The solar transition

Posted in energy, trends, Uncategorized by thenextwavefutures on 12 August, 2016


Although futurists aren’t supposed to make predictions, the notion that our energy system is switching much more quickly than expected from fossil fuels to renewables, and that solar energy will be at the front of that change, suddenly doesn’t seem so controversial. Of course, the speed of the change still matters, certainly in terms of global warming outcomes.

And yet until recently the notion that solar energy would be the leading energy source was a possible future that was, broadly, regarded as impossible.

As Jeremy Williams notes in a recent review of Chris Goodall’s new book, The Switch, at his blog Make Wealth History:

The International Energy Agency didn’t think that solar power would ever be affordable at any great scale, and didn’t include it in its projections. In 2013, George Monbiot wrote that “solar power is unlikely to make a large contribution to electricity supply in the UK.” Goodall himself admits that he didn’t think it had much to offer until very recently.

Or, as Bloomberg put it:

The best minds in energy keep underestimating what solar and wind can do. Since 2000, the International Energy Agency has raised its long-term solar forecast 14 times and its wind forecast five times.

So what’s happened? The answer, in headline form, is in the chart at the top of this post.


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The human face of High Value Work

Posted in innovation, trends, work by thenextwavefutures on 16 October, 2015

This is a version of a talk I gave in Helsinki at Teknologia ‘15, based on the work on High Value Work that I have have done at The Futures Company with the Association of Finnish Work.

The Futures Company has been collaborating with the Association of Finnish Work for more than eighteen months on the idea of “High Value Work”. We define this as work that is productive (it creates new value); that is durable (it creates value over time); and work that is inclusive (it spreads value beyond the business — or the C-suite. This combination, based on the emerging post-crisis literature, also creates work that is meaningful, for employees and customers.

AFW_high value work agenda

Slide 1: high value work

In the first of our four reports on High Value Work, we identified four routes to it. These are service innovation, based on a full understanding of the customer and their needs; value in authenticity, based on on a full understanding of cultural context; resource innovation, based on a full understanding of material flows; and rich knowledge, based on a full understanding of the technical knowledge held inside the organisation and a method to capture and codify it.

High value businesses combine these; for example, mastery of resource innovation often creates new technical capabilities that lead to new forms of rich knowledge.

Human capabilities

Slide 2: Theory X and Y revisited

What striking about these routes is that they have human capabilities at their heart. Service innovation and value in authenticity are based on relationships, whether human or cultural, while resource innovation and rich knowledge are based on technical processes and technical understanding. People, in short, are at the heart of value.


Library futures

Posted in culture, digital, future, local, trends by thenextwavefutures on 11 February, 2012

A version of this post, which I wrote with Victoria Ward and Sabine Jaccaud of the change consultancy Sparknow, is also on The Futures Company blog.

Recently Francine Houben of Mecanoo Architecten talked about their design of Birmingham’s future library as a “living room for the city”. More than just storage, a dynamic space for movement, openness and exchange. In a blog she calls libraries “the cathedrals of our millennia”, which seemed a useful precursor to last Saturday’s National Libraries Day

The future of the library is, in some ways, a paradox.The trends that are running against it are more obvious, especially when combined with the financial pressures facing the British libraries system. But there are a surpring number of trends running in its favour. When you look at them together, the library becomes an object which allows us to have a discussion about the notion of the ‘public’ in the digital age.


The decline of the two-party system

Posted in politics, trends by thenextwavefutures on 8 May, 2010

I published a post on the UK election at The Futures Company blog yesterday. Here’s an extract:

“Voting problems in some constituencies seemed symbolic of an electoral system which is no longer fit for purpose. Before the election, research by nef calculated that voters in the most marginal seats have one hundred times more influence on the outcome than those in the safest seats. Prior to the election, one of the striking features was the number of competing campaigns promoting electoral fairness. [Update: These seem to have coalesced into a single campaign, Take Back Parliament, as a result of the election.] Taking a long view, these are each a symptom of the decline of two-party politics since the 1970s. During the campaign, Election 10 published a compelling graph using twenty-five years of Guardian polling data showing the decline in overall support for the two main parties; it fluctuates, certainly, but trends only in one direction.


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Villains and heroes in the fish wars

Posted in business, environment, food, global, sustainability, trends by thenextwavefutures on 6 February, 2010

The start and the end of the documentary The End of The Line, which has now been released on DVD at least in the UK, (and which I blogged about when it was first shown in the cinema), is dominated by traditional ‘National Geographic’ type images. You know the sort of thing; sunlight streams through the water showing the richness and diversity of the sea, illuminating the many different and brightly coloured species below. It’s filmed in one of the few Marine Protected Areas, which together comprise about 1% of the ocean area, where fishing is not allowed. For the rest of it the story was dismal.


‘The Golden Age’ – depending on your lenses

Posted in digital, economics, technology, trends by thenextwavefutures on 4 February, 2010

No sooner had I posted earlier this week about the iPad and Carlota Perez’ model of long-term patterns of technology innovation and investment than I opened Strategy + Business to discover that the venture capitalist and technology analyst Mark Stahlman was also using her model to predict that good times are, well, just around the corner. Very good times, to judge from his Bowie-esque title: ‘A New Golden Age’.

There are some good things about his piece in s+b. It’s a very clear description of Perez’ thinking, and the diagram of the Perez’ S-curve is far better designed than the one I used in my post – clean and clear.

And there are some not so good things, especially when he gets to the futures part of his article.


Taking a long view

Posted in economics, global, trends by thenextwavefutures on 31 January, 2010

Eric Hobsbawm is Britain’s most distinguished living radical historian, and part of his life’s work has been a global history in four  volumes, from 1789 to 1991. The last of these, The Age of Extremes, was published in 1994, in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War.

The latest edition of New Left Review, which marks the journal’s 50th anniversary, opens a long and reflective interview (subscription required) with Hobsbawm by asking what’s changed since 1991. Some of these points are obvious, some less so. Together, they add up to a picture of significant fragmentation, both at a global level and within states. (more…)

The future of sport?

Posted in media, sport, trends by thenextwavefutures on 12 January, 2010

A quick post to pick up the Observer’s piece on ten trends in sport over the next decade. Some are clearly fillers (‘boxing will fight back’? Who cares?) but among the more considered contributions, the two trends that they see as being on the up are about the domination of sport by television, and talent taking control of teams. There’s also an interesting note about sports in long-term decline: skiing, Formula One, and snooker.
I’m prepared to believe that television will increasingly dominate sport; I’m a lot less sure about talent taking control.


Banksters # 2

Posted in banks, economics, trends by thenextwavefutures on 10 December, 2009

“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a six-gun,
And some with a fountain pen

(‘Pretty Boy Floyd‘, by Woody Guthrie)

It’s hard to watch the whole bank bonus row unfold without thinking that it seems to be taking place in a social and economic void. To pump some air in, I thought I’d try the ‘Five Whys‘ approach to unpack it a bit.

Why can banks afford to pay huge bonuses? Because they make huge profits.

Why do banks make huge profits? Because the legal, regulatory, economic and political environment has increasingly been stacked in their favour over the last thirty years.

Why has the external environment been stacked in their favour? Well, I had a go at answering that question here, recently, but it’s worth spending some time on the first couple of questions. The answer, at least on one account, is that banks have systematically offloaded risk onto the state. Which, given that they’ve now been bailed out to the tune of billions without having to pay back their previous (or future) profits seems like a fantastically successful business operation; nice work if you can get it.


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The problem with carbon trading

Posted in climate change, environment, trends by thenextwavefutures on 18 November, 2009

A short post to note the Friends of the Earth report critiquing carbon trading, “A Dangerous Obsession” (opens in pdf).

In summary, these are the problems:

  • It is  ineffective at driving emissions reductions.
  • It fails to drive technological innovation.
  • It leads to lock-in of high-carbon infrastructure.
  • It allows for, and relies on, offsetting (rather than promoting carbon reductions).
  • It creates a risk of subprime carbon.
  • It provides a smokescreen for lack of action on climate finance by the developed world.