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Ten trends to watch in 2013 amid the great power shift

  • Thomas W. Malnight & Tracey S. Keys

| Sat, February 2 2013 | 02:30 pm

The great global redistribution of economic and social power will continue over the next 12 months. Power will flow away from traditional institutions that have failed to deliver progress – especially governments and banks. It will flow toward communities and individuals and also to businesses whose leaders understand and act on the big trends shaping our future.  

This future looks uncertain and unstable. Hurricane Sandy was a deadly reminder of shifting climate patterns, emphasizing the need for new ways to manage the world’s resources and environment. There are growing levels of social unrest over rising inequality, austerity, unemployment, political ineptitude, institutional failure and more.

And companies will continue to fail because they misread the future – like Kodak, which invented the digital camera but filed for bankruptcy after focusing on its core film business instead.  

In our Global Trends Report for 2013, we highlight 10 trends that business leaders need to focus on today.  

1. Social everything: New generations and their digital world stepping forward.  

Social technologies are now a central part of everyday life and work. The social generations are reshaping companies from the inside, helping them to build broader, more agile networks to create and deliver value to customers. Mobility and connectedness will be at the heart of the future business environment: communications and marketing are moving from a focus on one-to-one relationships, to many-to-many.  

2. Redefining value: The consumer is winning the fight to own the new consumer.  

The notion of value is being redefined for the 21st century. Consumers have choice. They want personalization and to participate in value creation, shifting the mindset to “made with me”. Value will also be about “shared with me” as the ownerless economy expands. This will be driven particularly by younger generations who value experiences they can share – and that also deliver benefits to society – over possessions.  

3. Distributed everything: Mobility in production and consumption.  

Mobility is entering a new stage. Not only does consumption occur anywhere, anytime, but the tools and resources to create and capture value are more broadly distributed too. Work is becoming increasingly distributed. Small-scale manufacturing, including 3D printing, will reshape production. Renewable technologies are distributing energy production, while mass teaching platforms are revolutionizing education. Ask what can’t be distributed, not what can.  

4. The next “industrial” revolution: Robots and smart machines reshaping work.  

Smart machines and robots will redefine society. Robots are now being deployed as receptionists, banking assistants and even prison guards, while technology allows amateurs to do what professionals once did. The upside: addressing issues such as caring for ageing populations. The downside: huge job losses. Yet the next wave of smart machines will also create new kinds of jobs. The challenge will be to ensure a workforce that is ready and skilled for them.  

5. The new space race: Pushing the frontiers of technology once again?  

Scientific advances from national space programs have had a significant impact on how we live and work, from advanced materials to global telecommunications. Now, commercial space travel and exploration is a reality, even as a new space race hots up, particularly between the US, China and Europe. New advances will surely result, as will questions over the ownership of space “assets,” and whether advances will be shared for public benefit.  

6. Geopolitical wars: The fight to control the future.  

The BRICS and Beyond (other rapidly growing economies) will be where the fight to control future economic growth and social development will take place. It’s a multipolar market landscape, based on dramatically different economic, social and political systems. Politicians, along with companies, are still trying to find and control their place in the new world order, even as trust in governments falls, nationalism rises and power shifts towards the people. The potential for radical political shifts at home and between nations is rising.  

7. Resource wars escalating: From a world of abundance to shortage.  

As the world’s population moves toward 9 billion by 2050, resources are under pressure, exacerbated by climate change. By 2030 we will demand twice as many resources as the planet can supply – risking social unrest and conflicts as people and nations compete for ever scarcer resources. Scarcity is already driving resource price volatility and cross-border investments. New technologies and rethinking consumption will be critical in future – with businesses rather than governments likely to lead the way.   

8. Business stepping up:

From profit to purpose.  

Many businesses are stepping up to a new role, often with partners, to tackle social and economic challenges. Corporations are seeking to build legitimacy – and the license to operate – in the eyes of demanding consumers, employees and stakeholders who care about the impact and motivations of companies with whom they associate. But it’s also good business as companies realize mutual benefits with society. Look for more businesses redefining their corporate purpose in this way.  

9. Information is power:

The security challenge.  

Cyberspace is the new frontline for security. Knowledge and information is a source of competitive advantage for organizations, nations and individuals. But it’s a growing challenge to retain control as mobility and the democratization of everything (commerce, politics and societies) increases – along with cybercrime and cyber war. Look for a rising tide of litigation, policies and regulation. Digital freedom or a “big brother” society?  

10. Who needs banks anyway?

Reshaping the financial system  

The financial system is broken. Regulators want change, businesses want new means of financing and consumers want alternatives. The “banks” of the future will include state-owned entities and firms that simply don’t use cash: think bartering and community currencies. Digital wallets and mobile banking are opening the door for telcos and software players, while trust is the entry point for retailers and crowdfunding communities. In an increasingly crowded and cashless financial system, banks may no longer be key players.    

Like any big shift, the dispersion of economic power presents challenges and opportunities. Are you and your business ready to take advantage of these 10 trends?      

Thomas Malnight is Professor of Strategy and General Management at IMD (www.imd.org). Tracey Keys is Director of Strategy Dynamics Global SA.


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