First Friday Book Synopsis

"…like CliffNotes on steroids…"

Why Kotkin’s Book Won’t Be in My Basket at Checkout

A recent book by Joel Kotkin that is receiving critical acclaim is entitled The Next Hundred Million:  America in 2050 (Penguin Press, 2010).   You can read two reviews of the book below and decide if it sparks enough interest for you to read it.  I have chosen not to do so, and of course, it will not be featured at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.

I enjoy being upbeat and optimistic.  I like sunny forecasts.  But, this is a genre of books that I find myself increasingly uninterested in.  My major reason for doing so is that the future is difficult to predict, and very few who try to do so in writing ever get it right. 

I guess I lost my enthusiasm for this type of book with The Long Boom:  A Vision for the Coming Age of Prosperity by Peter Schwartz, Peter Layden, and Joel Hyatt (Basic Books, 2000).   When I read and presented this book, I was pretty excited about its content.  Ten years later, we can see that the impact better leads to a different title:  the short boom.  All the predictions were fun to read and energizing to visualize.  But, much of what we read there just did not materialize.

Admittedly, books that predict the future are difficult to write.  There is certainly a skill in examining trends and patterns, then using sign reasoning to leap forward to visualize another time and place.   There are plenty of people who get energized by these titles.   I just happen not to be one of them.

I remember the old phrase, “the best way to predict the future is to create it.”    Unfortunately, writing about it does not create it.  It simply writes about it.  They write.  We buy.  Then, we get let down.

I want to be clear.   I am not criticizing Kotkin’s book.  I haven’t read it.  I don’t plan to.  I can’t criticize a book that I haven’t read.  All my best to him for his success with the book.    I think that there will continue to be enough interested readers to keep it on the best-seller list for awhile.

You can make up your own mind about what you think of this genre of books. 

After you read the reviews below, let’s talk about it.

From Publishers Weekly

Kotkin (The City) offers a well-researched—and very sunny—forecast for the American economy, arguing that despite its daunting current difficulties, the U.S. will emerge by midcentury as the most affluent, culturally rich, and successful nation in human history. Nourished by mass immigration and American society’s proven adaptability, the country will reign supreme over an industrialized world beset by old age, bitter ethnic conflicts, and erratically functioning economic institutions. Although decreasing social mobility will present a challenge, demographic resources will give the U.S. an edge over its European rivals, which will be constrained by shrinking work forces and rapidly proliferating social welfare commitments. Largely concerned with migration patterns within the U.S., the book also offers a nonpartisan view of America’s strengths, identifying both pro-immigration and strongly capitalist policies as sources of its continued prosperity. However, Kotkin tends to gloss over the looming and incontrovertible challenges facing the country and devotes limited space to the long-term consequences posed by the current recession, the rise of India and China, and the resulting competition over diminishing energy resources. Nevertheless, his confidence is well-supported and is a reassuring balm amid the political and economic turmoil of the moment. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Assuming that America will increase to 400 million people in the next 40 years, Kotkin divines demographic consequences in this catalog of predictions. Optimistic in contrast to elite opinions on the Left and the Right that see America in decline, Kotkin’s views are not certitudes: the author regularly cautions that if certain things are not done, such as ensuring an economic environment of upward mobility, his vision of the future may not come to pass. Caveats dealt with, Kotkin essentially asks where the extra 100 million will live. Because some of them are already here—those born or who have immigrated since the early 1980s—Kotkin tends to extrapolate present trends. After a career-starting stint in the big city, family-raising aspirations send people to the suburbs and, increasingly in the Internet-connected world, to small towns and rural areas. Describing specific locales, Kotkin anticipates a revitalization of older suburbs and even a repopulation of the Great Plains. As sociological futurists engage with Kotkin’s outlook, the opportunity for critics lies in the author’s lesser attention to the environmental and political effects of population growth. –Gilbert Taylor

Saturday, July 3, 2010 Posted by | Karl's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Julia Kirby on why more women manage to have it all

Julia Kirby

Here is an excerpt from an article written by Julia Kirby for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other articles and resources, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.

* * *

A new study from Pew Research [please click here] shows that, as compared to the 1970s, a far greater percentage of women in the US today reach the end of their childbearing years without having had a baby. In the 1970s, that described 10 percent of women; now it describes 18 percent. On closer examination, the news is not much of a news flash: most of the rise occurred in the 1980s (not surprisingly: around then, the first generation that had access to birth control pills reached their 40s). Over the past decade, the data show, the percentage has held steady and even declined by a percent.

Honestly, the real news in the study is the trend line for the kind of women who read HBR. Among women with advanced degrees, we actually see significantly higher rates of childbearing over the past ten years. According to the Pew report authors, “in 2008, 24% of women ages 40-44 with a master’s, doctoral or professional degree had not had children, a decline from 31% in 1994.”
So what’s going on here? At least three factors help to account for more matriculated moms:

[Here is the first.]

More women get advanced degrees today. First, let’s allow that the data are not perfectly comparable. Last April, the Census Bureau released a report [please click here] showing that about 10 percent of women over 25 in the United States now possess an advanced degree, as compared to about 7 percent of women in 2000. As graduate degrees become less rare, and less associated with single-minded pursuit of career success, that number was bound to rise. Still, there’s more than an education trend going on here.

Hooray for US employers, then: they’re forcing fewer of the opt-outs that women have so long had to make. Since women first entered the US workforce in large numbers, the choice has been stark: have children and consign yourself to limited career success, or go for the brass ring and forget the teething ring.

To be sure, the challenge remains: highly educated women are still the least likely to bear children. The news won’t be fantastic till the percentage of women not having babies doesn’t vary with education. Then we’ll know that it equally reflects choice. But for the moment, it seems clear that we are making progress — and have good reason to expect more.

Julia Kirby is an editor-at-large for HBR.

Saturday, July 3, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Behaviors that build efficient and effective social networks

In an article published in Journal of Applied Psychology 94 (Pages 196-206), “Effects of Networking on Career Success: A Longitudinal Study,” Hans-Georg Wolff and Klaus Moser offer this definition of networking: “Behaviors that are aimed at building, maintaining, and using informal relationships that possess the (potential) benefit of facilitating work-related activities of individuals by voluntarily gaining access to resources and maximizing…advantages.”

They identify and discuss six specific behaviors that build efficient and effective social networks:

1. Building internal contacts (e.g. “I add new contacts at company events.”)

2. Maintaining internal contacts (e.g. “I regularly obtain updates from colleagues in other departments to be current with their initiatives.”)

3. Using internal contacts (e.g. “I rely on some of my contacts in other departments when I need confidential advice.”)

4. Building external contacts (e.g. I accept invitations and attend all professional functions or events that are relevant to my activities, needs, and interests.”

5. Maintaining external contacts (e.g. “I ask others to convey my regards to business acquaintances outside of my organization.”

6. Using external contacts (e.g. “I exchange professional tips and experiences with acquaintances from other organizations.”

The networking behaviors that Wolff and Moser describe entail making some incremental effort to build, maintain, and use social ties with people. The people targeted are not necessarily in your sights if you are focused on your immediate circumstances.

My own take:

1. No one you meet is insignificant.
2. It’s not who you know, it’s who knows you.
3. Seek out appropriate opportunities to help others.
4. Generosities should have no strings attached.
5. Cultivate relationships with what you do, not with what you say.

Saturday, July 3, 2010 Posted by | Bob's blog entries | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 416 other followers

%d bloggers like this: