2009 is going to be an extraordinary year of change for Australian business.
This is in line with my belief that we have experienced more change in the last 2 years than in the previous 20 years and that in the next 10 years we will experience the equivalent of 100 years of change.
I believe the business marketplace for 2009 will start off tough and will ease slightly as the year progresses; that there will be a churn of great staff in big business, tweets and hippies will rise to the fore, business will have to increasingly master the skill of being nimble and flexible, and that social change started by our environmental concerns and fanned by the recent economic downturn will rapidly evolve our society’s beliefs, thinking and consumerism.
In my regular and uncannily accurate look in to the future (nine and a half out of ten predictions I made for 2008 came to fruition) I foresee the following ten (10) trends and issues as being key influencers on business in 2009:
1. Cautious Consumer – Consumers will, for the first time in many decades, question their purchases and even contemplate delaying purchasing gratification (but not for too long though) as they balance their desire to buy against their willingness to amass more debt. The underlying desire (and spending habit) is still there and lying not too far below the surface, but we / they will need to come up with slightly better justification for purchasing non essential items than previously.
2. Conservative Consumer – 2009 will herald an era of conservatism, as President Obama takes to the main stage and the world’s financial problems continue, a new wind of austerity and conservative thinking will blow across consumerville.
3. Naughty Hippies– There will be a rise in hand made goods, crafts and upcycling (waste materials and scraps being used in an eco friendly manner to create new products of greater use, or value) and the on and off line arts and entertainment industry will also flourish as people seek comfortable and familiar ways to temporarily forget their daily grind and if you look carefully you may even spot the reincarnated 00’ies version of a 1960’s hippy, looming on the cyber horizon.
4. We the people of the media –on line sharing of information and lives through tweets (twitter.com user generated comments), blogs, vlogs, wikis, widgets, YouTube’s, FaceBook, MySpace, and countless other on line formats and websites, coupled with the ever growing usage of personal mobile devices (think iPhone, PDA’s, Google Phones) and the consumer desire to be soft wired (constantly on, available and connected to the internet) are leading the content demand revolution and fanning the creation of new forms of online media through which to deliver it.
5. Sociocentric Business –The challenge for savvy businesses in 2009 will be to find online social relevance for their business, brands, products, staff, stakeholders and consumers and then to engage, harness and grow these activated online community dwellers into becoming loyal brand ambassadors that will willingly go forth and spread the businesses’ gospel.
6. Play nicely together – we love a good gossip or a sneak peek over the fence to see what our neighbours are doing and on line social media and social networking are allowing us to do just that. 2009 will see new social media tools and toys emerge (but not at the same veracious speed of the last few years), and even more interestingly we will start to see virtual bridges being built between competing social websites’ encouraging members of one social network to easily hop across to another social website, join in the conversation and bring along all their friends. The profitable business twist on this is that will be able to entice entire communities to visit our websites, not just individuals, and using the magic of Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 technologies instantly transform our online offering to the meet the specific needs of that visiting community.
7. Sorry to iterate you, but… rapid insightful business decisions, or iterations, will increasingly become the norm in corporate land. In a world where business, innovation and production are all on short lead times, the ability to quickly multitask your way to a decision, or to market, will be the new corporate “must-have” skill set.
8. Let someone else do it – the world of business is truly global. We can readily source ideas, innovation, products, services and knowledge from anywhere in the world and transport them to anywhere else. We can meet on or off line, or in virtual worlds to collaboratively work on projects, and easily grow and contract our workforce by bringing in people with niche skills to work on projects as we need them. Get set for a new round of on and off line global insourcing and outsourcing.
9. Changing of the corporate boardroom guards – just as Baby Boomers slowly exit the workplace and Gen X and Gen Y’s thought they had it to themselves, there’s a new kid coming on to the work block – Gen Z (born 1991 – present). They will bring new perspective, energy, work ethic, gadgets and a new sense of what’s important to the workplace. These are the guys for whom social media, virtual on line worlds, iPhones and other new fandangled technology are second nature and common place, who see the world as their oyster and who are used to rapid change and thrive on it.
10. Australia is the best place to be in 2009 –Australia will start its journey back from the precipice of economic disaster long before America and Europe, with our economic potholes and bumps starting to smooth out towards the last quarter of 2009, however it will be 2011 before business rebuilds a new sense of normal.