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Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)


American expert on the future of organizations and people (pictured right).


This is the first part of Toffler's trilogy...

It was followed by:

1. The Third Wave (1980)

2. Powershift (1991)


See also...

Alvin Toffler in the Management Gurus section. 


Book summary


What is future shock?

Too much change in too short a timeAlvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)

It causes:

  • stress.
  • problems for relationships (at home and work and in society).

To cope with future shock, people need stability zones i.e. stable relationships in life and work.


Why is future shock becoming more common?

  • change is accelerating.
  • people’s experiences are so new they can’t learn from them.



Factors affecting the future

 Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)

1. Change

(with the pace of life speeding up).


2. Innovation and technology (including biotechnology).

The adverse social effects of technology (like unemployment) must be dealt with (taming technology).


3. New information and knowledge 

(helped by computers, education, continual re-learning).

 Education must:Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)

  • be relevant to people’s lives.
  • give moral values.
  • teach  how to learn and relate to others.

Decisions are made more difficult and stressful by information overload.


4. Customer satisfaction 

As people become richer, they want

  • quality.
  • a better product experience from psychological benefits like brand image.

So organizations must become experience makers.

 Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)

5. Individualism and diversity of values and lifestyles

(with a surfeit of subcults).


6.The throw-away society

(in which things are used and quickly discarded)

Toffler was the first person to use this now widely used phrase.

 Alvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)

7.Transient relationships

These lead to:

  • the Modular Man (or disposable person)
  • broken homes (the fractured family).


8. The “ad- hocracy” organizationAlvin Toffler, Future Shock (1970)

This is an organization structure that is:

  • constantly changing.
  • non-hierarchical (with project based teams).
  • information driven.


9. The service economy

(in which people in service industries outnumber those in manufacturing).




Key quotes on change

Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.

Today change is so swift... that yesterday’s truths suddenly become today’s fictions.

The death of permanence (describing the future).

The rate of change has implications quite apart from, and sometimes more important than, the directions of change.


Key quote on organization structure

The introduction of Ad-hocracy increases the adaptability of organizations; but it strains the adaptability of men.


Key quotes on education and learning

By instructing students how to learn, unlearn and relearn, a powerful new dimension can be added to education.

Tomorrow’s illiterate will be the man who has not learned how to learn.

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