Wednesday, 14 December 2022

From Accenture to Zukunftsinstitut


Here we go again - it’s that time of year, when all the futurologists and trend forecasters and other shades of seers and sages get those reports out on what we might expect for 2023. There used to be a manageable handful of these, but now every agency worth its salt and pepper wants to have a go. Thankfully, these days, there are bright and helpful people who curate these things, or at least bundle them altogether on one convenient link. This collection, for example, is put together by a group of six strategists, plus various collaborators across Europe and Asia. They started their good work during Covid and have compiled the trend reports since 2020.

I hope I’ll get a chance when things calm down a bit to look at some of the better of these reports. But at the moment, it makes me weary just opening the thing up. There are 76 prediction-type reports and then, on top, 25 round-ups of the last year. Where to start? It’s at this point that I start to see the attractions of AI to plough through this lot and pull out the mega-ultra-über-meta trends.

Was it easier in days of yore? Well, maybe, as trend-forecasting was confined to the printed page - reports you’d pay for, articles in the better journals - and books. Queen of it all was Faith Popcorn (still popping around), and I’ve got here the 16 trends outlined in Clicking in 1996 - twenty-six years ago, before GenZ were born. ’Scuse the shaky technology:

Look at the first three. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was published yesterday, or at least some time once we’d got the worst of the pandemic behind us. Oooh. Virtual Reality! What’s that, then? Sounds new-fangled. Not that Metaverse business, is it? Where you can go on a Fantasy Clash of Clans Adventure from the comfort of your own Cocoon? What century is this, anyway?

And so it goes. Yes, it’s got a middle-class US bias, but ... “stressed-out”, “affordable luxuries”, “spiritual roots”, “personal statements”, “caring and sharing”, “warmly embraces the freedom of being an individual”, “busy, high-tech lives”, “simpler way of living”, “better quality of life”, “angry consumer - pressure, protest and politics”, “icon toppling”, “endangered planet, social conscience, ethics, passion and compassion” ...

One reason that Ms Popcorn’s predictions stand the test of time is that there is precious little mention of specific technology. The focus is not on what we’ll be doing, or how, but on the “why?” - the human motivations behind all this. 

Amid the change- and doommongers' obsession with the disruptive, VUCA, every-changing world, the panics, urgency and desperation, the conviction that things will never be the same again, it’s quite reassuring to pick up a paperback from the last century and realise that the summary of those 76 reports was languishing on your bookshelf all along. 


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