Across all sectors, organizations are grappling with rapid transformation. On top of that, there are enormous global shifts and challenges to contend with, such as climate change, and shifting political and economic power. To put it bluntly, our world is changing fast. And organizations must learn to adapt accordingly.
These eight major trends provide a snapshot of how business operations are evolving to suit our rapidly changing world.
Trend 1: Sustainable, resilient operations
Every organization must seek to eliminate or reduce the environmental costs of doing business. Decarbonizing the supply chain is a sensible place to start, but forward-thinking businesses are looking beyond the supply chain to improve sustainability across all business operations. And of course, sustainability is linked to resilience, since resilience means being able to adapt and survive for the long term. Any business that ignores sustainability is unlikely to do well in this age of conscious consumption.
Trend 2: The balance between human workers and intelligent robots
We now have increasingly capable robots and artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can take on tasks that were previously done by humans. This leaves employers with some key questions: how do we find the balance between intelligent machines and human intelligence? What roles should be given over to machines? Which roles are best suited to humans? There’s no doubt that automation will affect every industry, so business leaders must prepare their organizations – and their people – for the changing nature of work.
Trend 3: The shifting talent pool and changing employee experience
The way we work is evolving, with more younger people entering the workforce, more gig workers, and more remote workers. In their book The Human Cloud, Matthew Mottola and Matthew Coatney argue that traditional full-time employment will be a thing of the past, as organizations shift to hiring people on a contract basis – with those contractors working remotely.
Trend 4: Flatter, more agile organizations
Traditionally, organizations have been very hierarchical and rigid in their structures. But that is changing, as leaders recognize the need for flatter, more agile structures that allow the business to quickly reorganize teams and respond to change. It is also, in part, a response to the changing nature of work, particularly the proliferation of freelance and remote workers.
This is the age of flatter organizational structures, which are more like flexible communities rather than a top-down pyramid structure.
Trend 5: Authenticity
Today’s consumers are seeking a more meaningful connection with brands. And this need for connection has given rise to authenticity as a business trend in its own right. Authenticity helps to foster human connections – because, as humans, we like to see brands (and business leaders) display important human qualities like honesty, reliability, empathy, compassion, humility, and maybe even a bit of vulnerability and fear. We want brands (and leaders) to care about issues and stand for more than just turning a profit.
Trend 6: Purposeful business
Linked to authenticity, this trend is all about ensuring your organization exists to serve a meaningful purpose – and not just serve up profits to shareholders. Purpose defines why the organization exists. (Not what the organization is or what it does or for whom. Therefore, purpose is different to mission and vision.) Importantly, a strong purpose has the promise of transformation or striving for something better – be it a better world, a better way to do something, or whatever is important to your organization.
Trend 7: Co-opetition and integration
We live in a time where pretty much anything can be achieved by outsourcing. The global business world has never been so integrated. And it’s a good job, because the need to work together to solve key business challenges (not to mention humanity’s biggest challenges) is great. Indeed, in the future, it will become increasingly difficult to succeed without really close partnerships with other organizations. In practice, this means greater supply chain integration, more data integration and sharing of data between organizations, and even cooperation between competitors.
Trend 8: New forms of funding
The ways in which companies can generate finance is also changing. New platforms and mechanisms have sprung up to connect businesses with investors and donors – think crowdfunding, initial coin offerings (ICOs), tokenization and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). Many of these new methods are driven by the decentralized finance movement, in which financial services like borrowing and trading take place in a peer-to-peer network, via a public decentralized blockchain network.
In addition to these eight trends, there will also be transformative technology trends in 2022 including artificial intelligence and increasing digitization, which every company must be ready for. Read more about all these and other future trends in my new book, Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That are Redefining Organizations. Packed with real-world examples, it cuts through the hype to present the key trends that will shape the businesses of the future.