It's easy to get so absorbed in the details of your business that you completely lose track of the big picture. The big picture, in this case, consists of the global trends that will affect every entrepreneur--no matter how far removed from them, or how 'safe,' your company seems to be.
Erica Orange, vice president of Weiner, Edrich, Brown, gave a crash course in just those trends at New York University's Women Entrepreneurs Festival last month. In a short speech, Orange detailed the 10 big themes--which she and her firm refer to as "spaces"--that she thinks will make the biggest impact on enterprise and culture in the coming years. Below, those 10 big ideas, along with the businesses that Orange thinks will be most affected.
Innerspace is all about understanding what makes us tick. Innerspace encompasses wearables and the quantified life, but it's so much more sophisticated: It includes brain research and, as Orange put it, the neuro-fication of everything, giving rise to fields such as neurofinance. One consequence of the rise of the innerspace is that marketers will be reexamining what we are learning about how people interact with products, right down to labeling strategy and where items are placed on shelves.
Design, Orange says, is fast becoming one of the most important differentiators in the marketplace, and one need only consider Apple's success to believe her. Further, design is rapidly evolving from "good" or "bad" design to design that is (or is not) considered age-friendly, female-friendly, cultural, or sustainable, with countless more variations yet to be come. Orange said that design thinking will soon be considered one of the most important managerial competencies.
There are two main facets of the playspace. One is gamification, which Orange said is only going to become more pervasive. Companies will be using it not just to attract consumers, but also to keep employees engaged. She also said we're going to see more respect for adult play, inspired by evolving research showing the effects of play on the brain. The beginning: Tech companies are designing their offices to inspire play.
The microspace is being driven by 3-D printing, which Orange admitted is not new, but is becoming rapidly democratized as prices fall. The next exciting development will be 4-D printing, or printed items that are able to replicate themselves. As an early-stage example, Orange mentioned a necklace that has the ability to create other necklaces. But she said the big implications are military in nature.
The green-to-bluespace is the evolution of corporate eco-consciousness. Eco-friendly good deeds, or "doing green," are now expected, said Orange, and no longer provide a competitive advantage. Being green is the next step, and where a lot of companies are striving to move. That means authentically and holistically leveraging the value proposition of being eco-conscious, taking into account all aspects of a product, from where it is produced, how it is sourced, who builds it, how it is shipped, and how it is disposed of, among others. Philosophically, the bluespace is the logical evolution of this: putting more into the environment than you take out. She cited vertical and urban agriculture in Brooklyn as examples, as well as the reuse of dilapidated buildings.
The interspace consists of all the different networks that use the architecture of the internet as their inspirations. The best-known is probably the internet of things, but there will be many other networks composed of smart devices talking to one another without human intervention.
The storagespace is exactly what it sounds like. We are running out of room to put everything, said Orange. That's why personal storage is one of the fastest-growing industries in the U.S., and why we're struggling with storing the ridiculous amount of data we collect, from overflowing inboxes to the biggest of big data. The storagespace also encompasses housing. About 54 percent of the world's population currently lives in cities, Orange said. She and her firm see that going to 85 percent, and she said we've got no clear idea of how to house everyone.
Outerspace includes space exploration but also quantum physics. The implications are completely down-to-earth, such as the increasing accuracy and applications for GPS and geographic information system technology.
Orange opened her discussion of timespace by asking the audience to define luxury: What is it you want that is in short supply? The audience unanimously answered, "time," and Orange nodded. (She said when she puts that question to a group with more men in it, some guy at the back invariably pipes up, "sex.") Orange points out that we used to order time in a linear, sequential way. Now we see ourselves jumping forward and back, with creative career trajectories, new definitions of retirement, and greatly compressed strategic planning cycles. The new-ish sharing economy is also a part of timespace, she says, as we shift from wanting ownership to wanting access: "People want what they want immediately," she said.
Soon, says Orange, we will have completely blurred the lines between the real world and the virtual. "We thought virtual reality was something gimmicky, but we're getting into tricking the brain into believing it is somewhere else, doing something else, in real time," she says. This will affect how we learn, how we work, and how we meet our spouses. And she says success in the future will depend partly on how well, and how seamlessly, an individual is able to move between the virtual and the real.