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Researching Trends [Future
Posted on February 17, 2016 @ 12:05:00 PM by Paul Meagher

A useful recent book for studying global trends is No Ordinary Disruption: The Four Global Forces Breaking All The Trends (2015) by McKinsey researchers and consultants Richard Dobbs, James Manyika, and Jonathan Woetzel.

In this book they identify 4 global trends as the ones to watch out for:

  1. Economic growth is occurring most rapidly in emerging cities in China, India, Asia and Africa. As people continue to move from rural areas to cities and urban clusters, they create demand for infrastructure, goods and services. Multi-nationals like Coca Cola, Frito Lay and Unilever report that most of their revenue growth is a result of growth happening in these markets. When looking for global growth opportunities do research at the city/urban region level rather than the region/country level because it is the cities where growth is most evident.
  2. The effect of technology on business is accelerating. This is no surprise but it does have implications for what needs to be done to keep up to date on technologies and skills in our businesses. It can represent a threat or an opportunity depending on how technology acceleration is managed.
  3. The aging of the population around the world is creating significant problems and opportunities. The world will need to adapt to this new normal with new products and services aimed at the elderly, increasing the retirement age, becoming more resource efficient in the delivery of health care services, re-employing retired workers to retain skills and workforce, etc...
  4. We are becoming more globally interconnected in terms of trade, capital, people and information flow across national boarders. The positive aspect is that it is easier for businesses to expand their markets across borders. A negative aspect is that our business can be disrupted by new entrants outside our borders. Either way it is difficult to ignore this trend and businesses will need to develop strategies to cope with and exploit this increasing global interconnectedness.

Where I would use the book is as a tool for researching trends. If you are doing work on a business plan you will often have to look into the crystal ball and identify trends that affect the viability of your product or service. None of the trends identified in this book constitute radically new insights but what might be new are some of the numbers, graphs, and references assembled to characterize these trends. The book can be paired with the McKinsey Global Institute website as a credible resource for trend information you can use for big picture business planning. Some numbers you may need to obtain from local data sources but the characterization and analysis of big picture trends can be found on management consulting websites like McKinsey Global Institute. It should be noted that a precursor to the book was published on their website that focused specifically on the technology disruption trend.

The book does not spell out the methodology they use to make trend projections and often they seem to be simple linear extrapolations from present trends. An example would be this trend graph showing the ratio of retirees to children.

Alot might happen between now and 2050 to that could change these graphs so we should have some measure of skepticism regarding them. At the same time, those reading business plans often want to see numbers and graphs and simple linear extrapolations from present trends may be as justifiable as other methods of predicting the future.

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