The Future is More Certain Than Usually Thought
Dr. Joe Webb, director of Lexington, Kentucky-based What They Think’s Economics and Research Center, offers thoughts on the marketplace’s future in light of current economic challenges.
The current financial turmoil is supposedly making it very difficult to forecast the future. However, there is a strange paradox about forecasting—the further out you forecast, the more accurate you can be. But, you can’t use numbers.
Most planning exercises I’ve seen in organizations are numbers-focused only and not trend-focused. Demographic trends are almost always the most important underlying contributor to the direction of change. The most important demographic trends today are birth rates, increasing longevity and increasing wealth.
I’ve put together a list of trends that affect print demand and communications industries with an eye toward 2018. The year matters not—it’s just a convenient time frame to aim for.
• Global instant connectivity will intensify and decrease in cost. The world will not be totally connected in 2018 because some frontier and emerging markets and cultures will still be lagging, but communications that are nearly free in cost and politically free from censorship and restraint will offer massive opportunities and be a disruptive, yet constructive force, in many countries.
• Handheld “supercomputers” will be our constant companions. What were considered to be supercomputers thirty years ago will be found in common consumer devices and at prices that make them almost disposable. The ubiquity of these devices will mean that the constraints of geography, distance and time will become less meaningful; possibly even meaningless.
• More smaller business entities will work virtually. As entrepreneurship develops in new economies, the new communications infrastructure allows smaller businesses to conduct business globally, and even large companies will use more virtual workers, only requiring occasional appearances in the office.
• The freelance and independent workforce will continue to grow, especially as older, knowledgeable workers live longer, healthier, wealthier lives and choose to leverage their specialized knowledge. The word “outsourcing” will have almost no meaning because individuals will be increasingly able to work for others without regard to location.