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The Future of Business – 20 Key Trends leaders should know (Trends 11-20)

May 16, 2017

Part 2 of; The Future of Business – 20 Key Trends leaders should know. 

Part 1, with Future Trends No.1 to 10 is here.

Trend 11 – Born digital and hollow

An increasing number of new businesses are adopting a very lean resourcing model – automating wherever possible from the outset in their pursuit of exponential growth and the much coveted billion-dollar “Unicorn” valuation.

Indeed, we will see a proliferation of so called Distributed Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), for example, that exist only in software and literally have no employees.

There is a critical and continuous conversation required on how to monitor the entirely digital entities we create and how to ensure that somewhere in the system the organization has sufficient human talent with the capacity to spot emerging changes, risks and opportunities and respond innovatively.

Trend 12 – I serve the system – no human to turn to

One of the most soul withering phrases we hear today is, “I’m sorry, the system won’t let me do that.”

As we automate more and place increasing authority in the hands of technology, leaders have to be mindful of what this could do to brand identity and public discourse about us in social channels.

Firms will need to make clear choices over the extent to which they will allow humans to exercise discretion in the service of the customer, what our back up plan is when the technology fails in a highly-automated system, and whether there are differentiation opportunities in having a more human face to the business.

Trend 13 – Surveillance capitalism

As individuals we are becoming ever more willing to both give away our personal data and to allow firms to see the content of our social media, emails and online searches.

The firms that provide these “free” services can extract valuable data from our activity which can be resold and used to target us more effectively. Some suggest that by using predictive analytics and machine learning tools to analyze between 64 and 200 of the items we like on Facebook, a detailed profile can be developed of everything from our likely purchasing behaviour to what we might watch and our voting intentions.

This notion of “surveillance capitalism” is likely to increase in the coming years. As businesses, we need to decide the extent to which we’ll try to extract commercial value from our customer data and whether we’ll look to protect ourselves from others’ exploiting the data we have provided.

People and the Workplace

Trend 14 – Swarm organizations

For firms cutting back to the barest minimum of human resources, they are increasingly likely to adopt an accelerated “swarm resourcing” concept to respond to new opportunities.

The model is based on the approach favoured by film producers – pulling together teams for critical projects on demand – drawing on contractors, partners, agencies, staff on zero hour contracts, and internal resources.

The core challenges here are getting the team formed, bonded, up to speed, aligned, and functional in the shortest possible time and having the right internal capability and management processes to support such an approach.

Trend 15 – Privacy vs. Performance in the always-on society

A range of workplace cameras, motion monitoring devices, sensors, and wearable technologies mean that – when coupled with data from employees’ mobile devices, laptops and desktops – we will increasingly be able to monitor literally every employee all the time.

Some firms are already monitoring factors such as concentration, reading rates and typing speeds to assess employee productivity. There are obvious benefits to be gained from constantly tracking the health, wellbeing and productivity of employees.

Businesses will need to decide whether this constitutes an infringement of rights or an invasion of privacy and what the implications might be for employee motivation and corporate reputation when adopting such “big brother” surveillance tactics.

Trend 16 – Alpha male vs. Embracing the feminine

As firms automate and become more numbers-focused and control-orientated in their thinking and management structures, there is a feeling that this could drive out essential feminine traits that can differentiate us in the marketplace.

While the issue of gender balance itself will undoubtedly persist for some time to come as firms fail to take full advantage of available talent, concern is also now over the loss of feminine traits that help define our culture and distinguish our brand in the marketplace.

Leaders will need to pay serious attention to the challenge of ensuring that crucial feminine factors such as culture, connection, serendipity, empathy, and compassion don’t get devalued or eliminated as we pursue efficiency and give greater agency to the machine.

Trend 17 – Human augmentation

The trend towards people enhancing their brains and bodies is only likely to accelerate. Over the next five years it will be increasingly commonplace for people to use “nootropic” drugs and supplements to enhance their cognitive capacity. This will be happening alongside the use of genetic modification techniques to change everything from eye colour and hair thickness to skin pigmentation.

Similarly, the use of exoskeletons, 3D printed body parts and super smart materials will also enable physical augmentations that make us stronger, faster and less susceptible to pain.

The age of the superhuman is beginning and leaders and HR need to think about the pros of cons of encouraging such practices and addressing their potential impact across the organization.

Trend 18 – Always on the way-out and something on the side

Someone entering the workforce at the age of 18 today could easily live to 100 and do anywhere from 20 to 40 jobs in that time – if they are still working at all in 50 years’ time. Hence, new employees will always have an eye to the next job and many will be pursuing side-businesses – hopefully in their spare time.

While such entrepreneurialism is increasingly encouraged, firms are going to be challenged to find ways of motivating and getting the full commitment of people who are “always on the way out” from the day they arrive.

Trend 19 – Workplace stress

Each successive wave of workplace research suggests that stress levels are rising and leading to unhealthy, unproductive and potentially dysfunctional behaviours.

Mindfulness meditation, yoga, sleep advice, dietary improvements, and regular health checks can help mitigate stress. However, the real answer lies in radical shifts in the way we run our businesses, set personal targets, measure performance, and manage people.

Those firms which have the courage to pursue a different approach and offer an alternative, less damaging path to success could find themselves in greater demand as employers.

Trend 20 – A very human business

As a direct response to many of the forces outlined above, there are a growing number of businesses which are deliberately swimming against the tide and genuinely putting people at the heart of their strategies.

While they are still using technology, it is seen as a productivity aid that helps free up the time of smart people to engage more deeply with customers, develop new strategies, be creative, experiment, and build more sustainable points of difference that are embedded in people not technology

About the authors

This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Rohit Talwar (CEO) and Steve Wells (COO) of Fast Future Publishing. Rohit Talwar is a global futurist and keynote speaker. He has a particular interest in Artificial Intelligence and is the editor and contributing author for The Future of Business. Steve Wells is an experienced Strategist, Futures Analyst and Partnership Working Practitioner. He has conducted research and analysis into emerging technologies for a range of client organizations. They are co-editors of Technology vs. Humanity and a forthcoming book on The Future of AI Business.