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.
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.”