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Book Review: The Renaissance Society

I had the opportunity to read Rolf Jensen and Mika Aaltonen's The Renaissance Society: How the Shift from Dream Society to the Age of Individual Control will Change the Way You Do Business during a long flight to the West Coast. I was expecting a futuristic perspective on how our society will evolve. But this book delivered much more.

The authors build their business case for predicting the future by reviewing the past and our existing economic conditions and comparing them to emerging markets. They do this convincingly, creating three clear, distinct and interconnected scenarios:

  1. The Renaissance Society: A new society renounces existing organizing principles and begins to reorganize itself from the bottom-up in daily practices and communities.
  2. The Green Society: A "must" scenario, as societies that destroy their environments destroy themselves.
  3. The Risk Society: Changes in technology will push our knowledge further, but we will take advantage of them for industrial use.

Throughout the book the authors look at the U.S. market and all of the western economies, and compare them to developing countries and Eastern markets. They also look at the trends that will drive change. Increasing wealth, GDP and the rise of the middle class in non-Western markets will cause major shifts. As the Western economies, mature they must -- and will -- re-invent themselves. This will drive the "happiness factor" that rising GDP brings, but with the wealth of the West a new focus on positive emotional well-being in increase.

The greatest three sentences in the book, especially for our sales/marketing readers is:

"My advice is to ask what kind of emotional appeal your product has. If the answer is none, you are in a commodity market; you are most likely engaged in fierce price competition. Add emotions, add a story, and make your product unique."

Chapter 7 is where the authors summarize their findings. Their conclusions are reasoned and concise. The World Bank estimates that by 2025, six emerging economies alone will account for half of the global economy. The East is catching up because economies are driven by dreams, not governments (a constant theme in the book). The East is now going through an extremely materialistic era, and the West is mature.

Anyone working in business and driving a global business must read and understand this chapter as they plot their long-term strategies. To those of us in today's business, the authors define the five changes for the West:

  1. Emotionalize: Companies must have values and employee's must connect to them.
  2. Personalize: Customers must be treated uniquely.
  3. Decentralize: All units should be smaller, more innovative.
  4. Innovate: Focus on being bold.
  5. Feminize: Food relations are seen as more important for results.

All good topics to review during your mid-year business assessment: Where are we heading? What is working? What hasn't worked? What needs to be changed? Reading this book has given me many new ideas to consider while working with my clients. Read it and see what it does for your organization.

Posted by Ken Thoreson on May 27, 2013