By Marian Salzman, Thursday, October 29, 2009, at 2:11 pm.
Thirteen years ago, Fast Company included me in a story called “Job Titles We’d Like to Have.” My job, as director of the Department of the Future at TBWA Chiat\Day, was a great one, and I was excited to be part of the article.
But looking back now, in late 2009, I can’t help but think about how my work—being tuned in to what’s happening now, anticipating what’s coming next and living life online as much as in the real world—has gone from novel to conventional. That’s not a bad thing; cyberspace changed my life for the better, and it can do just as much for brands.
Here are excerpts from the Fast Company interview:
How do you conjure up the future?
For consumer buying patterns, I go online—four hours a day. In cyberspace, I’m able to find out things people would never tell me face to face. That’s what advertising is all about: discovering what people actually desire vs. what they tell you they want.
What was your best prediction?
That white teenagers want to be black.
Biggest blind spot?
Change. We each have our own threshold. But I now understand that nothing is ever finite—things don’t end, they evolve.
A minute and a half after I did that interview, I was relocated along with the romantic lime green sofa on which I was perched (very Carrie Bradshaw before we knew her) to Amsterdam, where I spent a couple of amazing years growing up as a citizen of the world and learning an important truth: Globalization and modernization and Westernization do not equal Americanization. I worked on the launch of China Online in Hong Kong and used AOL Instant Messenger in Cape Town, Cairo and Copenhagen and felt entirely connected, as no generation of nomad ever could have before.
Anyway, I’ve learned a lot since the interview in 1996. I no longer see change as a blind spot but as an essential part of what I do. If things stayed the same, would any company need a department of the future? Adjustments, evolutions and revolutions are the only constants in business now. The job of trendspotting has gone mainstream—every smart company is paying attention to what’s coming next—but even though it might no longer be the subject of a “job titles we’d like to have” story, it’s still fascinating work, and the best job I could hope to have.