They include science fiction writer William Gibson and Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweikart. They are poets and economists, linguists and biologists, corporate strategists, architects, editors, computer scientists, demographers, and writers from around the world.
Today GBN has about 75 corporate members, most of them large multinational organizations representing a wide spectrum of industries. For annual dues of $35,000, corporate members get access to GBN principals and consultants, to all the individual members and affiliates worldwide, and to each other. They receive GBN literature, access to a private Web site and consulting, and international meetings on wide-ranging subjects, such as the customer of the future, capitalism and values, and the future of Russia.
One of GBN’s most valued “perks” is its book club. “Every month we select and send to our members two books we think the thoughtful executive should be reading,” Schwartz says. Keeping abreast of the proliferation of information, and sifting though mountains of data to glean kernels of wisdom is one of the most difficult tasks of the information age. “We’re filters for busy people who need to have knowledge. We sift out what is interesting and important and what the signals for the future are.” The book club picks, along with information about how to use scenarios, are posted on the company’s public Web site at www.gbn.org.
Do the Right Thing
The dedication page in The Art of the Long View reads, “For my mother and father, whose lives inspired mine.” That ordinary-sounding phrase actually explains a great deal about Peter Schwartz the idealist.
He was born in 1946 to Holocaust survivors in a refugee camp outside Stuttgart, Germany. The family came to the United States five years later. “My parents suffered as bad a human experience as can possibly be imagined, and yet they lived happy, fulfilled lives. The sense of real progress that they experienced, and what I have been able to build on that, make it really obvious to me that the world can get better.” Having a 9-year-old son makes his connection to the future that much more pressing.
Two books released in 1999 show that he intends to do all he can to make a better world. When Good Companies Do Bad Things: Responsibility and Risk in an Age of Globalization came out in April, just after the death of its co-author Blair Gibb, Schwartz’s friend and colleague since his days at Rensselaer. A longtime Capital Region resident, Gibb served in New York state government, as a planning officer for Amnesty International, and as a principal in GBN. Arguing that doing the “right” thing is good for business, the authors call on individuals as well as corporations to “take their responsibility for the future personally.”
But The Long Boom is where the full scope of Schwartz’s vision can be seen. Jim Pelkey calls it “an idealist’s manifesto—a vision for a global society and a call to action. It tells us that if we invest and act according to this vision, it can come true.” An interactive Web site, www.thelongboom.org, encourages readers to get involved.
Despite years of teaching clients to consider more than one scenario, Schwartz believes that he’s got it right this time. But it will not happen automatically. Chapter 14 of the book is called “The Choice.” “The Long Boom is not a prediction—this can’t be stressed enough,” the authors write. “The future is not predictable but it can be influenced by human actions. People working together can shape the future through their concerted efforts. . . . Achieving this Long Boom all comes down to making the right choices . . . at many levels. But ultimately, the choice rests with individuals.” Peter Schwartz is still an optimist. And he’s still an activist calling on us to create a better world.
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