Written by Mona Pearl

Trends in 3D: Look Up, Look Out, and Look Around

It’s easy for today’s corporate leaders to become transfixed by the demands of short- term operations and lose sight of important happenings outside the walls of their business, outside the walls of their industry, and outside the walls of the United States. When this happens, however, tremendous opportunities can pass right by unnoticed.  

Planning for the future in today’s high-speed environment requires everyone to develop a predictive awareness and super-sensing capability of what is coming next. This means monitoring global trends and developing business foresight with an eye toward a long-term strategic view. New opportunities will come to those companies that see the future first and become future-ready by anticipating, adapting, and evolving ahead of the competition.

How To Look Into The Future?

No crystal ball needed, simply a panoramic lens, an awareness and openness and of course, the ability to understand and interpret events in context with an eye into the future. In order to plan your growth plan and benefits from cross-border opportunities, you may need to take into consideration the following trends affecting the world economy:

1. Fast. Cheap. Good. It used to be that you had to choose two out of the three features. Now, we have gotten to the age that accessing cheap tools anywhere, anytime to get a job done, and with relatively good quality, is a reality. It makes it possible for smaller business to take advantage and grow globally in ways that were unthinkable before. They now can connect, share, explore, and make money while “giving birth” to global products.

2. Social Media. It is happening every day and every minute as we witness revolutionary and diverse online action. The virtual gathering of crowds and armies will form before our eyes and draw us into their mission. Look at Egypt and the rest of the Middle East and ask yourself: Would this all have happened without the social media networks where people could express, explore, gather, and

change the course of their future, and in this case, their country’s history? As trust in government diminishes, groups will encourage people to solve their own problems in the world, and we will be empowered to take action in real time. This gives the platform for action, and people no longer feel helpless or hopeless. The problem is that it may also provide a platform for revolutionary action that ends up creating change that is not for the best.

3. Technology in the driver’s seat. In addition to social media that aims to connect beyond borders and beyond imagination, the technology of smart phones makes it possible. This is the tool that broke the rules and set new standards for technology developments, human interaction, how, where, and when we do business, socialize, decide on vacation venues, and so much more to come. Our lives are changing: being able to remotely monitor the temperature in our homes, start our cars remotely, monitor our health vitals, and so much more . . . and all with this small device that we used to call a phone and have now turned into a central command center. Thomas Friedman said “the world is flat,” and the new reality established that, and right in the palm of your hand.

4. China will become what Japan used to be. Some of us may remember when Japan used to “borrow” innovations and replicate them into a cheaper version. But China may take it one step further and improve on innovation to fi t their local market and other niche markets, as well as add features and create new products. Look at the Chinese version of the iPhone, which is extremely successful in China and is a fierce competitor to Apple. Does this approach present potential for entrepreneurs as well as existing manufacturers? Combining innovation with global collaboration may be the “next big thing.” Are you ready to get in the game? Do you know the new rules?

5. Internet and beyond. It is becoming about real-time, instant, and constant. People want to know more, almost in an obsessive way, about what is going on in other parts of the country and the world. While experts looked at this trend and forecasted less travel, I would dare say that the more people know, the more they would want to “see it for themselves” and the trend to travel globally will increase, with one stipulation that it is tightly connected to the world economy and jobs.

6. Managing complexity. More than ever, the top skill that everyone will need is managing complexity in a global economy and a global marketplace. The complexity of dealing with immense and rapid changes, the economic crisis, the job market, global competition, and new technologies will require a high level of complexity management.

Survival may well be dependent on how well one can manage details and competing priorities. This goes for individuals, companies, governments, and everybody on this planet. What’s needed is right-brain thinking for strategizing and problem solving, which needs to become the focus of schools, company training sessions, and other activities to breed, equip, and mold tomorrow’s leaders with the right skills. Daniel Pink is making the case of why right-brainers will rule the future, as so many professions, such as accountants, lawyers, doctors, are of the past.

Today, management success tends to be synonymous with short- term goals such as maximizing profits for shareholders without any consideration for long- term goals such as sustainability. But, sustainability isn’t an issue for just resolving conflicts or winning trade-offs. Rather, it is a fundamental key to achieving success today and into the future. Starting with our educational institutions, it’s time to redefine management success to encourage a long-term perspective and the ability to invest in global opportunities.

7. The global connection. Information will connect everyone in business—everywhere and all the time. This includes customers, vendors, and partners across borders as well as businesses up and down the supply chain and across industries. Everyone will be linked together. Entirely new business models, supply chains, customer care networks, markets, and industries will be born from this always-on global connectivity. New business models that deliver real-time value, all the time anywhere and everywhere, will redefine markets.

8. The megacity consumer. From China and India to Latin America and the EU, there is a new consumer demographic that is emerging and being driven by massive urban migration. These consumers live in megacities and are highly mobile and transnational. Megacity consumers are the new middle class: tech savvy, highly mobile, and entrepreneurial. They are driving up demand for products and services that could reach more than 120 countries, generating billions of dollars by 2035. This new global middle class seeks the prosperity and quality of life that is defined by the consumer marketplace.

9. Global market conditions. Trade barriers are easing. Economies are interdependent. Communication via the Internet has never been easier or more accessible. These conditions drive political reform, cultural transparency, social progress, and a great desire and drive for wealth creation.

10. Entrepreneurial mind-set. Entrepreneurs have the ability to see, understand, and take advantage of evolving markets. The entrepreneur’s ability to think differently, use insights, see what others don’t, envision what doesn’t yet exist, and identify opportunity when it’s ripe—these are the prized qualities of today’s entrepreneur, and when adding the ability to do all that across borders, cultures, and technologies, we are clearly witnessing a new exciting, challenging, and demanding era. Wayne Gretzky of national hockey fame helped state it succinctly when he said, “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been.”

11. Eroding confidence in established institutions. The recent world economic meltdown is removing any last confidence that most people had in governments and large enterprise banks and other financial entities. The resulting mistrust will lead to reinventing ourselves as individuals, communities, countries, and societies. As such, many more entrepreneurs will be joining the field. These changes also take a different turn in the Middle East as people, for the first time in this region’s history, rebel against the government and institutions.

12. Shifting business environment. Large-scale firms are synonymous with bureaucracy, which tends to stifle innovation. In response, the business environment is shifting to accommodate the needs of its rapidly changing market players. Innovation and entrepreneurship are beginning to flourish around the world and will likely take the form of much smaller, yet bolder companies. Knowing and catering to this is how entrepreneurial ventures beat corporate giants to the punch. Any company, large or small, that continues down the same path it has always taken will find it to be a losing proposition.

13. Entrepreneurial collaboration. Also on a global scale, there will be more entrepreneurial collaboration, which in turn will make shared innovation between countries a far more common occurrence at the company-to-company level—not just at universities and research institutions. One of China’s approaches for creating an innovative nation is the Technology Business Incubator (TBI). China’s mission is to nurture “technopreneurs” and technologybased start-ups. Business incubation is considered a viable option for countries that want to expand economic opportunities.

14. Growth of environmental and sustainable engineering technologies. A growing consciousness about the value of protecting our world will fuel the demand for products and services that can accomplish this goal.

15. The changing demands of the consumer. With the rising prices of gas and the shift in lifestyle, consumers have been using the convenience of shopping online. This is nothing new. What may be a new and a trend to watch is the vacuum that this trend will create in the retail industry and how it will affect the urban as well as suburban landscape. We will still see quite a few retail storefronts around the world, but the United States is going to resort to more “big box” shopping as well as chains, while an increasing focus will be on the online experience.

16. Borderless companies. We are not talking anymore about global corporations and multi-national enterprises. This is a new structure and concept where the company is incorporated in Switzerland, the R&D is in Israel, the CEO is in the United States, the director of marketing is in Asia, and the business development team may be on a different continent. Sound confusing? It is a reality for some of us.

These are not virtual companies. These are companies that take advantage of the best resources available and borders do not present barriers any longer. Boards of directors are composed of a variety of nationalities and expertise and the main purpose is to create a successful company that is competitive, sustainable, and recruits the best worldwide. You may want to ask a few questions, such as: What legal system does this company adhere to? What are the HR practices to follow? But these questions and others belong to the “old” mind-set. Think anew and program your existing mind-set to include new rules, new players, and new opportunities.

Together, these trends speak to larger changes within the business world that are not relegated to a single location, country, company, industry, or sector. These transcend borders and are truly global trends with global implications that require corporate America to redefine its definition of management success.

Looking at all these global trends how your company and its people are positioned to successfully compete and contribute to the new world order and the new economy?  What are you going to do about it? What skills would you need to acquire?  What’s your plan?

This article includes excerpts from Grow Globally: Opportunities for Your Middle-Market Company Around the World.  Copyright (c) 2011 by Mona Pearl.  Reprinted with permission of John Wiley & Sons, Inc.