Bob Jacobson’s professional think-tank practice is a hybrid combining futuristics with innovation management. “The two are symbiotic,” he explains. “Future awareness creates a need for innovative responses to emerging challenges. Environmental scanning, trend analysis, and prediction markets are each a useful tool for generating future awareness. Reciprocally, well-managed innovation teams and processes are historically the most reliable generators of successful innovations. Along the way these innovators typically produce insights into future conditions — those that managements believe should pertain, and those that actually will pertain.” Reconciling the two is a key to innovation-management success. Moreover, while every human is born with the capacity to innovate, only a very few — so-called “serial innovators” — can successfully innovate and implement innovations on a regular, reliable basis. Developing methods for identifying serial innovators and then supporting their efforts is one of Bob’s current projects. Designing and developing urban and regional innovation platforms — constellations of key actors organized to meet grand challenges — is another of his focal points.
Bob’s involvement with technology, futuristics, and innovation management spans decades of work in the public, private, and NGO sectors. A former advertising creative director, he was a Southern California figurehead in the 1970s public-access video movement. Later, for a decade, he was Principal Consultant (policy analyst) with the California Legislature. In the process of creating laws to facilitate the growth of Silicon Valley he coined the term “electronic commerce” to describe the then-new industry that’s since become the mainstay of the commercial Internet. Much of his work was about preparing California for the nascent “information age.” For his Fulbright year in Scandinavia, Bob led teams of students studying videotex and the transborder community engendered by cellular telephony in the Nordic Arctic Circle. He was and remains a charter member of The WELL (Whole Earth ‘Electronic Link, a spinoff of the Whole Earth Catalog), the first and still the most interesting online community.
As co-founder and Associate Director of the Human Interface Technology Center, a Seattle-based public incubator, and its Virtual Worlds Consortium corporate support group; and as the founder and CEO of two private companies dealing with virtual worlds and virtual reality, Bob was instrumental in the formation of what is now a vibrant, global simulation and virtual-worlds industry. He was Resident Futurist at SRI Consulting in Menlo Park, CA; a Senior Consultant and prospective Partner in GEMBA Innovation A/S, Vedbæk, Denmark; and later the First Entrepreneur in Residence and Visiting Professor at Malmö University in Malmö, Sweden. During this time he was also a consultant to the Swedish project Eksploria, a proposed “theme park of the future.” His Swedish company Atelier Tomorrow AB recently produced a pioneering plan for a maritime regional innovation platform in southern Sweden and Denmark.
Currently, Bob is affiliated with several domain-specific expert groups and projects involving the future. He’s especially enthusiastic about working with Glen and the others at Futurist.com. A favorite hobbyist project is a collaborative book, a “history of the future,” describing the constitutionally devolved USA circa 2040. His leading relevant influences are the early psychologist William James, organizational theorist Peter Senge, science-fiction writer Ursula Le Guin, and the designer Bruce Mau.
Bob holds a Ph.D. in Planning from UCLA, an MA in Communications Industry Management from the USC Annenberg School of Communications, an MA in Theater Arts (Video Production) from UCLA, and a BA in Sociology, also from UCLA. He’s the author of three books on telecommunications and information policy and numerous articles on innovation, virtual worlds, experience design, and of course futuristics. He’s spoken on futuristics and innovation to the Royal Society in London, the Asilomar Microcomputer Workshop (successor to the Homebrew Computer Club), the International Association of Port Cities, the Society for Experiential Graphic Design, Howard University, Trinity College (Dublin), Malmö University (Malmö, Sweden), UCLA, and USC among others. Bob enjoys road trips and bodysurfing. He resides in Tucson, Arizona, with his fiancee Charlotte Lowe, also a writer, where he relaxes in the role of co-proprietor of Art House, a unique art-themed desert inn.