MAKING THE FUTURE WORK: Unleashing Our Powers of Innovation for the Decades Ahead by John Diebold

MAKING THE FUTURE WORK: Unleashing Our Powers of Innovation for the Decades Ahead

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Yet another go at ""Why Things Don't Work Any More, and What We Can Do About It""--by the veteran business consultant credited with coining the term ""automation"" in his 1952 book of that title. (Diebold says he just couldn't spell ""automatization."") The text, however, is a wordy, repetitious, speechifying slog through fairly routine ideas. First, we need to limit ""the de facto veto power we have been building into our political structure and institutionalizing at virtually every level."" (E.g., New York City's stalled Westway, the Seabrook nuclear plant shutdown, and, yes, those ""lowly snail darters."") Contrasting examples of ""trade-off mechanisms"" in operation range from local farmer/environmentalist mediation (in Washington's Snoqualmie-Snohomish Basin) to the 1982 Social Security ""psychopolitics"" settlement. Second, we need to shift from ""short-term horizons""--in business, in education and science policy--to long-term coordination and planning. Among the models: the 1974 Congressional Budget Act, providing for congressional review of the federal budget, and the 1983 GM job bias settlement, more corrective than punitive. Third, we're too litigious--witness the Pine Tar dispute, the long, aborted anti-trust case against IBM; we should make more use of pretrial proceedings, arbitration, minitrials, and pay special attention to high-technology cases. Those three ills dealt with, Diebold proposes four ways to ""build a new relationship between [business and government] so that our native human creativity and imagination can be let loose upon our societal problems."" The first is to privatize public services; the second is to ""treat talent as capital"" (which takes in such staples as flexitime, but also stresses individual fulfillment); the third calls for more social responsibility by business, and less public pressure on business; the fourth concerns the transition to automation--best managed, in Diebold's view, by ""subsidizing the cost of the learning period in real jobs. . ."" (per the German voucher system), as against government retraining programs. Two chapters then review familiar problems of information technology and biotechnology (e.g., military spending vs. industrial product development, ""the risk-benefit struggle""). The final chapter calls for leadership-by-communication (like Reagan, his policies aside), and for ""vision."" Nothing very fresh or rousing--certainly not by comparison with Kevin Phillips' Staying on Top (p. 743)--but Diebold does have standing as a practical, long-practicing futurist.

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 1984
Publisher: Simon & Schuster