|by James L.
[Note: This is a re-formatted manuscript that was originally published in
On the Horizon, 1995, 3(3), 3-4. It is posted here with permission
from Jossey Bass
Michael Rothschild (1994)
has developed a new management philosophy for the corporate world, bionomics, that
combines economics with biology to push business leaders to examine what they do and how
they do it, then improve upon it. Rothschild views the business world as an evolving
ecosystem. Organizations must adapt or perish. Those organizations first adapting
successfully will prosper the most. To maximize flexibility, corporations must
decentralize; empower managers, supervisors, and workers; cross-train them; and
incorporate computer networking technologies throughout the organization.
Rothschild argues that conventional
economic thinking is based on the premise that future events can be measured with relative
precision. However, econometric forecasting on the basis of historical data cannot take
into account new developments. For example, in the past, economists could roughly predict
how much air travel would increase if the economy grew a certain amount. Today, these
forecasts have been compromised by the fax machine, computer networking, and
video-teleconferencing via desktop computers. If corporate managers can use a desktop
computer to see and interact with their colleagues around the country or around the world,
how many business trips will be canceled, regardless of the health of the economy? Because
the future is unknowable, the best that organizations can do is maximize flexibility and
aggressively pursue opportunities as they come on the horizon.
Although written for business leaders,
Rothschild's thesis is applicable to educational leaders. The world is changing rapidly.
We need as much lead time as possible to adapt to the challenges of these changes in order
to provide effective educational programs. To do this, we need to not only continue
decentralizing educational organizations (e.g., in public schools, magnet schools,
site-based management) and incorporating computers and telecommunications technology
(e.g., email, distance learning), but we need also to incorporate planning methodologies
that help us address an uncertain future.
Ian Wilson describes one such method,
scenarios, in our lead article. Coincidentally, Ian and I are leading a seminar July 1995
at Saint Andrews University, Scotland, that focuses on the implications of global change,
and how to use scenarios to address these implications. The seminar focus and agenda are
described in the insert below. Participants will receive a handbook and a copy of the
proceedings. For registration information, please contact our office or complete the
registration form online in our WWW site at the following URL address: http://sunsite.unc.edu/horizon/.
Rothschild, M. (1994). Bionomics: Economy as ecosystem. New York: Henry Holt.