Twenty trends for 2020

By Paul Wallbank

Now we’re in the second decade of the Twenty-First Century, business is accelerating as a combination of changes in technology and society come together.

Some of these changes are global, such as the continued rise of China and the Western world’s aging. Others affect us on a personal level. All of them will have a big impact on our businesses and the way we work.

Many of these trends have been predicted for some time. It’s the availability of the cheap (almost free!) computing power that’s delivering many of the promises made by technology over the last thirty years. These are worth examining more closely.

Here are the top twenty...

1) Robots taking our jobs

Probably the biggest change that is affecting our businesses is how machines are taking over tasks ranging from window cleaning to inventory management. Anyone with a transaction based job or business will be having a forced career change before the end of the decade.

2) The Internet of machines

Those robots and computers are talking to each other which speeds up business decisions and will strip layers of management from organisations.

3) Flatter organisations

A consequence of those faster decisions is the need for less management. Organisations need to be flatter in order to process information faster unless they want to risk nimble competitors seizing business opportunities.

4) 3D printing

One of the most exciting, and business changing, technologies is 3D printing which allows you to print a coffee cup at your desk, help robots construct new buildings and a give a little boy a set of fingers.

5) Nano-technology

The 3D printing is happening alongside biological engineering. By the end of the decade, we’ll be able to print our own skin. By 2030, we’ll be printing replacement body parts like heart valves.

6) Mobile apps redefining service industries

The mobile phone app is currently booming but the real effects of these mobile services will be felt on industries as diverse as the taxi industry to the mining and agricultural sectors.

7) The fight for control of the mobile payments system

An upshot of the app economy is the question of who processes, and makes money, from online payments. The battle between banks, credit card companies, telcos and software companies is going to be a major business story of the decade.

8) Reinventing entertainment

Apps and connected machines are going to change consumer behaviour and nowhere is this more notable in the entertainment industries which are being revolutionised by tools like Google Glasses and social media.

9) The fall and rise of social media

Like many innovations social media was greatly hyped and now we’re seeing the backlash of it being oversold. Over the rest of the decade organisations are going to figure out how to use social media services effectively and profitably without hype.

10) Newspapers cease to exist

One of the effects of social media, mobile phone apps and the pervasive internet is the end of newspapers by 2020 as futurist Ross Dawson has predicted.

11) Data rights become an issue

As the amount of data companies and governments collect explodes, the question of who owns that information and what they do with it becomes more pressing. This is a major issue for 2020.

12) The DIY economy continues to rise

Easy to use internet tools have already changed industries like media, travel and retail. This is a continuing disruption where many more sectors are going to find the role of gatekeepers change or are eliminated.

13) A new education revolution

One of those gatekeeper industries is education. The role of universities, training colleges and schools is changing as online learning is revolutionising how students learn.

14) Reskilling the workforce

With all the new technologies entering business, our existing workers need the skills to use them properly. Coupled with online learning, there’s no excuse not to develop the skills to compete in the new economy.

15) Older workers re-entering the workforce

Most of the world is going over the demographic cliff as the baby boomer generation retires. Unfortunately they’re finding out that retirement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and they are looking at re-entering the workforce.

16) Dealing with a society at retirement age

With an aging population comes a range of issues that could be ignored while the workforce was young, now businesses and communities have to deal with the economic and social consequences of this.

17) China moving up the value chain

A nation that is being deeply affected by their aging population is China and to deal with this, the PRC is moving their industries up the value chain. This has big ramifications for consumers and business owners across the remainder of the decade.

18) Rising incomes in South Asia and Africa

The Twentieth Century model of using immigrants to address labour shortages relies on countries having an excess of skilled, young workers. The countries which have those this century in South Asia and Africa are growing themselves and the 2020s will see trade patterns beginning to change.

19) The great deleveraging

One of the most important factors affecting businesses and communities this decade is the end of the fifty-year post World War II credit boom. Businesses have to learn to make do with less.

20) Taming the Big Data tsunami

The greatest commercial challenge of this decade is dealing with the sheer flood of data streaming into organisations.

Managing and using this information effectively will separate business winners from losers. All of these trends point to one thing – business as usual as we knew it in the Twentieth Century is over.

It’s time for thinking fast and different.

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