Alvin Toffler, The Third Wave
American expert on the future of organizations and people (pictured right).
This was the second part of his trilogy, sandwiched between
Alvin Toffler in the Management
What is the Third Wave?
Society has developed in three stages:
1. The First
(the rise of the agricultural economy).
2. The Second Wave
Revolution when people shifted from agriculture to industry).
3. The Third Wave
Starting in the mid-1950’s, a post-industrial, knowledge economy based upon ideas
industries like computers, electronics and biotechnology.
The Third Wave is characterized by:
1. “Home-centred society”
The home will become the centre of people's work and leisure, assisted by
computers and telecommunications (turning the home into an “electronic cottage”).
But the traditional nuclear family will disintegrate, and people will become less
2. “Information society”
Education and the imaginative application of information are vital to solve society's problems like loneliness
and the environment.
Information overload is inevitable, so avoid it by selecting what's important.
Computers will empower people at work and leisure enabling home working and substantially reducing the amount of
paper in offices.
4. Flexibility and change
Organizations will flexibly respond to their customers' needs
(quickly changing production to customer
(from curiosity and being open to new ideas).
c) part-time and home working
(with flexible hours).
Businesses will be “multi-purpose” i.e. more ethical and socially
responsible, pursuing social as well as profit objectives.
Institutions will fragment (“de-massify”) - for example:
- selling to different market segments (niche marketing).
- big companies operating as a group of autonomous business units.
People will become both consumers and producers (“prosumers”) by doing things for themselves (e.g. do it yourself (DIY) and
To be happy people will
(a worthwhile purpose).
Key quote on the knowledge
For Third Wave civilization, the most basic raw
material of all...is information including imagination.