Ubertrends: The Forces That Will Govern Our Lives & Future


Anurag Harsh

An ubertrend is a long-term, transformational process with global reach, a broad scope, and a significant and dramatic impact.
There are three dimensions that make-up an ubertrend: (1) Time, (2) Reach, and (3) Impact. Each dimension is broader than the next. Together they constitute the parameters by which an ubertrend can be identified.
Time: Ubertrends can be projected with a high degree of probability at least 15 years into the future. Reach: Ubertrends affect all regions and stakeholders. This includes governments, corporations, and individuals. Impact: Ubertrends fundamentally influence policy-making, society, and the economy.
So, what are this decade’s ubertrends?
1. Globalization
This second wave of globalization is quite different from the first wave.
For starters, the previous wave of globalization was more West-oriented. The new wave will see the rise of multiple Eastern countries. Western countries will have operations in the East, but goods, people, and capital will flow bi-directionally.
Secondly, the historic patterns of trade will be upended as economic power moves eastward. Trade relations between emerging markets will fortify and sustain themselves with less dependence on Western markets.
This independence will have collateral effects on the way marketing is conducted, which brings us to the third change. A global perspective that acknowledges culture, region, and socio-economics beyond buying power will be born. Brands will need to build connections to previously untapped people.
Fourthly, the need for “multi” perspectives will intensify. Globalization 2.0 will demand a multi-dimensionality that few people have encountered. This will significantly increase the cognitive and strategic demands of leadership.
Lastly, contextual awareness and sensitivity to consumer demands will become indispensable. By definition, context spans the gamut of every intersection of human identity. Business success will be contingent upon sensitivity to context at home and abroad.
Some of you may have noted these changes already. They all comprise the essence of Globalization.
2. Demographic Change
Demographic Change will be the result of population growth, aging societies, and mass migrations. Concurrently, diversity will no longer be a goal but rather a reality that all people must contend with from different vantages.
In companies, managing diversity will soon be a core leadership competency. As mass migration between the East and West continues, and greater numbers of specialists enter the global job market, workforces will diversify at unprecedented rates. This will require a high degree of adaptation in governments and companies.
Companies will be hard-pressed to attract key talent, although the pool will be far greater. The new generation of workers will demand work environments that allow them to thrive and to comfortably embrace their nationality, age, gender, cultural background, work approach, and skills. This range of differences will require companies to cultivate openness, collaboration, and the fluid exchange of ideas and perceptions. The intuition to harness this diversity as a tool for growth will need tobe a key feature of leaders in the new social ecosystem.
Demographic change will entail the reevaluation of power structures in the private and public sectors. This will surely cause tension amongst some, but the reality of numbers will force changes, one way or the other.
3. Individualization and Value Pluralism
The ubertrend of Individualization and Value Pluralism operates on moral and the economic levels. This can be considered a natural consequence of economic upturn in historically impoverished or developing nations.
The improved economic circumstances of people in emerging societies have opened doors to new lifestyles and career options on a global scale. As this happens, values pluralize with the increased economic stability. People are now able to pursue their unique tastes and preferences more liberally than before.
These social develops will have ramifications in the business and political sectors. Niche opportunities will arise in local markets. Local businesses that want to capitalize on those niche opportunities will need to create business models that ease access to the products and services demanded. Governments will also find themselves in the position to meet the demands of their constituents. These demands will all be based on changing perceptions, values, and norms.
For companies, the effects of a society that is prospering economically can sometimes be devastating. Counterintuitive as it may seem, some markets and business models thrive off of cultural environments, and when people begin to undermine those environments, new ones are created. Often times, companies cannot revamp quickly enough, so they do not survive.
To survive, companies will have to meet the demands of an individualizing society head-on. As people in a society change, so too will workforces change. Careers, success, and happiness will all be perceived differently. The value and definition of good leadership will have to change in tandem.
Good leadership will come to mean creating more diverse teams, flatter hierarchies, openness and receptivity to autonomy. Leaders will need to learn how to foster loyalty and extended networks that aren’t based on the conditions of scarcity but rather of those of prosperity.
To some extent, the individualization and value pluralism exhibited worldwide is the byproduct of technological advances and the Internet.
4. The Digital Era
We have seen the proliferation of technology that increases and enhances how connected we are to each other. This has done away with customary separations in our personal, private, and professional lives. Paradoxically, in businesses and in homes, digitalization has brought some people closer together while simultaneously pushing other people farther apart.
In the market, for example, digital technology has essentially disrupted the power dynamics between companies, customers, and employees.
Customers can pick and choose from providers at high speed, including trading activity amongst each other. In other words, it is now possible to entirely circumvent companies for certain services and products. Customers can also dictate the reputations of companies through public forums directly linked to business success.
Among employees the concepts of work and workplace are changing dramatically. The Internet makes it all too easy to make the jump from employee to competitor and office jobs in brick-and-mortar locations are perceived as less and less necessary. Companies will need to adapt fast.
Company leadership will need to prioritize loyalty, reputation, and team building. In many cases they’ll need to do all this remotely. They will need to adapt to virtual work models with teams composed of diverse, often distant, groups of people. They will need to be adept at digital communication.
The digitalization and virtualization we see today will have far-reaching impacts on the meaning of security, ethics, infrastructure, company, employee, and a number of other well-established terms. Everyone will need to content with this.
Although there is much ground to cover in the Digital Era, we will never stay abreast of it all. As new technology arises, new trends will present themselves, and some will require more rapid adjustments than others.
5. Technological Convergence
For some time now the boundary between human life and technology has been all but disappearing. Technological Convergence is the overarching drive toward bringing together human beings and technology in ways that benefit human activity. Although broad, it is not difficult to see the effects of this in healthcare, business, government, education, nutrition and many other areas.
Convergence will fertilize so many aspects of human activity that an exhaustive description is nearly impossible. The short of it is that research & development departments will be crucial and interdisciplinary. People who can expertly bring together biotechnology, robotics, nanotechnology, cognitive science, psychology, logistics, and other combinations of hard and soft skills will be indispensable to organizations across the board.
The innovations made possible by convergence are endless. So too are the ethical debates that will bubble to the surface as intuitions about the moral limits of convergence come to the fore. Although no one can say exactly what the future will look like, the push toward convergence will transform entire sectors, remake industries, and threaten the existence of traditional business models.
The success of businesses will depend on the ability of leaders to build bridges with experts in these areas who can spearhead innovations, while living with high levels of uncertainty about progress and consequences. They must do this with an eye toward ethics and the real-world consequences of their outputs, not just their bottom-lines.
6. The Environmental Crisis
The Environmental Crisis is real and almost irreversible. It is having significant effects in government, corporations, and individual people’s lives. The causes may be debatable, but its effects on human activity are not.
The economic behavior responsible for the damage being caused by climate change has depleted a number of precious finite resources. Oil consumption from traditional sources peaked in 2006, yet millions of new consumers worldwide are increasing the demands for oil-dependent products and services.
Among the resources being depleted are water and minerals, which are critical to various industries, not to mention life.
This is a recipe for disaster. For businesses, it will drastically reduce margins. For people, it will cause profound global recession, famine, and social turmoil.
This environmental crisis will force companies to think differently about their carbon footprint and the social impact of their business activity. People and governments now consider this a moral responsibility, not a business decision.
The shifting perceptions of society will require transformational thinking and operations from leaders in companies that want to thrive. Business leaders will need to find innovative solutions that satisfy moral judgments about proper corporate ethic.
I would argue that this ubertrend is the most foundational of them all. It questions the underlying ideals of economic prosperity and development. Not all companies will rise to this moral call. For some companies, to do so would mean an upheaval of their entire business model.
Nonetheless, the market is being transformed by eco-ethics and, eventually, whether by public will or natural catastrophe, companies will succumb to the imperatives of eco-ethics.
The Perfect Storm
The ubertrends described above do not exist in a vacuum. They overlap and interact in ways that create challenges, complexity, and opportunities. They are equals parts creative and equal parts destructive.
We cannot say exactly what will happen as a result of one or all of these ubertrends, nor can we say exactly what is happening, despite being in the midst of them.
Human fallibility notwithstanding, we can already sense that major changes in the way we live are underway, so the best we can do is take stock and make changes accordingly.
Source: Anurag Harsh LinkedIn