Harvard and The Gumboot: More than 10 Global Trends to Watch

About a month ago, an up-and-coming business magazine, the Harvard Business Review, released an article called “The 10 Trends You Have To Watch.” The article is penned by Eric Beinhocker, a Senior Fellow at the McKinsey Global Institute, and also had some help from Ian Davis, McKinsey’s 10th Managing Director, and Lenny Mendoca, Chair of the McKinsey Global Institute and Director of their San Francisco Office. The authors have defined the trends listed below as accelerating, steady and decelerating. For the record, I feel smarter just having read it.

The Most-Watched Trend in Global Business

The Most-Watched Trend in Global Business

What more can you say about brilliant leaders from the planet’s leading strategic management consultancy? As it turns out, not much, covering bases is what these guys do. Here’s what the best of the best think you need to pay attention to:

  • Natural resources feeling the strain – this trend is “steady.” According to Beinhocker et al, “strategists should plan for a future of resource price increases, volatility and even shortages. Google, for instance, has procured land for server farms near hydroelectric power sources in the Pacific Northwest.” The writers conclude that “resource productivity” will become central to competitiveness in global business.
  • Globalization under fire – this trend is “decelerating.” Will countries like Canada be able to reconcile their need for international talent with economic and social protectionism? Well, with emerging markets producing a growing share of of the world’s college graduates and the “relentless march of information and communications technology” the answer is “yes.” Knowledge work will be distributed globally. And immigrants will bridge the demographic gap in places like Canada, so these articles tell me.
  • Trust in business running out – this trend is “accelerating.” No kidding. “Since the recession began, there has been a precipitous decline in trust. The Edelman Trust Barometer found that 62% of adults in 20 countries trusted corporations less in December 2008 than they had a year earlier.” That’s right, folks. There’s an Eldelman Trust Baraometer…
  • A bigger role for government – this trend is “accelerating.” Arguably, previous crises have resulted in permanent changes in government’s role, and, according to our experts from McKinsey, this one will do the same. Creative partnerships between the public and private sectors will be important in meeting future challenges.
  • Management as a science – this trend is “steady.” The economic crisis has exposed the limitations of data, computing power and mathematical models as managerial science. Drawing on behavioural economics, becoming more dynamic, and integrating real-world feedback, Beinhocker argues, will see a more realistic vision of human behaviour applied to places like the finance sector. Because – wow - did those guys ever drop the ball. Well, no, not really. They kinda told us they had, like, fifty balls when, really, they had a paper clip and some old bubblegum. Or something like that.
  • Shifting consumption patterns - basically, the McKinsey team has these tidbits on the changes in the way businesses manipulate the way consume stuff: prepare for slower long-term growth in global consumption, shift your investment to Asia, focus on older consumers, and find ways to offer luxuries on a budget. Hey, CEOs, as it turns out, your corporate jet might actually be cheaper than flying first class!
    Will keeping watching out for Global Business help or hinder this unfortunate trend?

    Will watching out for Global Business help or hinder this unfortunate trend?

  • Asia rising – this trend is “steady.” This is a great business-language quote: “As Western consumers tighten their belts, expect [powerhouses like Haier, Chery, Tata] and other, less-known players to bring their value-oriented propositions to global markets.”
  • Industries taking new shape – this trend is “increasing.” All companies and industries might be suffering from the recession, but the crisis gives strong players more opportunities to reshape their competitive environment.
  • Innovation marching on - this trend is “steady.” Aside from a lot of trimming in the world of R&D, one key example is to be noted: “Apple’s resurgence as a force in consumer technology was fueled by R&D conducted from 2001 to 2003 despite a sharp decline in sales and margins. This bet paid off handsomely, putting the iPod in the pantheon of game-changing innovations born of hard times, alongside Depression-era breakthroughs such as nylons and the jet engine.” I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: entrepreneurs love a downturn.
  • Price stability in question – this trend is “accelerating.” According to Beinhocker et al, managers around the world will have to question their basic assumption that the developed world provides a stable price environment. Things are going to get interesting

So there it is. Pretty interesting stuff that can give us all – in one way or another – a more comprehensive perspective on global business, government and human consumption patterns. I think this Harvard Business Review publication is gonna go places.

What about community? We here at The Gumboot, as you know, wholeheartedly embrace ideas from everywhere. We also think that there are a few more global trends that you have to watch. Cooler ones, too. Researchers at The Recent Findings Institute have provided this blog’s editorial board with some data, too. The findings have been listed in a particular order following an exhaustive statistical assessment and managerial matehmatical modeling based on humour,  importance, relevance,  probability, and awesomeness. Without further ado, here they are:

  1. The Great Divide: Fear Mongering vs. Funny Mongering - this trend is “steady.” Who will win? Jon Stewart or Bill O’Reilly? Rick Mercer or CanWest Global? Stephen Colbert or Glen Beck? The Swine Flu or Rational Thought? Really, this battle has been going on ever since Billy Shakes penned some of the greatest, ripping-good-yarns about cross dressing and mistaken identity. In this ongoing struggle, it used to always be about which side could out-yell and out-spend the other; however, with the rise of the Interscape, hilariously inspired twitbloggers are now competing with the barons of mainstream media.  According to this guy, it’s all about coping with the syntheic creation of fear. After all, any good Historian of Humour will tell you that laughter has – ahem - historically been an accurate and common response to fear and tragedy. And nothing oozes human tragedy like Glen Beck and Alex Tsakumis. Who will triumph in the West Coast struggle of positive humour vs. negative personalized attacks on reason and grammar? Only time will tell.
  2. The Alliance Between Pirates and Ninjas – this trend is “decelerating.” Barack Obama’s pledge to halt the rise of piracy combined with backlash following a foiled attempt at world domination by the creator of Real Ultimate Power has marginalized these once prominent symbols of counterculture. Did we even know there was an alliance between ninjas and pirates? Not really. I mean, ninjas, as we know, keep to themselves, and pirates, well, they’ll drink and boast and lie so much that no one really believes anything they say. In any case, what began as a partnership to slander and, eventually, destroy cowboys seems will most likely crumble beyond repair in the coming years.
  3. Community Service - this trend is “accelerating.” Ted Kennedy was a good man. He put forward the bill for the Serve America Act. Over 80% of Canadians do some kind of volunteer work. Dr. Stephen Toope, President of UBC, has mandated that 10% of programming at the university must have a community service learning component by 2012.Yesterday’s “teach English in Japan” is today’s “oversee a micro-financing project in Ghana” – young people from Europe and North America are immersing themselves in the poverty of the developing world and returning home with all sorts of stories and lessons about community. Socialites from priveleged backgrounds are doing it, too! There is a dark side, though, like with the recent funding cuts to Chilliwack’s Time Out program for seniors. The community rallied and volunteers, not paid staff, will now take on the task of spending time outside with the elderly. This is a slippery slope; if people will do jobs for free, other people won’t get paid for them.
  4. Regionalism – this trend is “accelerating.” And not just because of Kurt’s divisive jab against the “Irate Toronto Lobby” over the Coors marketing fiasco. Going beyond our reasons to find food, adventure, business, resources, and everything else will need to be thought about long and hard by many. Prices will rise. And so will heightened ethical, social and environmental awareness. And, no offense to Toronto, but who do we have more in common with: people from The Tdot or folks from Portland, Seattle and Boise? Sam Adams and Gregor Robertson would be a great governing pair for the Republic of Cascadia!
  5. Johnism – this trend is “accelerating.” Despite its few detractors, the general unfairness of the global political system will eventually marginalize people so much that they will look for a new ideology to follow. Any ideology.
  6. Production by the Masses - this trend is “accelerating.” This was Gandhi’s idea. Mass production is unequal and makes a lot of stuff for people in wealthy countries that can afford it. Production by the masses harnesses the priceless resource of “clever brains and skillful hands,” which are possessed by all human beings. This idea suggests that such brains and minds need to be supported with first class tools. For certain, this will empower people from every society on Earth. The rise of social media is a great example of this. The fact that computers can only be purchased by the rich – except in Uruguay, where cheap computers are given out to school children – is an example of how far we have to go.

    "Beware my Ingenious Plan to Enslave Humanity"

    "Beware my Ingenious Plan to Enslave Humanity"

  7. The Rise of Africa – this trend is “steady.” Long story short, when it comes to dealing with catastrophe, Africa eclipses all other continents. Famine, drought, genocide, germs, war, corruption; you name it, they’ve endured it. If/when things start getting really bad around the world, Africa and its people will be able to roll with hardship a lot better than us. This is purely anecdotal, but I have a hard time believing they’re reacting as catastrophically to the recession, swine flu or possible-Terminator-enslavement as we are.
  8. Tipping Point: Technology and Germs – this trend is “accelerating.” All I know is that we’re going to soon be eviscerated by a combination of flu-ish germs and/or hand held, mobile entertainment devices. I don’t know exactly what it is that will destroy us, but I do know that it’s called The Swinepod.
  9. Robots Causing Trouble for Humans – this trend is “terrifying.” Is anyone watching what’s going on in Japan? It’s like a prequel to I, Robot. All one has to do is Google “Japan robots” to see what these soon-to-be servants of humanity can do. Unfortunately for us, this servitude will undoubtedly turn on its head in the not too distant future.
  10. The Re-Engineering of Time – this trend is “steadily accelerating while it decelerates.” As I listened to a wonderful Organizational Behaviour professor today something struck me with what he said: “the thing in business that we can never have enough of is time.” Simultaneously, some movements around the world are trying to cram 36 hours into a 12 hour day while others want to slow everything down. Regardless of what side you’re on, you probably know that, whether it’s domination of fast-paced-efficiency or burnout-induced-relaxed-lifestyle, only one side of this binary will emerge victorious. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m writing this while riding my bike, talking on my other phone, drinking a chai latte, eating a bagel, and I think I just caused a bit of a traffic snarl…

So there it is. At least 20 trends to watch this year. What’s gonna be the coolest? My money’s on robots aligning with pirates to take on ninjas. Or, man, imagine a ninja robot intergovernmental agency of corporate social responsibility!

This has been a trendy experience. Thanks for your time.

- JCH