Megatrends: a framework to strategically rethink your business

30 years after the initial publication of Megatrends by J. Naisbitt, this concept keeps being increasingly fashionable in the business world!

The Copenhagen Institute of Future Studies defines Megatrends as “the great forces in societal development that will very likely affect the future in all areas in the next 10-15 years”.

See hereafter their Top 10 Megatrends (http://www.cifs.dk/scripts/artikel.asp?id=1469)

1 – Ageing

2 – Globalization

3 – Technological development

4 – Prosperity

5 – Individualization

6 – Commercialization

7 – Health and environment

8 – Acceleration

9 – Network organizing

10 – Urbanization

Other institutes propose different rankings or additional trends and sub-trends such as Frost and Sullivan with the N11 (the next BRICS), Virtual reality, Mega-urban corridors, zero emission technologies, etc. (http://www.frost.com/sublib/display-report.do?bdata=bnVsbEB%2BQEJhY2tAfkAxMzQyOTAxMjAzMTcw&id=M65B-01-00-00-00)

But they mostly share the same big picture. Of course, some will wonder whether large-scale unpredictable events, the “black swans”, could divert the effects of Megatrends? Well, certainly but not all at once!

This is why, more and more companies use Megatrends very publicly to explain their strategic choices to stakeholders and to structure their path forwards. DSM for instance, used this framework focusing on the megatrends Health & Wellness, Climate & Energy and Global Shift, to justify and communicate on its radical and financially very successful transformation from a Petroleum-based chemical company to a Material & Life Science company.

What does this tell us?

Well, some companies rethink their market focus, products portfolio, culture and business models following Megatrends. They generate radical structural and cultural changes and impressive financial profits – others behave like dinosaurs and get extinct…

Following this model you could imagine a traditional fossil fuel car company mutating into a 100% electric car and scooter producer. They  could even enter into joint ventures to distribute clean electricity on the road in order to create the conditions for success.

Marketers, strategists and senior leaders should keep an alert eye on megatrends. They should use them to fuel their thinking process and project their company 20-30 years ahead. This powerful framework can help them decide which long term strategic initiatives to support. It can assist them in shaping the company future market choices, structure, culture and ultimately it’s chances of survival.

As an example, did your company consider the megatrend Personal Robotics?

Initial humanoid robots drawings date back from Leonardo da Vinci in the 15th century. Then, the first patent holder for an industrial robot was American. Afterwards, Japanese pioneered mass robotics in global factories. With current progresses in IT and detection technologies, the time has come for a scale-change. According to the Japanese Robot Association, Personal Robotics will become a US$ 50 billion/year market by 2025. Japanese will certainly own a big share, though the world leading robot, NAO, is a French one.


Can you imagine robots performing difficult surgery, androids acting as nurses to help the elderly, to support kids education, to guard malls at night? Of course they will be replacing human workers, as was the case with industrial robots. But this trend will also result in a need for skilled workers in new areas, such as mecatronic engineering, repair services, apps development, training, etc. It will also enable businesses and institutions in many fields to rethink they way they handle multiple situations.

You can consider this Megatrend as a threat or an opportunity. Whatever your perception is, do not forget that someone will take advantage of it!

Therefore, the sooner you consider Megatrends within your strategic planning process, the sooner you can start adjusting your business and operation models as well as your pipe-line of innovative products.

Why not start brainstorming by reading “I robot” published in 1950 from Sci-Fi Author Isaac Assimov on the beach !

And after vacations, you can dig your old Sci-Fi novels from the attic and start envisioning more of our future world.

Don’t react, Anticipate.

Network collaboration: a key to breakthrough

Examining kids’ behaviors helps reflecting on the dynamics of innovation. In the playground, one kid finds a ball and begins to play on its own. He throws it in the air or against the wall. It’s fun at start but becomes very quickly boring as development options are limited. Another kid finds a ball, asks around for players and collaborates with others to create the right context for a fun game. One will be the goalkeeper, another one the attacker. Obviously the game can last much longer with much more evolution possibilities.

Let’s see how this applies to converting into reality the radical rethinking of an existing urban concept.

What comes to mind if I say “urban public buses”? Slow, crowded, uncomfortable, always late? Now what if you could get exactly the contrary: a bus which is fast, spacious, comfortable, right on time (by the way, thinking about contraries is a good methodology tip to generate innovative products)

Sounds like a great but utopist idea? Well, not fully… it does exist. Let me introduce the SUPERBUS!!!

Imagine a bus with 23 individual business style leather seats that picks you up where and when you wish and brings you at a speed of 250 km/hours where you have to go. And on top of that, it’s an electric one !

The concept in itself is great. It aims to provide a solution to changes that will result from different megatrends such as mobility, megacities and resource efficiencies.

However, to really breakthrough, the SUPERBUS project is dependent on the successful collaboration of different parties with very different interests, stakeholders and workings.  First you need a bus. Private manufacturers can do that, can’t they? Though, as it is a very daring concept, I am not sure that a standard bus manufacturer would jump in on day one. It is more a project for visionary CEO’s, such as Tesla’s electric sports cars CEO or Virgin boss once he is done with turning space into a tourist spot.  Then you need separate high-speed lanes between cities, and laws that allow high speed. Here, the players are politicians, public institutions, and citizens who might like the idea or oppose strongly as they do with new airports runways that disturb their quality of life. Of course you need electric power stations at the right places. And finally you need public bus companies and driving schools to cooperate to train and recruit bus drivers that could be able to join the Monaco formula 1 race…

As you can see, an invention can look great but converting it into reality often requires a very close and visionary collaboration between very different entities.

Be collaborative, be visionary, and above all be determined!