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Top 10 Trends for Today’s Business Strategists

"It’s not the strongest that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change."

-  Charles Darwin

A common misconception is that what blindsides companies is the trend that takes hold faster than experts expect – the new generation of customer or employees who demand dramatically different value propositions, exponential technologies that improve in cost-per-performance more rapidly than experts can imagine, the regulatory environments that shift too capriciously to anticipate.

Research

A McKinsey study found that the average span of a company listed in the S&P 500 is currently less than 18 years—down from 61 years in 1968—and that by 2027, 75% of the current companies listed will disappear. 

Predicting the unpredictable

But these “unexpected” trends are often predictable if we expand the aperture of our strategic sensing. The trends that surprise us are often not so much new, but new to our industry. They have already been at work, surprising and sometimes disrupting companies in seemingly unrelated industries:

  • Could the proliferation of “as a service” models in software not have warned or the short-lived CNN+ that “entertainment as a service” would not last as a differentiator?
  • Could the behaviors of Generation Z consumers in multiple product sectors to pursue sustainability and to eschew brands that do not meet their standards not have clued fashion retailers like Brooks Brothers to the demand for an approach that caters to those preferences?
  • Shouldn’t the rise of the market for digital “skins” (with a market worth over $20 billion) have told physical “skin” providers – from makeup manufacturers to fashion houses – to embrace the digital world?

Trends move from sector to sector

It is one thing to fail to predict the potential rise of a nascent trend. Such a mistake is understandable as the rate of evolution of a new trend is hard to anticipate. But to fail to appreciate that a trend that has already taken root in one sector could likely invade a different sector is a lapse not of foresight but of logic, because most of the trends impacting industries are not defined or bound by sector. Technologies and socio-demographic trends naturally hitchhike from one sector to another.

The surest and easiest way to identify the trends that will shape your company’s future is not to look forward, but to look tangentially.

Tip

Learn from peers outside your industry through the Outthinker Strategy Network.

Top 10 trends for you to consider

Recently, we convened over 30 heads of strategy of large enterprises across a range of industries from banking to healthcare to technology to consumer products. We gathered to discuss the trends and challenges facing strategists today and to explore those that may be around the corner.

We asked participants to share what they saw as the most important trends a head of strategy should be thinking about today. The people who contributed to this list are responsible for M&A, business planning, data analytics, organizational strategy, marketing & sales, resource allocation, and other key strategic functions. They spend significant portions of their time reading industry trend reports, investing in start-ups, scouring industry conferences, and investing in cutting-edge R&D. So, their options are well-informed.

If you want to ensure your organization remains fit for the future, you should ensure you are at least considering these top 10 trends:

  1. Recruiting and retaining talent
  2. Organizing around teams rather than hierarchies
  3. Competing in ecosystems
  4. Driving employee-led innovation
  5. Funding and managing innovation portfolios
  6. Accelerating digital transformation
  7. Winning through business model innovation
  8. Transforming culture to be more agile
  9. Getting investor and press interest for innovations
  10. Scaling globally in a state of uncertainty

If your strategic agenda is not currently addressing these, it’s worth taking a step back to see if there is something you are missing.

Authors

Kaihan Krippendorff
Kaihan KrippendorffFounder - OSN
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Claudio Garcia
Claudio GarciaPresident - OSN
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Zach Ness
Zach Ness Operations
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