manufacturer, not always renowned for its enlightened practices, is introducing a line of 100% recycled men’s fitness wear this fall; a women’s line is expected next spring. “Line” may not be the right word, though. The goal is to weave clothes made from organic, regenerative (recycled), and renewable materials into existing collections.

15. Working My Way Back to You, Babe

Start with the target customer and work backward. Sounds obvious, no? But then why do so few do it? When Procter & Gamble chose StarCom MediaVest as its “communication planner,” it signaled a huge change in how ad campaigns will henceforth be handled. Instead of starting with creative and then choosing where to run ads, P&G is starting with the media plan and working backward. This isn’t a new approach, but P&G’s endorsement reflects a watershed moment in how ad campaigns will be structured and delivered.

16. Insurgents Top Incumbents

When even category killers can be stomped by other category killers (witness Wal-Mart’s humbling of Toys ‘R’ Us), what chance do insurgents have these days? Better than you think. Far-flung global companies are getting more complex and more difficult to manage than ever, so companies that maintain an insurgent’s mind-set have an inherent advantage over those that act like cautious incumbents. That means never being afraid to completely rethink your current position and being much more attuned to the smallest details of your operation. The test will be whether companies can stay nimble without micromanaging themselves to death.

17. The Vogue of the 500-Year Plan

As counterintuitive as it seems, long-term planning leads to short-term focus. “The longer you look into the future, the shorter you have to get things accomplished,” says futurist and business adviser Watts Wacker. He recalls one company’s attempt to envision a 500-year plan for success. The result? Rather than stretch out the company’s planning timetable, the exercise made it realize that the period for implementing things such as marketing initiatives needed to be greatly accelerated.

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