About megatrends and the 2050 MegaTrend map by futurologist Richard Watson
What is a megatrend?
If the terms (the wording) had existed back then, industrialization could have been described as a megatrend and the railroad as a disruptive technology. Some people were afraid of going blind at the sight of a moving train, as it moved at a speed many times greater than that of a horse. Others fell over themselves with enthusiasm for technology.
The railroad still runs today, and there are still horses. Only the ratio of usage in the transport sector is very different in 2021 than in 1821. Nevertheless, the railroad has not only inexorably revolutionized transport. Megatrends are changes that have a noticeable effect on our lives. Dealing with them is linked to an abundance of emotions: from fear to paralysis, from cautious interest to euphoria.
Megatrends: Every invention has consequences
As a disruptive technology, the railroad has led to the rise and fall of entire industries and professions. Among other things, it made travel possible as a trend suitable for the masses. The new trend aroused the need for new and improved products: from heavy suitcases to suitcases on castors and pull-up cases to the all-terrain, waterproof, aircraft cabin-compatible, ultra-light, tear-resistant hard-shell business trolley of today. Megatrends are a common thread for anticipating future trends and technologies.
Megatrends: Why there are so many terms?
Science and business deal with the topic of megatrends on an international level. Scientists shape terms. Companies, marketing departments and the media do the same. It's about capturing attention. There is no global megatrend committee that defines globally applicable rules for naming and using individual terms. You can decide for yourself what you want to name a megatrend. It's about the content, not the name.
How many megatrends are there?
That depends on which source or which image from which provider you are looking at. Numbers are often given that are good for headlines and easy to remember. The number varies from 10 to 12, 15, 17 or 20. As the innoXperts® innovation agency, we use the “2050 MegaTrends map” by it's inventor and internationally renowned futurologist Richard Watson. The "2050 MegaTrends map" focuses on the connection of individual areas of life with one or more megatrends. It's about the content, not the number.
The 2050 MegaTrend is merely a map of possible routes forward. My intention was that it should start a discussion.
How long does a megatrend last?
Megatrends are organic. They move from one to the next and they change. The megatrend "industrialization" is now called "technology" and has an impact then as now on how we work and live, how we communicate and how we behave. A megatrend is certain to last so long that it will affect your own lifetime and that of your descendants. It's about the quality of the effects, not the length of time in years.
Megatrends do in fact sometimes stop. Often they bend, sometimes they snap, or more usually they simply slow down. Worth mentioning that very powerful megatrends often result in counter-trends moving in the opposite direction. Another example might be Digital music/Streaming versus vividly revival. The counter trends are both risks and opportunities.
Richard Watson's “2050 MegaTrends map”
Richard Watson is the futurist-in-residence at the Entrepreneurship Centre of Cambridge Judge Business School (CBJS), one of the most renowned business schools in the world. When he couldn't find his way around in the chaos of research, notes and bookmarks, he sat at the kitchen table and began to draw mind maps with his children's chalk. He wanted to structure his research results in such a way that he could share them with others both online and offline. At some point the right idea for the right visualization came up.
Megatrends and the ability to act
Modelled on the London underground map, Richard Watson visualized 16 trend lines that depict our areas of life: from work and education to health and technology to safety and the value system. On this plan, he spread a network of megatrends and arranged them in such a way that links and intersections, opportunities and risks became visible. The networking of areas of life and megatrends creates a solid source of inspiration for the development of new services and products. The "2050 MegaTrends map" helps with the most important step in the integration of megatrends: The right selection.
Megatrends: Threats or think tanks?
Companies and service providers are exposed to dynamic framework conditions: laws, international trade agreements, competitors, media, opinion leaders, wishes, interests, requirements, zeitgeist and much more. Companies have a choice: Do you let yourself be guided or do you position yourself? You have the choice. To do this, you need an idea of how you want the company to evolve.
Innovators need a vision of the future - a vision of where the world is going or where they would like to go.
Megatrends open up a broad horizon of options for action. They are a structured source of inspiration for your own room-for-manoeuver. They offer food for thought for almost all areas of life, services and products: from the world's first CO2-neutral cruise ship (megatrend: climate) to "thinking" shoe soles (megatrends: e-health, connectivity) to avatar teachers (megatrends: technology [Artificial intelligence, gamification] and society [individualization]).
Megatrends: rebel with a cause
It is undisputed that companies have to make decisions. In order to make your decisions, you need an idea of the goals you are trying to achieve. These goals should be clearly defined and substantiated. Instruments such as market analysis or surveys are available as a basis for clearly formulated goals. Nevertheless, you have to be able to agree on goals. For a top result you need everyone on board, regardless of whether they hesitate or rush forward and regardless of whether they are team players or narcissists, nostalgics or pioneers. The world is colorful, the world is diverse. Megatrends represent current and future possibilities. This diversity offers a home and good reasons for every type of innovator.
Megatrends for inspiration, ideas and impact
Diversity can be a big plus because many different perspectives generate more ideas. Strengths that could be used in the right place at the right time. It is a challenge to bring different identities, perspectives and personalities to one table. Idea-rounds fail because you don't even meet. Too complicated, too time-consuming, too expensive, too exhausting. Megatrends help to bring together different types of innovators around one topic. They support the search for areas in which the employees in the company can make specific contributions. Megatrends provide impulses for a common mindset and support the search for a meaningful focus.
Megatrends: what really matters
Find out which megatrends are relevant for you. Get professional support on how to integrate these into your company, your product development and your portfolio. Unless you already have innovation managers or internal idea trainers on board. They can provide the service in-house, pick out individual megatrends, discuss them together and develop ideas for the future from them. The more structured the brainstorming process, taking megatrends into account, the faster you will achieve high-quality and sustainable results.
When dealing with megatrends, one should consider both the long-term consequences of a single trend and the possible overlap of several trends. An alternative approach is to specifically pick out one or more megatrends in which you want to be active.
Megatrends: Example "New Work"
The integration of a megatrend for the further development of the company requires a foundation. This consists of the willingness for change (transformation) and a decision for a radical, fast and disruptive renewal or an innovation strategy that is to be implemented more slowly and step by step (incrementally). The third pillar of the foundation is a mindset that is open to a culture of innovation.
Goals and Methods
How do you want to integrate the megatrend “New Work”? Would you like to copy the necessary measures from others or develop them yourself? Should a few selected employees develop ideas or do you want to integrate everyone involved, including customers, in the idea development process (open innovation, co-creation)? And if you want to get everyone on board: Which technologies do you need for this?
“New Work” and the other megatrends
Well-implemented megatrends are not stand-alone solutions. They are enriched with the most important impulses from other megatrends. For the megatrend "New Work", this would include the megatrend connectivity (digitization) or individualization (diversity, empowerment, gender shift). This is the only way to create a new work environment that attracts professionals like moths are attracted to light. Flexible working hours, family planning, gender equality (equal pay), the abolition of dress codes or the free choice of work location are just some of the framework conditions that could be redesigned.
Pick two or three trends that overlap. You could combine these with one another and think about whether and what your company could achieve in this area.
Why we use the “2050 MegaTrends map”
Scenario Planner Richard Watson: further ahead
The quality of the visualization is the reason why we use Richard Watson's “2050 MegaTrends map”. Its presentation is much more than just an overview of the current megatrends as a subway plan. It is a navigation system and an orientation aid.
On each individual line, Richard Watson names the possible consequences, links, overlaps, opportunities and risks, station by station. It shows what is now and what could come. In this respect, his “2050 MegaTrends map” is an invaluable treasure trove of impulses and inspiration because it integrates many perspectives, enables a multidimensional view and looks further ahead than others.
That depends on the time horizons. If you want your new product or service to be on the market in one to three years, it would be very important (to include Megatrends into innovation development), and quite important in three to five years. If you plan to be marketable in ten years or more, you can neglect some aspects, such as current technology.
Link innovation with megatrends
Megatrends using the example of OstseeSparkasse Rostock (OSPA)
Summer 2019: The aim of OSPA (financial service provider) is to anchor a culture of innovation in the company. Ideas with potential should be recognized, developed and implemented at an early stage. Innovation should become an integral part of day-to-day business. Employees should be enabled to activate and support innovation processes. The new culture of innovation should reach customers.
Autumn 2019: Together with the board of directors, managers and employees, a selection of the topics will take place that will be relevant for OSPA customers in the future. Megatrends are used as a source of inspiration and compared with the current state of knowledge and the goals of OSPA.
Spring 2020: At InnoCamp®, employees develop ideas for new business areas and the megatrends of connectivity (digitization), demographic change (Silver Society, Best Ager) and climate (sustainability). The result: around 90 implementable ideas on the four selected future topics.
Today: The best ideas are being implemented. In October 2021, the training of internal idea trainers will start, who will accompany innovations in the OSPA in the future. The integration of megatrends has resulted in employees feeling well equipped for the future.
Author: Gesine Cody (innoXperts® Strategy, Communication & Senior Copy Writer)
Further informations and download:
- Author, keynote speaker, futurologist, scenario planner, founder of "What's next" and inventor of ingenious Thinking Tools: Read the Questions and Answers with Richard Watson
- Click to download the "2050 MegaTrend map" here (PDF).