7 Meta-Trends Defining Your Business in 2017

How many are you dealing with?

Death and taxes are highly certain. The meta-trends redefining our world are certain, the rest is uncertain. Can we drop the false certainty from data and work with what’s really around us?

Global statistics show only about 10 % of businesses will be. A microscopic number will be around in 30 years. Yet while our business might not be here, we individually probably will be. We might as well create the future we prefer.

It’s those with commitment who change the world. Gandhi and Mandala did. Obama, Winfrey Gates and Jobs have. A powerful vision can do much.

7 meta trends will influence our businesses and lives for the next 30 years whether we are Millennial, Gen XY or Baby Boomer.

These trends will impact how we live, work and play. The choices we consciously make today will define this world. But if we don’t admit that these meta trends are out there or if we only focus on a couple and ignore the rest, we will be blindsided.

The 7 Meta-Trends

Meta Trend 1. The New Age of Wealth and Life

Nutshell: More silver consumers, late wealth for Millennials, assets hollowed out, Gen XY are zombied.

Business opportunities will shift as more and more people enter the silver 70s. Gen XY are caught in the middle with post global financial crisis careers and finances while the millennial see life about life over wealth creation, thanks in part to seeing ‘zombied’ parents. While silver is the new gold, our joint future is post-millennial.

The basis for wealth creation, retirement and finances will re-define success for business and life.

Implication: What will wealth become? When will we really retire? What is ‘living well? For that matter, what is dying well? What is the well lived life?

Meta Trend 2. Supply Chains: Feeding & Watering the World

Nutshell: Stressed supply chains and more resources consumed with population growth and desired lifestyle

It’s simply food and water. The average human will die within 10 days without food or water.

Critical parts of the human lifeline (aka the global supply chain) are under increasing stress. Interconnected logistics that moves food, fashion and consumables swiftly around the world only needs minor knocks to break down. Supply chains have been deconstructed, distributed and dependent on multiple sub-contractors spread across the world shipping things globally.

With increasing populations globally, fresh water systems are under pressure from farming and urban demand for water. The FAO reports a third of the worlds food production goes to waste while people starve. At the other end of the supply chain, waste disposal is putting increasing pressure on other environmental systems.

People, companies, industries, economic systems, environmental systems and countries grow ever more entwined even as political debate may suggest other wise.

Implication: Can we be fully transparent about our supply chains and its fragility? Can we the hidden costs and impacts of our current practices? What could create trust and sustainability in this entwined world?

Meta Trend 3. The Human-Urban

Nutshell: It is no longer simply the human being

These days 80% of people live in cities. This density of living has it’s own economic and environmental consequences. Telecoms and technology are helping billions of people are coming online. Data is public. Privacy is a future luxury. If it can be automated, it will.

With robotics and artificial intelligence coming out of the background, what it means to be human, to work and to be valued will change. This may be our generations equivalent to Copernicus discovering the earth revolved around the sun combined with the printing press on steroids.

Implication: What is society, rights and values in this post urban world? What is it to be human when the best becomes an AI robot? More personally, who do you wish to be as the nature of work changes? How will we value humans?

Meta Trend 4. Tech – TechTech, FinTech and MedTech

Nutshell: Electrical self-driving cars, eMoney, re-grown organs are now

Tech in its multitude of forms will keep playing out. Forty years ago, no internet. Now it’s the internet of everything. Money is now electrons. Medicine keeps pushing forward. All making for a better life, each with dark un-discussed sides of pollution, cyber-fraud and medical ethics. Security was once about muscles, now it’s about who controls what electrons in the world of cyber security.

Implication: With the conveniences of tech, this is about having the courage to not simply take it on face value. What becomes valuable when we don’t need people to produce? What becomes important when electrons rule the world? What is ‘work’ when it’s ai?

Meta Trend 5. New Social Values + Social Dis-Connectivity

Nutshell: Human relationships – virtual or real?

In a world where money is electrons, and credit creation is the driver of GDP growth, wealth is something other than simply money and assets. Science tells us hugs are valuable, meditation is worth while.

Who we are with each other is changing. Time is the new luxury. Ownership is about sharing. Relationships are virtual and face time is now an app. Yet cafes and places to connect and be with others show that the need for real world connection is still here.

Implication: What will we value? What values are you using to prioritize your life, time and relationships to live authentically?

Meta Trend 6. Gaia and the Limited Unlimited

Nutshell: When the rising middle class wants a global lifestyle, can we continue to ignore the full cost of production with climate change?

With Chinese, Indian and Indonesian middle class wanting to live in western affluence and see the world, production impact of the world lifestyle will increase. 2 billion more people will enter the middle class in the next 20 years. Understandably, they’ll want the affluent lifestyle.

There are two ways to see nature and the planet – on TV or get out there into nature. Either way, the current global production practices say we’d need 4.1 planets if everyone lived the full Western lifestyle, suggesting plenty of opportunity for breakthroughs that use the unlimited resources (eg sun) versus limited resources. Clearly the extent to which real costs are factored into corporate cost structures will influence actions.

Look at this in context of climate change. It’s only a few more degrees for the world to have alligators in the Artic. The tropics would be more than hot. Letting climate wait and see is watching an egg dropping to the ground and saying it’s fine – simply as it has not hit the ground yet. 30 years is not long in climate terms.

Implication: How is the real cost of production recognized by accounts? Where will new industries be and which current ones will go the way of the dinosaur? What tech will help this? What’s the politics of wealth and power in this? 

Meta Trend 7. Capacity to impact, help and benefit

Nutshell: The post capitalist life – wealth in the new world order

In all this expanded capacity to see what is happening, to connect, to automate and use technology, and when money is electrons, who really knows what will be in 10, 20 or 30 years?

Trend 7 is about choice, this is neither positive or negative. It’s personal: it is possible to see the future as a time of turmoil, constraint and scarcity. It’s equally a time of opportunity, of connection and contribution.

This is also about courage. The courage to ask big questions and to do something.

Wealth and value is intangible. It’s about what we value. It’s our values in action. We’ve gone from a world where capital was land, to one where economic growth is about credit. The new capital is trust. Values are increasingly driving value.

To build trust, we actually need to be clear about what we value. With the transparency of Social Media, our truths show up swiftly and globally.

Implication: What economic and financial system will come out of these changes? What are the real values that we live by? What big questions are we willing to answer? Will our answers and actions be consistent with our value(s)?

What courage do you need for the choices you wish to lead?

So what’s possible?

With so much in flux, one choice is to simply say, “it’s all too much”, or to simply watch and continue ‘business as usual’. This, however, is a dangerous longer term option.

Another is to see a world of infinite possibilities, and that we can deliberately and consciously create a world that we prefer.

As a leader, consider these questions:

  • What world would you like to create?
  • Which of these trends do you want to influence for the better?
  • What would your business, organization, customers and employees need to believe about your vision for it to be real?

Overnight success really takes a decade. Big things can happen over 10 years.

I’m curious about what’s going on within these trends, so I will be interviewing other leaders in these areas. Who would you like me to interview? Drop me a note on LinkedIn message.

This is the introductory article to a 7 part series. It is a contribution to the 2017 Oxford Future Forum on Scenarios, Climate Change and the Arts.

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