Jack Uldrich
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To Unlearn: Try Reading the Newspaper Backwards

Posted in Agriculture, Creativity, Energy, Future

In my 2008 book, Jump the Curve: 50 Essential Strategies to Help Your Company Stay Ahead of Emerging Technologies, one strategy I encourage people to employ from time to time is that of reading the newspaper backwards. Why? Because it can help you more clearly see where the future is headed. This, in turn, will reinforce why unlearning is so important to your survival.


Yesterday, for example, as I was returning from Dallas where I delivered a keynote presentation on the future of travel and tourism to the Texas Travel Industry Association, I began by reading the marketing section of the Wall Street Journal from back-to-front. Here’s what I noticed. On Page 8, it was revealed that Sarah Palin’s new book won’t be released in an E-book until after Christmas. This is noteworthy for the simple fact that it wouldn’t have been noteworthy as recently as last year. In other words, E-books have now become so popular that when a new book isn’t released in electronic format at the same time as the print version it qualifies as news. It’s clear from this development that e-book sales will only continue to rise at the expense of traditional hardcover books and that the publishing industry must unlearn some of its current assumptions.

On Page B7 there was a similar story, only this one related to the advertising industry: Web Ad Sales in Britain Overtake TV. On Page B6, it was announced that Lemmis Lighting is releasing a 20-year lightbulb. (Imagine this: In the future your kid or grandchild might not be able to change a lightbulb because it is something they only have to do once every two decades!) The broader implication is that both marketers and professionals in the lighting business will soon need to unlearn how they do business.

And then on Page B5 there were two articles of note. First, there was a small article announcing that Princeton University was testing Amazon Kindle’s DX e-book as part of a national pilot program; and, second, there was a larger article explaining that the airline industry is finally getting serious about employing RFID tags to track baggage. Both news stories reinforce the growing prevalence of e-books and RFID technology.

My friends, the future is here. To learn more about it all you need to do is read the back of the newspaper! If you do, I think you'll better understand why we must all continue to unlearn.

P.S. If you keep reading the 9/30/09 edition of the WSJ, on Page 3, there is article explaining why biobutanol might soon replace ethanol as America’s biofuel of choice. (It'd be wonderful if Congress could unlearn its infatuation with ethanol.)

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2 thoughts on “To Unlearn: Try Reading the Newspaper Backwards”

  1. Great insight. I’ve often found myself reading the Economist backwards. It starts then (other than some little data tables) with an intriguing obituary. That, I suppose, shows you how at least someone’s long life of achievement, good or bad, turns out. Some inspiration there for foresight. Then, book reviews, and books step back from the immediate news of the day and offer some perspective.
    Thanks for great insights

  2. Jack Uldrich says:

    Thanks for the note. Interestingly, I sometimes read the Economist backwards as well.

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