Nicola Watts
Eight Global Trends That Will Affect You

We’re living in a time of profound change – social, technological, economic, environmental, political and even spiritual. We can no longer rely on past experiences and the hope that life will be predictable in the future. In our new world, change knows no borders, nor does it discriminate; it affects every part of society.

Our world today is the result of earlier forces for change. We know that the future will be influenced by the arrival of new forces for change, some of which are already visible today as trends, others which are less apparent. Both have the potential to significantly change the way the world will work tomorrow. How you choose to respond to these changes will lead to equally profound opportunities.

What’s a trend? It’s a pattern of change, identified through connecting related observations over a period of time. They’re considered to be behaviours that evolve slowly into a relatively permanent change, with the potential to become a long-term influence on the future of a market. How a trend manifests itself may vary across countries, within industries and amongst demographics.

Why is recognising them so important? There are not many certainties in life. What we can be certain about is that the future is not pre-determined, nor is it predictable, but it is influenceable. It’s influenced by the choices we make today. We can influence the future through developing an informed and credible perspective on what might happen and what in the future people may want, need or believe based on the trends and emerging issues that are evident today.

The Ipsos MORI Global Trends 2017 survey interviewed over 18,000 people in 23 countries, in arguably the largest study of its kind. The online survey was conducted last Autumn amongst adults aged 16 to 64 years of age (18 to 64 in the US and Canada) in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Mexico, Japan, Peru, Poland, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the US.

Respondents were asked over 400 questions on their attitudes and behaviours on a myriad of topics, from tradition to trust, brands to business, society to social media, diversity to habits, and provides an unique snapshot of at minimum the 23 countries surveyed and perhaps the world today. Chinese participants were not asked every question!

The study outlines six driving forces that are known to be occurring today and will continue into the future. These are technological change, climate change and sustainability, political change and multi polarity, uneven economic growth within and between countries, population change, and globalisation and migration. These six underpin the eight global trends that were identified.

The eight global trends identified were: Crisis of the Elites, Uncertainty is the New Normal, the Battle for Attention, Search for Simplicity and Control, Rise and Rise of Tradition, Generation Strains, Healthier World and the Optimism Divide.

Crisis of the Elites manifests itself in the rise of populist movements across the world, and the growing belief that people feel they are being ignored by both establishment and political elites who don’t understand or care about them. In every one of the 23 countries, the majority believe that the “economy is rigged to the advantage of the rich and powerful” and that their “government doesn’t prioritise the concerns of people like them”.


Uncertainty is the New Normal: Despite people being significantly better off in nearly every country compared to 20 to 30 years ago, there is a lot of angst on a number of subjects: safety, politics, environment, and speed of technology you name it. A clear message was the “sense of feeling adrift from the past, discontent about our present and unease about our future”.

The Battle for Attention is relentless. The level of interruption has reached new levels, with nearly two thirds of consumers believing that they spend too much time looking at screens! The average person in GB is looking at a screen over 220 times a day. The quality of the interruption is also highly dubious, with 75% saying that the ads they see are irrelevant and 82% believing they get in the way of what they are trying to do, resulting in 57% claiming to use ad blockers.

The Search for Simplicity and Control continues as 66% wish their lives were simpler, and 79% feel the world is moving too fast, with 54% overwhelmed by the choices they have to make in their lives. This is manifesting as a conflict between autonomy (76% want more) and guidance (69% want guides and mentors rather than politicians). 80% believe that “there is so much contradictory information it’s hard to know who to trust,” but 73% look at online reviews and 76% will try a product if it gets a lot of good reviews. The good news is that 57% believe that brands bring meaning to products, and 65% feel “brands I trust are more important than ever to me”.

Rise and Rise of Tradition as the past is seemingly becoming more attractive, with 50% wanting their country to be the “way it used to be”, 68% believing that “people led happier lives in the old days when they had fewer problems to cope with” and 44% feeling less “of a connection with people in my country than I did 10 years ago”. But, at the same time we seek progress with 66% embracing technology for its power to help solve future problems!

Generation Strains is not new. Each generation has always had a distinct view of prior generations. But, as the world ages (with median age forecast to increase 36 across all continents by 2050) the potential for disruption increases, as neither power and wealth are transferred down the generations as they were before. Only 5 of the 23 countries believe that “today’s youth will have had a better life than their parents”.

Healthier World varies significantly across countries. The world is united in its belief that, of all the things we can do to maintain good health, eating right is the most important (80%) and all countries “would like more control over decisions about my health” (77%). But they diverge when it comes to their views on the quality of their health and healthcare systems, expectations on how this will change in the future, and the role individuals should personally play in their health.

The Optimism Divide split the world into those countries who believe the glass is full, versus those who believe it is half empty! Five distinct patterns were identified: rural areas were more pessimistic than cities, those who were married were more optimistic, younger people are optimistic about the future of the world, emerging markets were way more optimistic than established markets who were down right pessimistic and those with religious beliefs are far more optimistic than those without!

This data merely represents the tip of the iceberg. The winning organisations of the future will be those that have the ability to anticipate and identify just what the significant drivers for change might be, interpret their potential impact, understand how best to leverage them into business strategies, and how best to adapt their organisation and capabilities to leverage these strategies.

In a world where only uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity seem to be the norm, organisations need a wider global knowledge obtained from many more external sources, together with a new set of cognitive skills, to determine how best to respond. Is your organisation ready?

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