Twenty years ago, when I started advising startups and Fortune 500 companies on their innovation strategies, a "2020 vision" served as a key staple in most business planning efforts. The future is finally here.
Emerging technologies catalyze disruption. But 2020 promises to be especially turbulent. Election year dynamics, coupled with an increase in grassroots business activism and governments taking action on environmental issues, will infuse even greater chaos into our everyday experiences.
Last year, I described the disruptions facing a variety of industries, including health care, packaging, travel and hospitality, software, real estate and construction, retail shopping, and manufacturing.
Here's my take on the biggest forces transforming business and society in 2020:
- Embedded Intelligence. The convergence of the internet of things, data analytics, and artificial intelligence creates new opportunities for embedded intelligence, making products, robots, business applications, and health care diagnostics "smarter" than ever before.
- Energy Everywhere. High-capacity batteries deliver greater amounts of power at dramatically lower costs. This will drive innovation across sectors, but will be especially useful for green energy applications like solar power.
- Circular Economy. From recycling to alternative bio-based replacements for plastic, the circular economy will gain steam, creating new opportunities for companies to help accelerate environmentally sustainable products and packaging.
- Transportation Revolution. Battery-powered cars, trucks, and motorcycles will continue to increase in popularity, and mainstream manufacturers will begin an accelerated march toward a future when self-driving vehicles rule the road.
- Entertainment Fragmentation. The proliferation of competing content providers and apps, like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, and Hulu, will continue to contribute to the rapid growth of niche viewing audiences and the accelerated demise of cable television.
- Data Cocooning. Growing concerns of Alexa, Siri, and other voice-based services listening in on our lives combined with high-profile data breaches and fears of election year ballot-tampering will continue to drive greater privacy laws and controls over personal data.
- Digital Money. The rise of digital wallets like Apple Pay and Google Pay, peer-to-peer payment platforms like Venmo, and Facebook's 2020 launch of its digital currency, Libra, will dramatically accelerate the use of digital commerce between individuals and across business.
- Web Marketing Backlash. From Google's misleading results format--which obscures the distinction between paid and organic content--to misleading social media advertising, society will grow increasingly weary of big tech's role in shaping our worldview.
- Predictable Wildcards. Unforeseen disruptions are now an inherent part of life, instilling the need for responsive strategy -- the continuous process of trend scanning, scenario planning, and trial-and-error testing of business models based on the disruptive trends occurring in the external world.
Regardless of your industry or target markets, watch these disrupters closely. They'll create new opportunities for entrepreneurs. And they'll pose big threats for anyone with a business-as-usual approach--because 2020 will be anything but usual.