An Interview with Gerald Celente Always ahead of the curve, Gerald Celente has gained acclaim as a forecaster of societal, political, and economic trends, such as the fall of Soviet communism and the 1987 stock market crash. Celente is a sought-after speaker, commentator, consultant, educator, and author.

His most recent book, Trends 2000, How to Prepare and Profit from the Changes of the 21st Century, made its first appearance on the Wall Street Journal's bestseller list in October. We caught up with him at the Trend Research Institute in Rhinebeck, N.Y., where he is director.

CMI:In Trends 2000, you forecast increasing "technotribalism." What is it, and what impact will it have on corporate cultures?

Celente:Technotribalism means that there will be different kinds of communities developing in the future, whether they are real communities or virtual ones. Technology, the ability of people to be "wired in" to each other, will enable this to happen. More people will choose to get away from the hassles of big city life to live in rural areas or small towns that may have once been thriving industrial locations but have fallen on hard times. These technotribes will revitalize such towns, and technology will be the glue of the community.

The notion of people working in a centralized location with supervisors looking over their shoulders will become obsolete because people will work out of their homes or in satellite "technocenters." This will be good for both the companies and their employees. The second-biggest expense for companies today is plant maintenance, so they will realize savings on those costs. And workers will become more productive. For one, they'll have a more positive attitude--you only have to look at what a hassle it is for someone to drive to work during rush-hour traffic to see that. Also, workers will be judged more by what they accomplish, not by who they know. Office politics will become a thing of the past, and brown-nosers, schmoozers, and elbow-rubbers will no longer climb the corporate ladder.

CMI:How will companies have to adjust their thinking to accommodate this new way of working?

Celente:The new generation of employees is very independent and anti-corporate. To attract the best and the brightest talent, corporations will have to reinvent themselves in terms of providing different kinds of employment opportunities and much more flexibility.

CMI:Will there be an increased need for companies to bring employees together from their far-flung work locations, or will the advent of technology make face-to-face meetings obsolete?

Celente:Actually, technology won't affect meetings much at all. Faxes and e-mail, for example, have done little to eliminate snail mail or overnight mail; videos have done little to affect box-office sales at theaters; and online shopping hasn't done away with brick-and-mortar retail stores.

They will co-exist--that's the key word. In spite of all the technological advances, it will always be important to have face-to-face business meetings. In fact, such meetings will have added importance because people will be on their own so much, working out of their homes or technocenters, that they'll enjoy and benefit from these meetings more than they do now.

One could argue that meetings today are overused. A regional vice president calls a meeting, everybody scrambles to get to Chicago, and very often it's a meeting that could have been handled just as easily in another way--or that maybe didn't need to be held at all. In the future, these nonessential meetings will be eliminated, and other meetings will be conducted as virtual meetings.

I envision virtual meetings replacing those routine, mundane meetings--but virtual meetings will never replace essential, real-life meetings. And I am a person who rarely uses the word "never."

CMI:Describe your vision of the virtual business meeting of the future.

Celente: People will be able to do anything in a virtual meeting that they can do in a real meeting. You won't just see faces on a screen and hear their voices, as we have today with meetings done via video and other forms of telecommunications. What you will see is a holograph-like figure in the room with you, and you will be able to interact with that person. About the only thing you won't be able to do is reach out and touch the person.

CMI: With more and more employees working from home in the future, how will companies build the teamwork necessary for success?

Celente: When I talk about people telecommuting, it's important to understand that they're not home all the time. They might come into the office one or two days a week, or one week every month. It will be a hybrid, not an either/or, so the teamwork aspect will still be in place. Remember, although corporate teams will be separated by time and distance, they'll still be in constant communication with the office. So if there is need for a last-minute staff meeting or emergency meeting, teams will be able to join instantly--much faster than meetings are arranged today.

CMI:How will companies change their training programs to adjust to this new kind of worker and this new work environment?

Celente:Corporate training today, generally speaking, is something that companies talk a lot about but really do little of. With distance learning and interactive education, companies will be able to improve training, or in some cases, to offer the kind of training that they only give lip service to now.

I'll tell you this: When I started writing Trends 2000 in 1995, do you know how many colleges offered distance learning? We could only find six. Today, you see more and more colleges every day with online programs. In many ways, the future is already here when it comes to training and education.