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Watts Next?

Futurist Watts Wacker on why you need a 500-year business plan.

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This story appears in the April 1997 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Watts Wacker is a hot futurist--in heavy demand by a stream of clients including Dreamworks SKG, Gateway 2000 Inc. and Boston Chicken. They knock on his door at consulting firm SRI International, where he is formally titled "Resident Futurist" because he has had an uncanny series of spot-on predictions about tomorrow. He predicted the boom in garden supplies sales as well as Clinton's '96 election margin, and, nowadays, he sees change happening at an ever more furious pace.

How does he come up with his ideas? Wacker's methods are as unorthodox as his ideas. Although he spent a decade at Yankelovich Partners overseeing the polling company's trends surveys, Wacker's favorite technique for getting a take on tomorrow is to hang out in unexpected places. He's put in hours everywhere from a Taco Bell, where he bused tables, to panhandling in New York City's ghettos. The logic of this "observational research," as Wacker calls it? "A key to knowing the trends is to listen, really listen, especially to people with points of view that are different from ours," says Wacker, co-author of The 500 Year Delta: What Happens After What Comes Next (HarperBusiness).

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