Book Review: 'Upside' by Kenneth Gronbach with M.J. Moye
Upside: Profiting from the Profound Demographic Shifts Ahead Kenneth Gronbach with M.J. Moye AMACOM (Apfil 2017)
How to identify and then pursue effectively any/all upside opportunities that result from shifting demographics
In this volume, Kenneth Gronbach explains that, in general, “potential upside opportunities are more prevalent with growing population shifts than they are with declining population shifts. And, as with the above-referenced population change in general [see pages ix-x], it is also difficult to foresee the potential downside caused by population declines…Nevertheless, ’tsunami’ perfectly describes the power of large growing shifts in population: these shifts are immensely powerful, hard to see, and incredibly challenging because the power is not really recognized until, like a tsunami, the shift actually hits…While perhaps more apt as a metaphor for the purposes of this book, referring to demographic changes related to population decline as ’sinkholes’ makes perfect sense as they are also immensely powerful but difficult to perceive until the ground actually collapses.”
He wrote this book with M.J. Moye’s assistance in order to help prepare business leaders to identify and then pursue effectively any/all upside opportunities that result from shifting demographics. Demographers “count people” and then classify them according to criteria most relevant to the given circumstances, especially filling knowledge gaps. Gronbach offers a hypothetical example: The owner of a hot dog stand at a state fair is concerned about the lack of business. Should he send workers home or expect an afternoon rush and order more hot dogs? What to do? The parking lot begins to fill up with school buses. “Buy more hot dogs!”
In this context, I recall a moment in the film Jaws when Sheriff Brody (Roy Scheider) is tossing chum into the water from the stern. Suddenly an enormous shark roars up out of the water. He alerts Captain Quint (Robert Shaw) at the helm. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”
The sequence is quite simple:
1. Determine what you need to know. 2. Obtain that information and classify it according to the most relevant criteria. 3. Modify (if necessary) assumptions and premises. 4. Formulate appropriate strategies and tactics. 5. Implement plan. 6. And then, if necessary, modify it.
Both tsunamis (with a growing population) and sinkholes (with a declining population) create opportunities for someone. The nature and extent of both upsides and downsides vary among these six generations:
G.I (1905-1924) Silent (1925-1944) Baby Boomers (1945-1954) X (1965-1984) Y/Millennials (1985-2004) Z (2005-2024)
Those who wish to create or increase demand for whatever they offer need to keep in mind that those who comprise each of these six generations will perceive tsunamis and sinkholes differently than do those who comprise each of the other five. Moreover, their preferences will probably change as they grow older.
Kenneth Gronbach counts people, to be sure, but his greater value is that – in my opinion – he creates a [begin italics] context [end italics] and a [begin italics] frame of reference [end italics] for the given analytics so that their meaning and significance can more accurately be determined. Many “profound shifts” are already underway and even more are imminent. Some are more disruptive than others. Reading this book will help almost everyone to “bring demography into the world where they live, work, and play.” Bravo!
Editor's note: This review was written by Robert Morris and has been published with his permission.Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.