On the back of the most unprecedented crisis in recent decades, 2021 is already en route to becoming one of the most disruptive years. Experts from The Next Organization share twelve trends that are pushing the boundaries of economy, society, organizations and people, and powering the transition to a new normal. 

1. Responsible consumerism

Consumers are increasingly aware that the current footprint of human activity on the world needs to change. This means that people not only aim to live healthier (nutrition), or stimulate the local economy (opposed to globalization), but also to have more insight on the origin of their food and goods. Sustainability is a key consideration here.

2. Urban versus rural innovation

According to the UN, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban regions by 2030 – 1.5 billion more than in 2010. However, urban regions make up roughly half of the world’s territory. Meanwhile, all these people need energy, healthcare, water, mobility, housing and more.

This urbanization boom is causing environmental, logistical and social challenges, which in turn threatens the quality of city life and the well-being of people. Innovative urban landscapes will emerge, as will means to make rural life more appealing.

3. Autonomous mobility as a service

Technological and social developments have made the car the ultimate means of transport; increasingly faster, more personal, more luxurious and more flexible. Motorways and public transport are growing more congested. This must and will change in the years to come.

Ambitions for European governments in the next decade are greener than ever, with a CO2 reduction of at least 40% as the main goal by 2030. These targets have major consequences for the current mobility ecosystem. Smart roads, interconnected self-driving vehicles, car-or ridesharing and productive travel time are all pillars of future mobility. 

4. Biotech; at the forefront of superhumans?

People are increasingly aware of their health, and methods to prevent or overcome diseases and disabilities. Technology embedded with biology reshapes the playing field of medical institutions, with accessibility and scalability at the heart of new innovation. From biohackers to CRISPR/cas9 gene editing, this ‘new’ industry is at the forefront of rapid growth and discussion.

5. Real deep fake; the age of disinformation

Every day people consult photos, videos, sounds, human voices, written texts and reviews as part of living their digital lives, but… What if they all can be faked? This so-called ‘infocalypse’, based on deep fake technology, is on its way at speed, and brings a new era of information consumption. Is is it real, is it fake, or is it real fake?

6. The increasing continuous friction between trust and distrust

Building trust among citizens has always been of crucial importance for both businesses and governmental institutions. For the former, trust is a key to long-term profitability, while for the latter, trust is important for societal stability.

7. Anything as a service

The experience economy has already been introduced two decades ago. In this view, organizations fulfil a different role in society and customer service. They do not merely provide products and services, but also focus on providing customers with personal and memorable experiences. An economy based on quality rather than quantity has, in part, led to a shift from online to offline.

8. Privacy is becoming the next USP

Privacy is increasingly incorporated in organizations’ daily practices. The emergence of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2016 as a key principle in sharing and storing data is a good example. However, instead of just a compliance check-box, privacy is becoming a key tenet in products and services of businesses. In other words, a new ‘gold standard’ that creates competitive advantage.

9. Human brands over product brands

Experiences and opinions of peers are becoming increasingly important for consumers in buying products or services. Before even purchasing something, people have the tendency to first seek validation. This is a development that has been unfolding since the rise of a 360-degree consumer feedback culture that contributed to the ‘review economy’.

10. Reinforcing business pressure of consumers

Consumers increasingly care about transparency, authenticity and social responsibility. These are no longer a nice to have, but a must-have. Organizations need to understand and accept the new consumer emerging from the Covid-19 crisis, discover their higher purpose, communicate it well and commit the best they can with their customers and other stakeholders. 

Instead of being afraid of what change might bring, see it as an opportunity to differentiate, innovate and create more authentic relationships.

11. Meaningful business models

In order to remain relevant in a rapidly changing world, organizations need to adapt to the developments taking place. Digitization and new technologies provide more opportunities and transparency, which means that organizations have to move fast in order to survive.

The business model of the future can no longer be just about profit and turnover, but instead consider purpose in the broadest sense – where flexibility, creativity, customer centricity and engagement touch every part of the organization.

12. Next generation high-value platforms

We live in a world where technology enables us to connect with each other, all over the globe. The next step is to leverage the untapped potential of true engagement and making valuable connections. This signals a next generation of high touch and high-tech value chains based on network and platform thinking principles and technology.

Society is increasingly becoming organized using networks, which facilitate connectivity, the exchange of goods and services, socialization and business opportunities. The success of platforms has been proved by the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Amazon. 

More insights? For more details on the twelve trends, download the report ‘2021 Outlook: Radical Transformation’.

The Next Organization is a strategic and management consulting firm headquartered in the Netherlands.