Within my blog I have already touched upon the importance and relevancy of trends for businesses and organisations, but haven’t actually given any overview of the most important megatrends that shape our societies and impact our lives. I would like to change this by introducing you briefly to these megatrends. Of course this descriptions are based on my interpretation of these trends, the avid reader (or rather surfer) will come across different names and definitions, which however will describe more or less the same sort of phenomena.
Furthermore through our globalisation (in itself a megatrend) these trends have impacted most cultures across the globe . The degree of their development might be different across cultures and locations, but they are applicable, no doubt about it. So, what exactly are we talking about, then?
The key resources of our economic and social success are more and more going to be education and knowledge. The level of education has risen worldwide in recent years. This development has lead to the fact that companies as well as societies, their progress and productivity, will depend more on more on their human capital and their ability to innovate.
Companies and governments will have to ponder upon the influences and impacts of moving from industrial societies towards knowledge societies whereas for the individual this trend will translate into a continuous process of lifelong learning. Governments will have to create policies to manage the growing need for highly educated people, whereas in some countries it will become most vital to actually retain knowledge workers and avoid a brain drain (see for instance Italy and Greece)
The continuous and consistent digitalisation and connectivity is fundamentally impacting our lives like nothing before. The purpose (and functionality) of our mobile phones, the Internet and other related technologies within our information societies are constantly changing and are much different than their uses a decade ago (compare the use of a mobile phone in 2000 to an iPhone of today!). They have become a fundamental part of our day-today lives, shape our social needs and form the basis of new social networks with a clear impact on our consumer behaviour.
Modern digital technologies are becoming omnipresent and continue to be drivers for economic growth. Innovative business ideas and services will emerge in the wake of technological progress and shape all industries and sectors.
The impact and influence of women in our societies, economies and cultures has been continuously increasing during the last decennia. Level of education among women is increasing worldwide and in Western societies women have become better educated than their male counterparts. Women are becoming increasingly part of business and political landscapes (think of Angela Merckel or Hillary Clinton). Higher education levels and better economical positions and job prospects have fundamental impacts: economic independence and a higher self-esteem are only two factors which change the classical role image of women in our cultures. These factors have also positive and enduring effects on the role behaviour of men. As good examples for this trend can serve the recent social and political changes in the Middle East which have been carried and supported to a large part by women (read this).
The overall increase of prosperity in the last decennia and the emergence and interaction with trends such as globalisation, female power and new work has lead to more self-determined life-plans for each individual as was possible a generation ago. Individualisation defines the desire for uniqueness in all areas of life, life-styles, brands and products.
Health has steadily become one of the most important factors governing our lives and in all its facets is fundamentally shaping all areas of life. It has become one of the key markets of the future and as such is relevant for all industries (food, tourism, furniture, housing to name but a few). For individuals it will become more and more important to influence and manage ones health in order to achieve a desired work-life balance, live a more fulfilling and happy life. Already now you can observe a move from symptomatic treatments of illnesses towards a more pro-active health care – patients are becoming clients and health-care conscious consumers.
For the world globalisation is probably one of the most central challenges and at the same time one of its most important opportunities. Distances shrink, the world becomes a global village, borders become transparent, ideologies are breaking open. Globalisation is a mega trend which permeates every possible area of out lives: from business to cultural, from macro economical to personal and private.
Notwithstanding its negative image, globalisation has also had a very positive effect on our world. Thanks to it developing markets are participating and profiting more and more from global trade. The Internationalisation of markets and companies provides opportunities for brink nations such as China and India.
Mobility is emerging to be one of the driving forces of western societies. It will become a necessity for each individual, but also for complete economies and will manifest itself in things like day-to-day commute, travels, moves, professional and private life phases. Car travel will likely remain one of the key elements, but airplane traffic will take a much more prominent role for global economies as today. We will experience a shift of time and space – or better formulated, the way we are perceiving, working and living within space and time will change – due to the nature of our 24/7 information age. But as much as mobility will become omnipresent for society and its individuals, also the need for sustainable, stylish and economical mobility alternatives will emerge forming new markets and creating new consumer behaviours.
Ecology 2.0 has pretty much manifested itself already in all sectors and markets and slowly shifts and influences the way we perceive business-ethics, environmental values and develop a lifestyle of health and sustainability (LOHAS). This megatrend is following or perhaps has evolved out of the changed premises of globalisation, climate change, scarcity and price increases of our natural resources and the corresponding shift in values regarding our sense of responsibility, Economic growth is likely to be generated through a mixture of business interests, ecological aspects, social commitments, corporate responsibilities, conservation of resources and ecology. But in contrast to the first emergence of ecological consciousness during the mid 70ies to 80ies, Ecology 2.0 is going to contain not only the classical green topics of sustainable development, but also include social-ecological aspects of our actions such as fair labour conditions, creation of education and equal opportunities for females and minorities. Consumer behaviour will be redefined along ethical- ecological dimensions.
In modern societies we are on the brink from an industrial work organisation towards a creative economy with flexible, mobile team- and project oriented, independent forms of work. For organisations this will mean that growth and innovation will happen outside the classical organisational structures involving teams of specialists, sometimes even the customers, competitors or seemingly unrelated 3rd parties. Individuals are faced with more flexible forms of work, which will require frequent adaptations, moves and a continuous will to improve, but also offer a higher degree of self-fulfilment.. Craddle-to-grave jobs will make way to frequent job-changes, but also a strong need for work-life balance.
Demographic developments lead to an overall aging of societies in which fewer young people are faced with a higher number of elderly. Such developments will have profound impacts on our pension structures and the socio-cultural order, but it will also open up ample opportunities for businesses and markets. Whereas tomorrow’s society might get older, it will not age physically or mentally in the same way as a couple of generations ago. While our life-spans are extending, our life phases will adjust as well.