Subjects

James Wallman

Author and Trends Forecaster

Prepare for the future

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Biography

James Wallman is a futurist who has been analysing trends, forecasting the future, and advising people and businesses how to succeed in a fast-changing world, since 2004.

He formerly ran the forecasting division of global trend consultancy, The Future Laboratory, and wrote tech magazine T3's “futurology column”.

James has given talks at conferences from Amsterdam to Beijing and California. He has advised clients from Absolut, BMW, and Dixons Carphone, to Google, HSBC, and Zurich Insurance Group.

He has given advice on the future of business, consumers, finance, food, health, homes, innovation, leisure, luxury, marketing, media, property, retail, sex, technology, transport, travel, and work.

James's views have appeared in The Economist, the Financial Times, the Sunday Times, The New York Times, Wired, Forbes, and Fast Company. He has appeared on MSNBC in the US, ABC in Australia; and numerous BBC TV and radio stations in the UK.

To give his clients inspiring yet practical strategic advice, James rigorously and sensibly applies a robust forecasting method to qualitative and quantitative data.

The method James uses is inspired by something the futurist William Gibson once said, that “the future is already here, it is just not very evenly distributed”. It is informed by a way of reading cultural change that has been applied more than 5,000 times since it was first codified in 1962. Called the Diffusion of Innovations, this describes how new ideas — which could be new ways of dressing, banking, shopping, innovating or healing people — catch on and spread from the innovators to the early adopters and the mainstream.

Here are three examples of James forecasting the future:

One — in 2008, James forecast driverless cars, and that they would be available to buy by 2020. Of course, no one is surprised by the idea of driverless cars now, but in 2008 the idea was still science fiction. Ford, Toyota, and Tesla have publicly stated they expect their driverless cars to be on the road between 2019 and 2021.

Also in 2008, in an interview with the UK's Sky News, James said that autonomous cars will “look a little like a lounge on wheels”. In 2015, Mercedes Benz released a driverless prototype which looks like a “living room”.

Two — in 2009, James forecast that we would be able to 3D print shoes by 2020. Adidas, Nike, and Under Armour now have trials to 3D print sports shoes. New Balance is offering 3D printed shoes to the general public in spring 2016.

Three — in 2013, James forecast the cultural shift from materialism to “experientialism”: that people will shift their spending from things to experiences. His best-selling book on this, Stuffocation, is published by Penguin. It has been translated into numerous languages, including Polish, Czech, Dutch, Thai, Korean, and simplified Chinese.

James's forecast has now been confirmed by data and comment from, among others: the US's Bureau of Economic Analysis, the UK's Office for National Statistics, the European Commission, the Washington Post, and investment firm KKR — which made this statement to its clients in January 2016: 'we believe that a major decoupling within retail sales is now occurring, with consumers choosing to spend on “experiences” rather than “things”'.

In a 20-year career, James has worked in Silicon Valley — at the Palo Alto Research Center — and in London's digital, mobile, media, and startup scenes.

He now runs a think tank, The Future Is Here.

James is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He has an MA in Journalism from the University of the Arts London, and an MA in Classics from the University of Oxford.

Books

Stuffocation

Living More With Less

James Wallman

In this groundbreaking book, trend forecaster James Wallman reveals the world's growing sense of Stuffocation — and how we can move away from it

We all have kit we don't need, toys we don't use, and clothes we don't wear. We have more stuff than we could ever need, and it isn’t making us any happier. It’s bad for the planet. It’s cluttering up our homes. It’s making us stressed — and it might even be killing us. That's why “stuffocation” is the most pressing problem of the 21st century.

A rising number of us are already turning our backs on all-you-can-get consumption. We are choosing access over ownership, and taking our business to companies like Zipcar, Spotify, and Netflix. Fed up with materialism, we are ready for a new way forward.

Trend forecaster James Wallman traces our obsession with stuff back to the original Mad Men who first created desire through advertising. He interviews anthropologists studying the clutter crisis, economists searching for new ways of measuring progress, and psychologists who link “stuffocation” to declining wellbeing. And he introduces us to the innovators who are trading in materialism for "experientialism", where they find more happiness, live more meaningful lives, and express status more successfully, through experiences rather than stuff.

Experientialism does not mean giving up all our possessions, but it does mean getting over our obsession with them, and transforming what we value. Stuffocation is a paradigm-shifting look at our habits. It has inspired those who have read it to be happier and healthier, and to live more with less. It’s the one piece of stuff you won’t be able to live without.

Penguin Life (25 Feb. 2016)
Penguin (15 January 2015)

Excerpt

The Weird Way Facebook and Instagram Are Making Us HappierWired

Reviews

Book ReviewTreehugger
Are you suffering from 'suffocation'?The New Daily
Don't buy stuff. Do stuffThe Irish Times
The power of experiencesThe Guardian

Audio

Stuffocation — WGN Radio
The perils of possessionsThe Guardian

Praise

"Like The Tipping Point meets Freakonomics — but with a huge idea at its heart. Fascinating, inspiring, and great fun to read."
— Laura Atkinson, The Sunday Times

"Persuasive… clever"
— Peter Aspden, Financial Times

"In Stuffocation, James Wallman offers a deeply important message by weaving contemporary social science into very engaging stories. Reading the book is such a pleasure that you hardly recognize you're being told that you should change how you live your life."
— Barry Schwartz, author of The Paradox of Choice

"With a sociologist's eye and a storyteller's ear, James Wallman takes us on a tour of today's Experience Economy from the perspective not of businesses, nor even consumers per se, but of everyday people. In doing so he identifies the rise of a new value system among those who are consciously replacing materialism with what he rightly calls experientialism. Spot on."
— B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore, authors of The Experience Economy

"Stuffocation explains how less but better stuff and space can lead to more time, more experiences, more connecting with people and therefore more happiness. Designed right, small is the new big."
— Graham Hill, founder, LifeEdited.com and TreeHugger.com

“This intriguing book mixes personal and social commentary with a sympathetic understanding of where excessive consumerism comes from, and it also contains some really good recommendations on what to do about it. An original, provocative mixture.”
— Peter N Stearns, provost, George Mason University

“In Stuffocation, James Wallman has engagingly woven a mix of true-life stories to demonstrate why our materialistic society no longer makes us happy and what we can do about it. This is a book written with warmth and wit. The surprise is that Wallman’s glimpses of the future also illuminate, with rare insight, the difficult process of culture change.”
— Caroline van den Brul MBE, author, Crackle and Fizz

“An exhilarating ghost train ride through the madness of over-consumption, during which we are taunted by our own greed. Fortunately, there is light at the end of the tunnel — and James Wallman takes us there.”
— Mark Tungate, author, Adland: A Global History of Advertising

Stuffocation will take you on the journey of your life. As Wallman builds his case, the true value of experience emerges and resonates … So interesting that experientialism still has some of the key drawbacks of conspicuous consumption. Now it is conspicuous activity and instant showing off on social media. I’ll venture that no one goes unchanged by this book.”
— Jeanne E Arnold, professor, department of anthropology, UCLA

“What Malcom Gladwell did for psychology in Blink, James Wallman does for the fascinating world of trend forecasting in Stuffocation. Backed with quirky stories and compelling examples that are a joy to read, Wallman lifts the veil on why we live the way we do today… and why our obsession with ‘stuff’ may be about to change. You’ll never look at a visit to the shops in the same way again. A gem.”
— Marianne Cantwell, author, Be a Free-Range Human

Topics

James tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

The future of — business, aging, banking, cars, cities, consumers, families, food, health, homes, innovation, leisure, media, men, retail, society, technology, travel, women, and/or work

Change – what is it good for

Innovation

Emerging forms of innovation

Stuffocation

The internet of things

Social media

Status in the 21st century

The shift from materialism to experientialism

Emerging market consumers

Luxury consumers and the changing luxury market

Videos

The Future of Food

The Future of Gender Equality

Experimentalism + Tough Guy

Stuffication | Talk @ Google

Why We've Had Enough of Stuff | RSA

Feedback

A food company:
Hi James — It was a great pleasure to have you as a keynote speaker! You really inspired the audience.

A major international music company:
We were thrilled to have James be a part of our Wellness week; his talk was very well received and the feedback is excellent!

The CEO of a luxury Italian brand:
“It was very inspiring listening to your presentation.”

The director of renovations at one of the world's largest hotel companies:
“Fantastic. I took lots of notes – lots of candy to Google.”

The executive editor of an industry magazine's, and organiser of its conference:
“You were fantastic and everyone is saying you were a highlight of the event.”

Business development & client relations manager at a top three advertising agency:
“People really loved your diversity of thinking and innovative examples.”

Head of customer, distribution and marketing at a top ten financial company:
“Excellent content as ever and your delivery was superb. The guys have taken lots from it.”

Executive producer at a leading media corporation:
“Very thought-provoking and good fun too. It will have a quiet influence on our thinking for some time to come.”

Director of events at a luxury hotelier:
“Your presentation was incredibly thought-provoking and inspiring, and many of the elements that you described made a significant impact on my perception of what the future may look like.”