John Fischer, cultural strategist
John predicts the future -- but not as a palm reader. His consulting firm tries to forecast attitudes and trends in pop culture.
What do you do? “I work for a boutique consulting firm called Infinia Foresight (IF) where my job is equal parts anthropology and business strategy. We decode the underlying patterns of culture to predict what the next five to ten years will look like. It’s like playing connect-the-dots for a living: We collect specimens (a television channel for obese people, a palm-shaped man-made luxury island off the coast of Dubai, a magazine about suicide), use them to form a larger picture of how people’s attitudes and behaviors are changing, envision what that means for the future, and then sell our insights for lots of money.”
Who do you sell this information to? “It varies. Suits, advertising execs, people who manufacture sugary snacks. We’ve actually been talking to a large European adult entertainment company, too.”
What’s a typical day like for you? “Lots of reading. I’d say in an average day I spend four to five hours just absorbing information. Everything from RAND Corporation papers to US Weekly. One of my favorite things to do is to go through random blogs. The Internet is a lot like seeing a large cross section of the population drunk: People are totally uninhibited. You’d be amazed by the number of Billy Zane fan pages that are still out there.”
How did you get into the career? “Totally random. I graduated from a liberal arts school with my BFA in music, which is tantamount to no degree at all. I was basically in the position of either finding a job three weeks prior to graduation, or moving home to mom and dad in the suburbs. I eventually got started through an alumni connection, but I could just as easily be taking your lunch order right now.”
Does it help you romantically when you tell people what you do? “Not as much as I initially expected. When I first got into it I thought I’d be all, ‘Hey baby, wanna go back to my place and spot some trends?’ No dice. It’s a good opening gambit since it differentiates me from the masses of paralegals and junior bond traders my age. But it can backfire when it invites a barrage of questions about designer sneakers, celebrity watching, and trash TV. Then I have to qualify the job with a long-winded explanation of human behavior and social dynamics. Fine if I’m emotionally engaged, but not so good if I’m just trying to get my schwerve on.”
Talk: Want to know more about John’s job at IF? Post your question here!