John Naisbitt’s Trend Letter: Reimagining Business Civilization in the 1980s

Gavin Benke

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, John Naisbitt enjoyed success as a trend forecaster. In his paid speaking engagements, his two subscription-based publications, and his 1982 book, Megatrends, the author and publisher offered a way for executives to make sense of potentially unsettling economic, political and social transformation by tracking tiny changes taking place all over the country. These documents offer glimpses of an informal, but vibrant, discourse that helped shape managers’ sense of the global economy in the 1980s. Tucked in among the many trends he saw as important, including tofu - “the yogurt of the eighties” – Naisbitt provided a coherent narrative and chronicle of a business scene that was becoming more international in scope. Naisbitt, in other words, detailed events that he saw as evidence of a globalizing economy. In this paper, I trace how Naisbitt’s evolving concept of a “business state” - or civilization - shaped American managers’ sense of globalization.