As the quantity of information at our fingertips increases, so too do the challenges of keeping up with analysis, pattern spotting and extracting useful information. So how will the future shape this process and our approach to business?
First we must understand that we are active participants in shaping the future – we make it happen. This requires vision, but also an understanding of both key society drivers and the mindsets of the people we want to address. With data overload everywhere we look, we need a system that talks back to us in an informed way – a platform that links our data in an integral and inspirational way.
Value sets are shifting and new business models are set to emerge. There are huge opportunities here, but we must also recognise that people’s priorities and value set will change drastically in years to come. With consumption no longer the end goal in society, people’s whole approach to earning, saving and spending money is clearly up for review – they are looking for personal empowerment and new ways of finding meaning and personal value.
Therefore success in the future will depend on governments, institutions and brands acting as facilitators, enabling people to achieve a better quality of life. By doing this, they become empowerment organisations, practising empathic leadership. This new style leadership – embracing understanding and two-way dialogue - is vital because increasingly people will ask: “How can I get more out of my life?” Plausibility can only be achieved when organisations facilitate, educate and inspire, as well as adopting a sound ethical philosophy. In the future this will become a given – products, services and experiences powered by ethics and human emotion will win out. After the global recession we clearly see that Profit is now calculated in a very different way than yesterday. So, to build trust, everyone - even banks - must adopt a Triple-P approach: Profit, People and Planet.
Alongside the rise of accountability we have sustainability, which has already become a new religion for many – especially within the developed world. Investing in a greener future is not only crucial but also makes good business sense. Governments and companies pioneering this approach are seeing huge benefits and “green” is already influencing how we do business and shape policy in dramatic ways.
But contrasts co-exist and this presents tough challenges for organisations bombarded with contradictory media messages and data. Consumers and citizens demand on the one hand transparency and ethics, and on the other more choice and discounts. To balance these two contrasting demands requires whole brain thinking and culture. Left brain (analysis/detail) and right brain (bigger picture/concepts) dynamics must come together to enable organisations to think from the outside in. In other words, organisations must step outside their corporate or government box and understand how people see them in order to effect positive changes and innovation.
A key tool for this process is Trend Mapping – a shortcut that helps to decode cultural contexts in society, reveal the bigger picture and identify challenges and opportunities that are impacting on us now and in the future. To assist with this process I use my Trend Atlas to navigate the future. Below I have mapped out the key drivers from the Atlas that will affect society, brands and people now and in decades to come. They are:
So how do these trends and society drivers affect Tomorrow’s People? The technology revolution alongside a strict sustainability agenda means we live in a polarised society made up of patchwork tribes who share common lifestyle and value sets across conventional geographic borders. This moves us away from traditional demographic mapping into a more profound and holistic understanding of people. Society is made up of contrasting mindsets - Hunters - Me People and Gatherers - We People. Tomorrow’s successful organisations must target both groups. To illustrate what will matter to people over the next decades and how to address them I have created four mindset profiles to illustrate the next generation of consumers:
On a rational level, people demand ease of access, mobility and connectivity to drive their quest for empowerment. Further transparency and openness is a must for corporate integrity and trust. On an emotional level, people expect “good value” and ethics within a caring corporate community. Therefore genuine dialogue and engagement is essential in order for organisations to develop people-centric offerings.
As the four mindsets above demonstrate, we are experiencing a paradigm shift and life priorities are changing. People are saying: “Don’t tell me, show me!” Connecting with others requires empathy. It is about finding the ability to inspire and empower. Understand too that people – whether they work for you, use your services or buy your products – have higher standards and more complex decision making processes than ever before. They also expect more meaningful choices, so whatever you offer must be presented in an eth-cal and honest package.
We are entering a new era where value sets are shifting and with that new business models will emerge. It is important not to underestimate the future importance of sustainability and ethics. Empathic Leaders will be those who think from the outside in and feel from the inside out.
Finally, remember that the future is not some place we go – we actively create and shape our world. And in order to do this successfully, we must learn how to embrace change and think differently. Equally important is the courage to face future challenges positively and in a spirit of hope rather than of fear.
*Anne Lise Kjaer is Future Narrator and founder of international trend forecasting consultancy kjaer global, specializing in future focused and consumer centered concepts (see www.kjaer-global.com). She is also C:F Advisory Board member.