Macrotrends and the next abnormal

Ignoring the future won’t make it go away: Learning how to do business in the era of macrotrends and the next abnormal.

October 22, 2020


I think we can all agree, it’s been quite a year. From a global pandemic to a rapidly changing work environment and economic uncertainty, the changes we’ve seen this year have come to affect us all.

In one way or another, we were all blindsided by COVID-19. But I don’t think we should have been. The main reason the pandemic came as such a shock was because of how universal the effects were. COVID-19 has spread to every major country on earth, and we’ve been forced to evaluate our lives and our business strategies.

As CEOs, we’ve been left to find a solution to a problem none of us really expected to face.

We’ve had to adjust.

Here at Spyder Works, we’re known for our insights and long-term thinking. As a strategy firm, we look to help our clients better understand the future and provide them with the foresight and the ideas to deal with what might come their way.

Since the pandemic began back in March, I have been thinking about how Spyder can help corporate leaders make sense of the future and its uncertainty. While speaking to clients and colleagues internationally, I developed a session that would help them make sense of the current situation going forward.

Over the past seven months I developed an hour-long program titled “Macrotrends and the Next Abnormal.” We ran our first test session at the end of September to an international group of leaders from innovative and forward-thinking firms, drawing strong praise from the entire group.

My goal was to discuss how macrotrends—long-term directional shifts that can impact your business on a global level—are impacting company operations, culture, marketing and more. By building an awareness of macrotrends, which range from anything like automation and ruralization, to pandemics, artificial intelligence and sweeping social media platforms like TikTok that are now being viewed as a cloak for security and privacy rights, CEOs can ensure their organizations continue moving forward in the best way possible.

People are always talking about the “new normal” or the “next normal,” but they rarely talk about the abnormal, which is what I believe the future is all about.

On a business level, this year has truly been abnormal. Travel, restaurant and retail industries found themselves making virtually zero in sales for a number of months, and there was nothing they could do about it. On the other hand, companies dealing in online technology and e-commerce are enjoying unprecedented growth. They were prepared for the future and it came faster than they ever imagined; it all happened in a matter of months.

It’s clear to see that the definition of long-term is shrinking. When I earned my first business degree, long-term was probably 10 years. Now, as I work on my doctoral degree some thirty years later, long-term can be months, depending on the industry. Having foresight and an understanding of where we could be going, as well as the future challenges we may face, becomes much more important with the accelerating pace of business.

During the first session, each member was asked to put their strategic, CEO hats on to discuss a number of macrotrends. During the hour, we shared insights with each other as we spoke about the trends and how company leaders can prepare their organizations for the future.

The main takeaway of the session related to the art of the pivot, which is at the core of my Dynamic Organization model. The Dynamic Organization speaks to a fundamental change in the organizational structure of our businesses. CEOs need to learn that the interface between their brand, their company and the consumer now channels through operations. If you want to learn how to keep your company healthy and vibrant, you need to see operations as the pivotal core to your business.

There is a need, now more than ever, for companies to preact the future and meet the needs of potential disasters (which seem to be happening every other week this year).

Ignoring the future won’t make it go away. Organizations need to understand the future, see how it may come to affect them and be ready to adapt as is necessary.

What I want to do is help CEOs and leadership teams learn to identify true macrotrends, ones that will affect their industries for years to come, and recognize the most relevant ones for their business. If you learn to understand the macrotrends and have the tools to embrace them, then you can prepare your organization to pivot and become winners in the long-term.

Reach out to me at ktencer@spyder.works if you’d like to talk more about the art of the pivot and scenario planning, or if you are interested in running your team through this one-hour interactive session on the future!

By Ken Tencer

Ken Tencer is chief executive officer of design-driven strategy firm Spyder Works Inc. and the co-author of two books on innovation, including the bestseller Cause a Disturbance. Follow him on Twitter at @90percentRule


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