Rolf Jensen began his career working and traveling for the Danish Ministries of Defense and Fisheries, and the Foreign Office. In the 1980s, he took over as director of The Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies, which grew into one of the world's largest future-oriented think tanks under him. In the last two decades, the Institute acted as strategic adviser to more than 100 leading international companies and government agencies. Jensen was also council adviser to The Futures Council of the Conference Board in Europe. With the international success of his books The Dream Society and Heartstorm, Jensen founded his own enterprise, Dream Company Inc., which allowed him to devote more time to research.
Q: Your international best seller, The Dream Society, sprang from an interesting question I've never heard anyone ask before: What comes after the Information Age? So perhaps that's the best place to start. How do you answer that question?
A: That question arose some years ago. I had been studying the future for many years, and one morning while briefing a couple of major clients on the changes to expect in the business environment in the next five to 10 years, one asked, "What comes after the Information Age?" My first reaction was to say, "Maybe nothing comes after." I assured them the Information Society would be around for quite a while. I told them if I ever came up with anything on that, I would call them.
After the meeting I sat for some time thinking about what the next shift would be. We began looking at that in earnest and especially looking at the marketplace for clues on what the future held. One thing we considered was why people bought what they did. At that time, the fashion in Denmark was buying eggs from free-range hens. These would sell for a premium price, although in essence, the product was the same. Whether free-range or not, each type of egg has the same look, the same nutrition.
But the emotional value is different. People did not want hens to live their lives in small cages. They wanted eggs produced using the technology and methods of their grandparents, even if this meant they were a lot more expensive. Free-range eggs had taken over 50 percent of the egg market. The egg market had acquired a new dimension -- it no longer was dominated by the standardized, mass-produced commodity produced at the lowest possible price.
We then took a look at another market: the watch market. I would say more than 50 percent of the turnover in the watch market comes from emotional or value factors. If you are simply buying for function, then for a few dollars you can get a watch that is precise. Today, with quartz technology, even a cheap watch is precise. So why buy a Rolex, a Swatch or what have you? You buy for style, but cheap watches also offer many styles. So people also buy for the design and for the signals a product sends about them. The idea here is that we seem to be moving from information toward values and emotions in the marketplace.
So what about jobs? What about companies? The same thing is happening here. Today we are talking about values-based management, not control management. We are talking about team building. Under team building we have such things as walking on glowing coals, building kites or what have you -- things that have nothing to do with the job as such. Look at Daniel Goleman's best-selling book, Emotional Intelligence, where he is saying intellectual intelligence is OK, but emotional intelligence is becoming more and more important in government and business. These were the clues or ideas we felt pointed toward the future age.