6 Megatrends Every Leader Can’t Afford to Ignore


Nobody knows what the future will look like. It’s tempting to focus on one single trend then extrapolate and jump to the wrong conclusion. Hay Group and Z_punkt, leaders in the science of foresight analysis, produced some ground-breaking insights on the six megatrends that will help leaders to address these seismic changes on the horizon by 2030.

1. Globalization 2.0

Globalization 2.0 is fundamentally different from version 1.0. Asia will no longer be the sweatshop of the West. Asian economies will reply less and less on West for goods and traditional trade patterns will be disrupted.

Beware of “glocalization.” A new global middle class is on the rise, each with its own set of consumer demands, thereby “glocalizing” the market. A single, centralized strategy will no longer cut it in the world of Globalization 2.0. The need to embrace diversity – in all its forms – is greater than ever. ‘Think global, act local’ has never been more apt.

2. Environmental crisis

Climate change will become frighteningly real and irreversible. Critical natural resources – oil, water, and minerals – are running out.

As the environmental crisis worsens, sustainability will be critical to survival for organizations. Carbon reduction will be essential to market competitiveness. Firms will need to restructure operations as the environment moves from CSR to the bottom line.

Leaders will need to embed sustainable cultures and communicate a clear rationale for such radical change. Coping with the environmental crisis will call for transformational strategic thinking. And it will require new forms of collaboration – at times with competitors – to achieve the complex solutions demanded.

3. Individualism and value pluralism

Greater wealth brings growing individualism in emerging countries. Under globalization 2.0, millions of people will discover a wider range of life and career options. And they will have the freedom to make decisions based on values, not economics.

This will transform their motives as employees and consumers. Lifestyle, recognition, self-expression and ethics will take priority over price, pay and promotion. Organizations should no longer expect loyalty.

Firms will need to get closer to their markets and workforces than ever before. They must understand every worker and customer as an individual, or lose out on talent and business.

Agile organizations will seize on local market opportunities and the growing demand for customized offerings. Smart employers will design ways of working to suit individuals, not the organization. This will demand more flexible, less centralized and flatter structures.

A new breed of leaders will be needed to engage diverse and highly individualized teams. The key will be to provide autonomy within a clear set of boundaries, to foster the conditions for people to perform.

4. The digital era

Technology is shifting the balance of power away from organizations and their leaders.

In the digital era, consumers readily pick and choose, compare providers, and trade between themselves. Employees can operate anywhere, anytime, on any device, challenging the need for traditional workplaces and hierarchies.

Working practices are therefore being transformed as work and the workplace go mobile. Social media is eroding the established boundaries between private and professional life. And reputations are at risk from disgruntled individuals who think nothing of holding firms to account online.

This virtual domain appeals to younger generations, who readily embrace digital technology, giving them a technological edge over older colleagues. Yet these ‘digital natives’ may lack respect for corporate conventions. Organizations must accommodate and cross-skill both groups.

In a climate of transparency, leaders must display high standards of integrity and sincerity. They will need to manage dispersed and diverse individuals with different degrees of digital competence; and foster unity, engagement and collaboration among loose-knit teams who rarely meet. 

5. Demographic change

The world’s population is expanding and getting older.

Many Western societies are maturing to the point that they will soon begin to perform less effectively.

An aging populace means a shrinking global workforce, chronic skills shortages and a fierce war for talent. Developing economies may experience a ‘brain cycle’ as migrants return home, bringing new skills and demands.

Businesses will need to attract, develop and retain a global pool of highly diverse talent. They will need structures, cultures and practices that harness diversity and enable each individual to thrive.

Leaders must learn to live with ambiguity and conflicting trends and demands. They will need to be tuned to their employees’ needs. Listening skills and empathy will be vital to identify what motivates each team member. A single rallying cry to the workforce will no longer suffice. 

6. Technological convergence

Advanced technologies are joining forces to transform many aspects of everyday life.

NBIC technologies (nanotech, biotech, IT, cognitive science) will produce powerful innovations in medicine, communications, manufacturing, energy, food production, and many more important areas. The race for innovation is on.

The convergence of nano, bio, information and cognitive sciences will generate untold new product markets, and make others obsolete. Businesses must ensure that short-term financial pressures do not obscure the need to invest in long-term, pioneering R&D.

The need for innovation will foster an era of ‘big’ collaboration – between divisions, companies, and whole scientific disciplines. New, more open forms of corporate structure will allow unprecedented levels of knowledge-sharing. This will require exceptional collaboration and influencing skills.

Leaders will need to stay abreast of progress and spot killer applications – in fields they may not fully understand. They will need to live with uncertainty, as the outcomes of NBIC innovation are highly unpredictable. And they must remain sensitive to society’s reaction to radical technological leaps. 

About the Megatrends. Online. Hay Group. http://www.haygroup.com/leadership2030/about-the-megatrends.aspx