What Comes After the Great Recession?

Guest blogged by Glen Hiemstra, Founder & Owner, Futurist.com

My year as a consulting futurist and speaker began on January 8, 2009 with a speech on future trends for Cobalt, a company that does websites and other computer services for the auto-dealer community, historically General Motors dealerships.  They obviously face some big challenges in 2009.

In that speech I said, for the first time, “This is not your father’s recession, but it could be your children’s renaissance.”  Since that time most observers have suggested that when we come out of this recession the world economy, national economies, and our personal economic outlooks, will be different.  As one friend, formerly a city manager, now CEO of a municipal development corporation put it, people hoping to get back to normal are going to be surprised the learn that the next normal does not look like the old normal.

So, here is my question.  If what emerges on the other side of this economic chasm is something new, what does it look like?  I hope SNS blog readers will weigh in on this via comments.

In the video interview below, I suggest some preliminary thoughts.  The interview was conducted by Brenda Cooper, futurist, science fiction writer, and technology executive.  Brenda happens to be a featured speaker at FiRe 2009 in the program slot on the final day, where we look “further ahead.”

We live in a time where exaggeration of all things is the norm, and thus it is easy to become caught up in the idea that “everything is going to change,” (a familiar phrase, no?) because of the economic meltdown.  We need to be cautious with our forecasts.  But a few things seem likely – a less debt-driven consumer culture which translates to slower growth in consumer spending, a financial culture focused more, for a while at least, on investing in innovation and productive capacity rather than merely manipulating digitized money in the global casino, a more cautious corporate culture when it comes to debt financing, ditto for the construction industry.  Most of all, a shift in societal values toward sustainability and back to thrift as admirable habits.  These value shifts may manifest most of all in the newest generation, the Millennials, if we believe what they say they want.    Admittedly, we will have to see if these value-shifts hold and become long lasting as the long climb out of the recession continues.

The video interview also explores what keeps me up at night:  the chance of a run-away negative feedback loop if Arctic methane melt gets out of control and we get a quick spike in global warming, and also the deep political divides in this nation that lead people to prefer to be right rather than happy.  The latter shows up especially when people express a hope that certain economic remedies fail, and fail spectacularly, so that a particular point of view can be proven right, never mind the consequences for communities.

And finally, in the interview with Brenda I discuss the concept of optimism, about which I am asked all the time.   To be optimistic is to believe, as I think Mark Anderson once said, that human beings have the capacity, when it matters, to choose the right problems and apply workable solutions to them.  This is not guaranteed, but always an option.

Let’s hear from some of you:  If the world on the other side of this recession is actually different from what came before, what are a few of its new features?

Here is the video interview of Glen Hiemstra on the future and what comes after this recession.