Megatrends you need to know about
Discover the difference in ‘Trend’ definitions
Business Futurist, Kate Ancketill (who has the ear of businesses including Apple and Waitrose) shared insights into the frameworks and tools businesses can use to glimpse patterns and predictability amidst the apparent randomness and chaos.
GDR Creative Intelligence is a global consultancy and innovation partner to around 30 of the world’s largest consumer brands. Kate would never claim infallibility, but such a company doesn’t enjoy huge success without a demonstrable record of looking ahead and being right much more often than wrong.
All of us accommodate uncertainty and risk in everything we do, every day.
We make small, sometimes unconscious, calculations in all facets of our lives: as parents, shoppers, citizens, consumers, stakeholders, etc. Our lives run according to the outcomes of these big or small decisions, whatever the risk, or lack of it: should I invest in this or that start-up? Shall I walk or drive today? Should I wear those new shoes tomorrow?
In all these contexts, we’re guided by a constantly-changing mix of the rational and the gut-level, swinging between evidence on the one hand and hunches on the other.
Throughout this, the constant is the future and its inherent uncertainty.
What are Macroforces, Megatrends and Trends?
Our collective future is shaped by unknowns outside our control. As Kate explains, they can currently be grouped into four “uncertainties”: planet, self, economy and culture.
Macroforces are “long-term changes in the world that shape our experience of life” Says Kate.
Taking an example of one of those four uncertainties – the planet – the macroforce is the fact that the planet’s resources are finite and diminishing.
The megatrend – i.e., how people react to the macroforce – is the medium-term emergence of a more circular economy.
The trend is the current behaviour-change as businesses address the megatrend.
What megatrends will affect our future?
During Kate’s keynote, she provided us with an overview of the megatrends currently affecting the planet, citing three:
Rethinking our urban environment would mean smarter mobility, greener cities, improved data and energy grids;
Faced by looming catastrophe and government inaction globally, people and brands are likelier to act by themselves;
Covid and Black Lives Matter are compelling brands to do better on transparency, inclusivity and sustainability.
Examples of megatrends
She described companies working in new ways, influenced by these megatrends. A company selling cleaning products in reusable and refillable containers, driven by the mantra that ‘single-use is planet-abuse’; a store selling products like coffee, bread and chocolate at a slightly higher but ‘true’ price, meaning it arrives on shelves free from poverty, exploitation, pollution and climate destruction.
While these might look like niche outliers now, they show a direction of travel and allow us to see how consumer behaviour is changing, and how brands are changing to adapt to that behaviour (thereby feeding a virtuous loop).
Kate described some examples of newly-visible trends prompted by present megatrends. These included, in hospitality, so-called ‘Bizcations’, in which parents are offered private office space as well as family space, so they can work if necessary, while families are catered for with special meals, wellness sessions and recreational activities. She also talked us through the 3D printing of vegan steaks, a Dutch company offering ‘access to mobility’ (your membership buys you use of a car as and when you need it), and a UK high-end bike business which features knowledgeable staff livestreaming about their features to potential customers.
The next big trend or just a passing fad?
Of course, seen through the prism of all this evidence, every trend feels real. But how, as someone asked in the Q&A, are we able to spot a false one, something which seems real now but might be a passing fad? Kate’s answer echoes the start of her first presentation: you spot fads using a balance between science and gut, or, if you like, the quantitative and qualitative.
First, you triangulate. This means acquiring evidence from at least three independent sources (i.e., not one story picked up and used by two other sources).
Second, you mull the thing over. Sit with it and see how you feel, using all your years not only in business, but in life at large: as a consumer, grown-up and individual capable of coming to your own conclusions.
Somewhere between that triangulation and that gut instinct is where you’ll know for sure if you’re dealing with a trend or a fad.
And, like Kate, your judgment might not be infallible, but – also like Kate – you’ll end up right more often than wrong.