With the New Year right around the corner, here are some predictions that I believe will impact your business in 2018 and beyond:
1. Lack of "Place" Accelerates
In the coming year, we will continue to see a diminished importance of the need to have a physical location to work in. Thanks to the widespread evolution of mobile platforms, where we now have high-performance computers in our hands, most of us can now work from anywhere. Phone numbers are portable and area codes are unimportant. Physical space has become irrelevant--which has huge ramifications for business owners considering the cost that comes from owning or leasing physical space. Yes, there are some reasons physical spaces will continue to play a role in organizations, especially when it comes to working on projects that require intense teamwork. But I think we'll see more of a shift to companies tapping shared workspaces for those needs rather than investing in full-time committed space. This is a great opportunity to save some money on your real-estate spend, with the trade-off of managing remote employees.
2. Relationship Lines Continue To Blur
I am blown away every time I watch my kids play video games. They have developed huge social networks of other players that they interact with--the vast majority of whom they have never met in person. And yet, my kids would call these people their "friends." I think we will continue to see this blurring of the lines when it comes to establishing relationships in either the physical or virtual worlds. This shift has implications for businesses because it shows that people can work together virtually to solve problems and innovate without the need to congregate in person. While the older generations might have a harder time making this transition, the trend definitely points toward the importance of building more virtual connections in the future. This also creates opportunities for customer service with a location less mindset.
3. AI Becomes Smarter Than Humans
When we think about artificial intelligence systems like IBM's Watson, which easily bested Jeopardy champions, we know that AI is already smart. There are also all those automatic trading systems that Wall Street relies on because AI is also faster than people. I predict we will begin to see more of AI's impact in our everyday lives. For example, self-driving cars will soon be here. If you've ever driven in a Tesla, then you know they just about already are. And while the naysayers might point to a single accident involving a self-driving car, the truth is that hundreds of human-driven cars crashed at that very same moment. Did you also know that you could go online and get advice from an AI therapist--and never know you are not interacting with a human? Robo-advisors are now available to manage our wealth and they already do a better job than humans at selecting the right portfolio. We are reaching the point where we can have relationships with machines and never know the difference. The point is that AI is better than humans are certain things. And as a business, you should be looking to automate and embrace AI wherever you can to help drive your business forward with better service and costs.
4. Rising Importance of "Self-Care"
As we integrate in this increasingly connected and automated world, I predict it will become increasingly important to develop a new level of human rights around the idea of protecting the "self." Given how transparent and hyper-connected we have become, finding new spiritual and religious connections will become increasingly important to help maintain our independent spirit. It becomes a question of how do you protect your soul? As a business leader, that applies to you as an individual but also to the people you work with. It will become crucial for you to provide ways for your people to reflect and re-energize to prevent burn out. As Stephen Covey puts it, this relates to a sharpening of the saw. Consider how Google now provides nap pods for its people who, when they need the chance to disconnect and recharge, they can take a nap during work hours. The point is that we need to train employees about the importance of self-care while also giving them the space to find it. In short, more self-care will lead to having better performing employees.
5. The Rise of the Purposeful Business
When we look back over past decades, it's clear that it's been businesses that have driven more positive change that any other kind of organization. I believe we will continue to see this trend accelerate into next year and beyond. It will become standard practice for a business to have a purpose in combination with a profit motive. Having a purpose is not only an important part of recruiting and retaining Millennial workers, it's also becoming an increasingly important element in how customers rally around a brand. In other words, if you don't have a purpose in your business, you might not find long-term sustainability either in terms of employees or customers.
Each of these trends a strong, near the tipping point and bear consideration when you are projecting your business future.