How the business world will change in 2022 … meta brands and digital yuan, lunar stations and human creativity … what will you do?

January 4, 2022

2022 will be a year of dramatic innovation.

Schumpeter, the Austrian economist, articulated the nature of economic cycles, that every downturn is followed by a new era-defining upturn. Changing attitudes and entrepreneurial mindsets drive industrial revolutions and accelerated innovation. 57% of the Fortune 500 were founded during a downturn, 92% of patents are filed during or just after a downturn.

2022 is one of these moments. The shake-up of a global pandemic has led to a shake-out of markets, where consumers drive new agendas, businesses embrace new models, and new leaders rise up. This is the year when the global economy will surpass $100 trillion for the first time, growing by 4% globally, an average that hides dramatic and dynamic changes.

With more change in the next 10 years than in the last 250 years, looking ahead is not easy, in a world where stable and incremental progress have given way to complexity and uncertainty. Yet a future perspective is what every stakeholder seeks – a way forwards, new opportunities to grow, a better world. We need leaders to see and shape this future, and help us get there.

So what’s your future potential?

Now, more than ever, your potential as a business, and a leader, is defined by how you see your future – your boldness of vision, diversity of perspective, thoughtfulness of choice. How will you make sense of change? How will we seize the new opportunities before others? How do we connect to drive innovation and transformation? And how will progress deliver purposeful impact and profitable growth?

Here are a few clues to succeeding in the year ahead:

January 2022: Accelerating change

  • Probable: GM’s Mary Barra kicks off the Consumer Electronic Show 2022 in Las Vegas, as a mobility revolution gathers speed. Her multi-billion dollar investment in Cruise autonomous driving technology has transformed GM, as it seeks to compete in a new world order. This year’s CES also includes the Indy Autonomous Challenges for EV racing cars with a $1 million prize.
  • Possible: Tesla’s share price falls dramatically. While Musk says Tesla is an energy rather than mobility company, there are now over 120 brands competing in the EV market. Investors look to others, including the world’s largest, BYD, and fastest growing, Nio. At the start of 2022, Peter Rawlinson’s Lucid had a market capitalisation per car sold of $5 million, Tesla $2.3m, and Rivian $1.2m; compared to Toyota $120k and BMW $30k.

February 2022: Chinese revolution

  • Probable: China introduces its new digital yuan, one of the first sovereign digital currencies, just in time for the Chinese New Year, when “lai see” red envelopes traditionally change hands. The e-CNY wallet app will be showcased during this month’s Winter Olympics being held in Beijing (the first city to host summer and winter games), but faces stiff competition from Alipay and WeChat.
  • Possible: Good Doctor, already the world’s largest digital healthcare platform, developed by China’s Ping An, the world’s second largest insurance business, enters global markets offering low price healthcare via videophone and local kiosks. Huge advances are being seen in every aspect of medicine, from remote diagnostics to cancer therapies based on mRNA techniques that advanced as Covid vaccines.

March 2022: Resource constraints

  • Probable: Germany closes its last nuclear power stations, haunted by safety concerns, leaving new chancellor Olaf Scholtz and his green colleagues increasingly dependent on natural gas from Russia. Meanwhile France commits to build a new generation of nuclear plants, recognising it as one of the cleanest and most reliable sources of energy, but considering a rebrand as “elemental energy”.
  • Possible: Energy prices continue to soar across the world, as does the price and demand for other raw materials, most spectacularly lithium and copper for electric vehicle batteries, largely sourced from Australia and Latin America. Energy drives sharp rises in logistics and manufacturing costs, exasperated by continued supply chain chaos, leading to sharp rises in everything from food to vehicles, and significant inflation.

April 2022: Metaverse hype

  • Probable: Gaming platforms like Roblox have become the new shopping malls, but also the space where GenZ connects. BTS recently held the world’s largest music concert in Fortnite’s “Party Space“, Gucci launched pop-up stores with limited edition real products, Nikeland hosts virtual sporting events, and Tinder this month launches “Single Town” as a new meta dating space, where avatars dress their best and meet without consequence.
  • Possible: Facebook‘s transformation into Meta Platforms looks increasingly faddish. Maybe Zuckerberg forgot that his reimagined internet as an immersive world requires a VR headset in most cases. Apple sold 40 times more AirPods than Meta sold Oculus headsets in 2021, and has a much richer metaverse-potential with the evolution of its AppStore, plus the imminent launch of its intelligent eyewear, iGlass.

May 2022: Digital normality

  • Probable: The ABBA Voyage global tour kicks off in a specially-made venue at London’s Olympic Park, with the Swedish pop group appearing as holograms, selling out physical venues. Tickets start at $100, to be part of an entirely virtual experience, created by George Lucas‘ Industrial Light and Magic. 70 year olds Anni-frida and Agnitha, Benny and Bjorn, must be sitting at home in the their (now separate) saunas laughing.
  • Possible: The phrase digital is seen as increasingly redundant. 85% of consumers now believe they “live in a digital world”, and don’t see a divide between physical and virtual. “Hybrid” or “liquid” or “omni”-experiences are now their expectations everywhere. At the same time, the phrase “digital transformation” in business is equally meaningless. The challenge is not to automate towards sameness, but to transform to better.

June 2022: Exponential markets

  • Probable: India is now the world’s most populous nation with 1.5 billion citizens. While its fast growth rival, China, has often been seen as a decade ahead in development, India is rising faster. As the Indian tech diaspora – led by Satya Nadella, Sundar Pichai and Parag Agrawal – set global standards, local businesses like Mukesh Ambani’s super-app Jio Platforms are transforming Indian markets and daily lives.
  • Possible: Stripe, the payment business founded by two Irish brothers, Patrick and John Collison, is the world’s biggest IPO of 2022. At the start of the year it was valued at $95 billion, and now worth over $200 billion. It builds APIs that web developers can use to integrate payment processing into their websites and mobile applications. Other IPOs this year include Brewdog, Instacart, and Starlink.

July 2022: Changing lifestyles

  • Probable: Le Tour de France adds a new format this year with “Le Tour Femmes“, an 8-stage cycle race for women, sponsored by Zwift, the online cycling platform which created virtual tours during the pandemic, and continues to enable anyone to participate in the elite race from their homes. Similarly La Liga, Spain’s premier soccer league, is partnering with Dapper Labs to enable anyone to participate in its games.
  • Possible: As the Covid-19 pandemic finally subsides, 10% of companies continue with a remote working approach, 20% have demanded all employees return to offices, while 70% have continued to operate with a hybrid model. Those demanding a physical return have seen the largest voluntary exits, as companies have grappled with new EVPs to attract talent, changing lifestyle aspirations, particularly of younger people.

August 2022: African entrepreneurs

  • Probable: Kenya‘s Konza Technology City is just one of the vibrant start-up hubs across Africa’s “silicon savannah“. In the same way M-Pesa ingeniously transformed the way people transfer money, other simple or frugal innovations by African entrepreneurs are disrupting agricultureeducation, healthcare, and more. Aerobotics to Flutterwave, Sokowatch and Sunculture are great examples.
  • Possible: Lego‘s 90th anniversary is marked with fans voting for a return of its basic building blocks, which were a particular hit with adults during months of pandemic lockdown. “Creative play“, as the brand’s name translates, has taken on a bigger meaning, with Lego seeking to build creative spaces and design schools, encouraging human collaboration  in an increasingly remote and digital world.

September 2022: Space-age living

  • Probable: China launches its new Tiangong (translated as “Heavenly Palace”) space station, with a warning to Elon Musk and others to take more responsibility for Earth’s orbit which is increasingly crowded with mini satellites. It will be continuously manned by 3 astronauts with a focus on scientific research, and considerably smaller than the ISS which was launched in 1998 and will be retired in 2024.
  • Possible: Lunar Gateway is another new space station launched by NASA in partnership with Canada, Europe and Japan. It will orbit the moon, therefore the first in deep space, and focus on creating a permanent human base on the moon’s surface, which in itself is seen as a key staging post in eventual travel to Mars and beyond. SpaceX, with its $2.9 billion NASA contract, will provide transportation on its new Starship rocket.

October 2022: Sustainable impacts

  • Probable: Brazil’s elections are a moment of hope for the Amazon. The country is home to 60% of the vast rainforest which has gone from carbon sink to a carbon source over the last decade. Deforestation has soared by over 40% since populist president Bolsonaro took office in 2019 and removed restrictions on illegal logging, mining, cattle-ranching and land-grabbing.
  • Possible: As the climate crisis becomes more acute, and sustainability shifts from compliance to core business, there is a recognition that collaborative actions are key to driving real change – public-private partnerships and cross-industry collaborations. The Sustainable Aviation Buyers Alliance, the Clean Energy Demand Initiative, and the Lowering Emissions by Accelerating Forest Finance are examples.

November 2022: Arabic ambitions

  • Probable: Jeddah Tower becomes the world’s tallest building, surpassing regional rival UAE’s Burj Khalifa, and a physical manifestation of KSA’s Vision 2030 to move away from a dependence on oil, and towards a modern state. Neom, its futuristic city being constructed near the Red Sea, is another example. Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi unveils the world’s largest solar power plant with 3.2 million solar panels.
  • Possible: FIFA’s World Cup kicks off in Qatar this month, the first time the soccer tournament has been held in an Arab nation, a Muslim nation, or a winter month. $220 billion has been lavished on facilities and infrastructure, seen as a transformational catalyst for the nation and its reputation on the world stage. 32 countries will compete for the trophy, with England beating Brazil 3:1 in the final.

December 2022: Visionary leaders

  • Probable: CEO tenure is at a record low, an average of 6.9 years for the world’s largest companies, but with 30% of leaders lasting less than 2 years. Being a CEO used to be easy, managing the status quo, to maximise profit. Today, it is a more complex challenge – with dynamic markets, diverse stakeholders, unclear choices, and high expectations. In my new book, future orientation is now their most critical attribute, driven by curiosity and courage.
  • Possible: Last year, the “great resignation” stole business headlines as employees, galvanised by Covid-induced remote working, left their jobs in search of more balanced lifestyles. Now, the “great restructuring” is underway as organisations reimagine workspaces and structures, employment contracts and practices. The 4 day week, working from anywhere, portfolio of jobs, fusing work and life, is becoming the normal.

In a world of such rapid change, what will you do?

Seeking to progress by doing what you’ve always done is unlikely to succeed. Insights and ideas fuel new thinking, new actions that move us forwards. We need leaders who have the courage and vision to create better futures, for themselves, for their organisations and our world.

2022 is a time of huge change, and huge opportunity.

What will you do in 2022?

Here are some of the best trend reports for 2022:

Financial Times‘ things to look out for:

  • Energy … The theme in the energy world in 2021 was the recovery in demand for oil, natural gas and electricity from lows earlier in the pandemic. In 2022, we will find out if supplies can keep up with now surging demand, or whether more price inflation is inevitable.
  • Pharma … Next year will be a new test for the pharmaceutical industry’s favourite four-letter acronym: mRNA, which stands for messenger ribonucleic acid. The Covid-19 vaccines proved the mRNA pioneers right: it is a rapid adaptable technology that can create highly effective vaccines.
  • Tech … Web3 is a technology in search of a breakout application. The name applies to a collection of blockchain-based technologies that support a more decentralised version of the web — one where users, rather than giant tech companies, would be in control.
  • Travel … Travel will be more expensive. Many airlines, particularly low-cost carriers, have been keeping fares low to stimulate demand during the pandemic. But when people can finally travel easily again, executives will want to repair battered balance sheets.
  • Private Equity … The return of the private equity initial public offering. A handful of US behemoths — Blackstone, KKR, Carlyle, Apollo and Ares — went public between 2007 and 2014 but received a lukewarm reception from investors in the early years.

IBM‘s business trends focus on 5 points

  • Digital transformation has become a way of life
  • Human capital is precious and scarce
  • Sustainability and transparency are urgent priorities
  • Tech adoption should reshape business operations
  • Trust and security underpin sustained innovation

Gartner‘s 12 Strategic Technology Trends include

  • Data fabric provides a flexible, resilient integration of data sources across platforms and business users, making data available everywhere it’s needed regardless where the data lives. Data fabric can use analytics to learn and actively recommend where data should be used and changed. This can reduce data management efforts by up to 70%.
  • Cybersecurity mesh is a flexible, composable architecture that integrates widely distributed and disparate security services. Cybersecurity mesh enables best-of-breed, stand-alone security solutions to work together to improve overall security while moving control points closer to the assets they’re designed to protect. It can quickly and reliably verify identity, context and policy adherence across cloud and non-cloud environments.
  • Privacy-enhancing computation secures the processing of personal data in untrusted environments — which is increasingly critical due to evolving privacy and data protection laws as well as growing consumer concerns. Privacy-enhancing computation utilizes a variety of privacy-protection techniques to allow value to be extracted from data while still meeting compliance requirements.
  • Cloud-native platforms are technologies that allow you to build new application architectures that are resilient, elastic and agile — enabling you to respond to rapid digital change. Cloud-native platforms improve on the traditional lift-and-shift approach to cloud, which fails to take advantage of the benefits of cloud and adds complexity to maintenance.
  • Composable applications are built from business-centric modular components. Composable applications make it easier to use and reuse code, accelerating the time to market for new software solutions and releasing enterprise value.
  • Decision intelligence is a practical approach to improve organizational decision making. It models each decision as a set of processes, using intelligence and analytics to inform, learn from and refine decisions. Decision intelligence can support and enhance human decision making and, potentially, automate it through the use of augmented analytics, simulations and AI.
  • Hyperautomation is a disciplined, business-driven approach to rapidly identify, vet and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. Hyperautomation enables scalability, remote operation and business model disruption.
  • AI engineering automates updates to data, models and applications to streamline AI delivery. Combined with strong AI governance, AI engineering will operationalize the delivery of AI to ensure its ongoing business value.
  • Distributed enterprises reflect a digital-first, remote-first business model to improve employee experiences, digitalize consumer and partner touchpoints, and build out product experiences. Distributed enterprises better serve the needs of remote employees and consumers, who are fueling demand for virtual services and hybrid workplaces.
  • Total experience is a business strategy that integrates employee experience, customer experience, user experience and multiexperience across multiple touchpoints to accelerate growth. Total experience can drive greater customer and employee confidence, satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy through holistic management of stakeholder experiences.
  • Autonomic systems are self-managed physical or software systems that learn from their environments and dynamically modify their own algorithms in real time to optimize their behavior in complex ecosystems. Autonomic systems create an agile set of technology capabilities that are able to support new requirements and situations, optimize performance and defend against attacks without human intervention.
  • Generative AI learns about artifacts from data, and generates innovative new creations that are similar to the original but doesn’t repeat it. Generative AI has the potential to create new forms of creative content, such as video, and accelerate R&D cycles in fields ranging from medicine to product creation.

Fjord Trends, now part of Accenture, focuses on consumer behaviour change

It builds on the rapid shift in attitudes and behaviours over two years of pandemic as people have initially been forced, and then wanted, to explore new directions. This has forced everyone to reevaluate all types of relationships – with friends and family, work and leisure, brands and institutions, society and environment.

We to Me … “We’ve seen a fundamental shift in how people think about their sense of agency over their lives, supported by the continued rise of the side-hustle economy. Technology has made it less risky to seek out new income streams—and many are going for it. This rise of a “me over we” mentality has profound implications for organizations in how they lead their employees, and how they nurture relationships with their consumer-creators.”

  • How will your brand and business address the desire for consumers and employees to be treated as individuals, differently and personally?
  • Individualism and collectivism can co-exist. You can work in a business, and for yourself. Enhance the value of teams and communities, co-creation and sharing.

Less is More … “Scarcity of raw materials, a shortage of workers, strained distribution channels and even new austerity laws are shaking abundance thinking built on availability, convenience, and speed. For those who have taken abundance for granted, this is a powerful demonstration of what a future with supply shortages would feel like. Now is the time to learn from this—by designing for scarcity thinking and making business nature positive.”

  • Look beyond our obsession with more – with abundance, with materialism, with size. Regeneration becomes craft, more human, more responsible, more valued.
  • Decouple innovation from newness, decouple less from loss, decouple growth from materialism. These are old logics. We can still innovate and grow.

Limits to Limitless … “The metaverse has burst onto the scene, showing promise that it can expand beyond its gaming roots. It’s evolving digital culture and offering people and brands a new place to interact, create, consume and earn. We have more questions than answers, but major headlines are making us feel like we’re on the brink of the next frontier, that promises almost infinite possibilities to create new value.”

  • Don’t be swallowed up by gamer enthusiasm and agency hype, this is still an emergent space, where Apple hasn’t even shown its hand yet.
  • Approach the metaverse with curiosity and playfulness, but also with integrity and ethics, as we find ways to operate and build social trust.

Acceptance to Expectation … “As humankind evolved, the period of magical thinking gave way to one of science. Our era is one of questions—the ability to ask questions and get rapid answers is so normal, it’s an expectation. For brands, the range of customer questions and the number of channels for asking them is growing constantly. Defining how to answer them is a major design challenge. Those who do it well will earn trust and competitive edge.”

  • Information becomes key to brands, to consumer choice and competitive advantage. From tech specs to price comparison, ability to use and exploit.
  • How do consumers seek information? Who do they trust? Where do they go? Personal recommendation beats corporate information, crowd knowledge over single sources.

Service to Care … “Care has moved center stage, reminding us of the importance of kindness and compassion. The many different aspects of care, the challenges of caring, and the cost and role of carers have become more visible and more widely discussed. This is creating opportunities and challenges for all employers and brands— health and non-health. How companies design for all aspects of care will likely set them apart, and be a key component for future success.”

  • Empathetic design, multi sensory and intuitive, matters more than ever in a world of speed and complexity. Ability and cognition are different in everyone.
  • Health, wellness and care are no longer the domain of health businesses, but of every type of business that engages with human beings.

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