High Tech - High Touch - High Trust 
Coping with the uncertainty of change!
Here we sit, dizzied by the pace of change around us. A day hardly passes without a new gadget or gizmo promising ever more convenience, efficiency, or entertainment. Yet, in stark contrast, we are gripped by fear of unknown threats from those that hate us. They would destroy our civilization and banish us to a primitive age. Amid such dishevel, what relevance does the timeshare industry hold, and how should we manage during this time of uncertainty and change? Can anyone explain?

Yes. As far back as 1982, John Naisbitt described this phenomenon in his best-selling book, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives. Return with me, if you would, to the early 1980s. It was a time of techno-innocence. At the office, the facsimile machine was a business essential, and demonstrated the immense potential inherent in electronic networking systems. A document that once took seven days to receive by mail now took seconds. A dial tone, a button click, a funny, scratchy sound, and it was sent. Amazing!

By that time tourism, hospitality and timeshare sales were well developed. Touts or OPCs (Off Property Contacts), phone rooms, and gift incentives were state of the art. High Tech promised so much!

At home, the VCR redefined family time. Video stores sprang up in every strip mall, and TV screens stretched to 27 inches. The home entertainment center was born. Pundits and prognosticators were unanimous in their opinions and proclamations: “This marks the end of the once-venerated movie theater, gone the way of the dinosaurs. Hence forth, American families will prefer to watch their movies at home.” 

“Not so fast,” said John Naisbitt, “I heartily disagree.” Naisbitt was an economist and business consultant. Some said he was a maverick. He had an unusual way of consulting the oracles. His research team collected newspaper clippings from cities known for their progressive, often foretelling, inclinations. As articles relating to a particular subject accumulated, Naisbitt saw it as a harbinger of things to come. 

“High tech–high touch is the secret,” he declared. “The more technology we introduce into society, the more people will aggregate, will want to be with other people: movies, rock concerts, shopping. You do not go to a movie just to see a movie. You go to a movie to cry or laugh with 200 other people.” That’s the high touch of high tech. 

Prophetic words, indeed. We now have multi-plex theaters with dozens of viewing rooms offering choices in every genre, from drama to comedy. And all serviced, of course, from the central refreshment stand. 

Please understand the profound point Naisbitt is making here. With each advance in technology, we yearn ever more to feel and be in touch with our humanity. We seek to balance high tech’s impersonal intrusions with offsetting measures of “high touch.” We look back to the cultural traditions that define us. We coalesce with those who are like us. We seek solace and safety in numbers. We yearn for the tribe whence we came. 

High Tech
To get a perspective on all this, how far we’ve come and have yet to go, let me introduce you to Moore’s Law. Originally intended to describe the accelerating pace of the number of transistors that could be affixed to a circuit board, in a larger sense it has come to represent the driving force of technology as the agent for change. Moore’s Law states that computational power, the heart of technology, will expand exponentially, doubling approximately every two years until (theoretically and without moderation) it would reach a point of singularity—constant change. Let’s call this e-velocity. 

Giving traction to technological change is the self-organizing network, the same concept of interconnectivity that the fax machine depended on. While a single machine is useless, each additional connection is an exponential increase in the value (n2) of every machine as well as the whole network. This is known as Metcalf’s Law. Let’s call it e-valuation

If we accept Darwin’s theory of evolution, then we must see that everything works to fulfill evolution’s driving principle: to change, to advance, and to perfect. And, too, we must accept our present and personal involvement as it unfolds. What Darwin called “mutation” and “adaptation” we now call innovation and adoption. What Darwin called “natural selection” and “survival of the fittest” we now call design integration and market acceptance. What we say, what we do, and what we think is part of evolution. It is within us and with-out us, amazing and unfathomable. 

Technology is modern man’s discovery of the wheel, a way of adapting to the environment, reducing toil and increasing time for leisure. It is by this measure that we judge change for the better or worse. We can summarize the above three principles as Skinner’s Law of Leisure:

E-velocity + E-valuation = E-volution.

High Tech-High Touch
Individuation, community, collective identity, spiritualism, family, wellness, philanthropy, and even the ubiquitous Starbucks are but a few examples of high touch— those humanizing qualities that give us meaning and warm our souls, rooted in the past and coded in the DNA.

While change is seemingly forced upon us, high-touch must be sought and nurtured. Today, high touch movements are emerging in all facets of society: human potential groups, yoga centers, gender fitness outlets, New Age churches, the arts, and a rebirth of social and political activism. And there’s a global consensus to solve third world poverty and disease. These are high-touch things happening now.

High touch serves as the counterbalance to high tech. Without the proper measure, we suffer what is called “technology dissonance,” making it difficult to connect the past with the present—an identity gap, if you will, between yesterday and today. As individuals we feel isolated and uncertain. As a society we suffer confusion and psychosis. As citizens of the United States, we are exhibiting internal dissonance and discord as we resolve our country’s role among nations. To ignore the dissonance gives rise to even greater opposing and more destructive forces, such as Al Qaida and the Taliban. Perhaps global warming is a result of dissonance, too? 

Our own industry of vacation ownership, of time-sharing, falls squarely in the realm of high touch. While it may be viewed two dimensionally, as merely a one-bedroom unit offering a respite from work, it also holds a high place in our psyches as representing the pursuit of leisure, which gives it a deeper meaning and quality in our lives. It is this portion of our product that touches the face of humanity. 

Much like Naisbitt’s movie theaters, we vacation not just to get a break from work, but to share family and human values with our loved ones and those who are most like us. We share not just time, but tribe. 

By the early 1990s, vacations sales had reached 1.5 billion dollars per year. OPCs, phone rooms, and gift incentives were state of the art. High touch promised so much!

High Tech-High Touch-High Trust
Naisbitt saw that his predictions were coming to pass, but he also saw the dissonance of technological change on the rise. He addressed this in his next book, Global Paradox (1994), where he expressed this relationship more succinctly: “High tech has to be balanced by high touch to build high-trust organizations.” Trust, he emphasized, is the bridge between tech and touch, and the promenade to the future. 

Trust in a network system is called authentication. In the fax network it was accomplished by the “scratchy sound” known as handshaking. In today’s open access, always-on Internet, it is accomplished through a hierarchy of procedures ending in a Username and Password. 

As hardware is to software, technology is an enabler and platform for high touch. The Internet has become a breeding ground for social networks, from the early chat rooms and bulletin boards to the present-day Face Book, Twitter and You Tube. All of these depend on trust with regard to User Names and Passwords. Social networks are an example of high tech and high touch through high trust. 

Naisbitt could not have anticipated this a quarter century ago, but he would certainly recognize it today. We converse anonymously in chat rooms, interact with avatars, and blog about our interests. These have become the “movie theaters” where we go to cry or laugh with others.

Today, a quarter century after Naisbitt declared his principles of High Tech and High Touch, timeshare sales have reached eight billion dollars worldwide. OPCs, phone rooms, and gift incentives are state of the art. High trust promises so much!

High Tech-High Touch-High Pressure
The world that Naisbitt foresaw in Global Paradox was one of contradictions. As he saw them:

• “The bigger the world economy, the more powerful its smallest players.”
• “As the world is increasingly made into a single economy, traditional nation- states will become weakened.”
• “The center of power will be moved to local production centers.” 
• “The more universal we become, the more tribal we act.”

Each of these seeming paradoxes, if not resolved by trust, creates a dissonance that can reverberate through an entire society or resound in a single individual. Just such a paradox and dissonance exists in the vacation industry. Recent surveys of timeshare owners by ARDA show a high level of satisfaction with the product, and a low approval of how it is sold. A case of low tech–high touch. 

The importance of this would not be wasted on John Naisbitt, then or now. As is his unabashed style, he stepped forward in Global Paradox with more predictions, among which was that there are “three paradigm service industries that will drive the service led economies of the 21st century... telecommunications, information technology and ... tourism.” 

If Naisbitt is correct—and there is no reason to think he is not  -- the industry of vacation ownership could play an important role as part of the tourism paradigm in the future. It is imperative to seize upon the necessity of change demanded by high tech and seek to balance the high touch that is so ably provided. The bridge between these worlds is high trust. If  the opportunity is declined, the industry may suffer the ultimate dissonance and only remaining choice evolution offers—extinction.