Dream Believe Create is an online magazine for women entrepreneurs, creatives and change-makers. It’s for women who want to start sustainable, mission-driven businesses or creative practices without sacrificing their principles and avoiding the profit-at-any-cost / business-as-usual model that we’re all so tired of.

Global Trends That Are Changing The World

Global Trends That Are Changing The World

Every business is affected by external events, issues and patterns of behaviour and the general direction in which they’re developing or changing are what we call trends. Think of trends as waves that will rise and surge and carry us forward if we catch them in time. As business owners and change-makers, we ignore them at our peril.

It’s easy to assume that we can’t affect the future. While it’s true that individuals can’t influence macro trends such as demographic changes or a widespread shift in consumer consciousness, you absolutely can, and should, learn how to identify and respond to those trends in order to minimise risk and spur sustainable growth in your business.

This is the first in a series of articles where we’ll explore some of the dominant trends affecting how we do business in 2018 and beyond.

 1.    Change + Unpredictability

 Possibly the most significant trend of all right now is the increasing rate of change and its attendant unpredictability.

 This is a time of political turmoil - hello Brexit, Trump administration and Australia’s 7th Prime Minister in ten years! It’s also a period of great economic uncertainty, technological advances and climate change. We’re seeing more catastrophic weather events; once stable governments seem to be losing the plot and harsh ideologies that favour elites are trying to usurp social safety nets   – such as accessible health care, education and welfare programs -  which so many of us {in western democracies anyway} have taken for granted all our lives.

 The result is that most of us are scrambling to stay upright on a moving deck. The reality right now is that change and unpredictability have become our new normal.

Entrepreneurs have to start and grow their businesses in this ever-changing environment. It’s an environment where most of what’s happening on a broader scale is out of their control and for an entrepreneur who wants, not only to make a profit, but to make the world a better place,  that can feel overwhelming.

However, there is a way to move forward, and it’s three-fold.

First off, you must stay vigilant and adaptive. This is not a time to bury your head in the sand and hope it will all go away. It won’t, not in the foreseeable future anyway.

Secondly, shift your focus to what you can control, and what you can influence. For example, it’s up to you what products and services you develop, how you market them, how and where you expend your resources, how you treat your employees and whom you do business with. 

Then, create a business strategy with unambiguous policies that you can rely on to help you make clear, value-aligning decisions in the face of relentless change

 2.    Technology

Developments in technology, particularly big data, artificial intelligence {AI}and advancements in biotech are impacting all of our lives in ways that were unimaginable just a few short years ago. 

The potential of AI to perform tasks that previously relied on human intelligence is expanding rapidly, helped along by the availability of large data-sets, increasing complexity in algorithms and unprecedented computing power.

All aspects of business are going to be affected, and it’s imperative that you as an entrepreneur stay digitally aware or risk the very real possibility of becoming either entirely obsolete or seriously outperformed in your industry.

While this exponential rate of advancement means that staying on top of technology can certainly be a challenge, don’t forget that there is also enormous potential.

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On the flip side, make sure you also stay focused on skills that are not easily replicated by AI, or that can be measured by data.  Creativity, imagination, agility and adaptability are what will help you to differentiate your business and stand out in a sea of same-same as automation takes hold.

 3.    Transparency

It’s non-negotiable that successful entrepreneurs will need to embrace transparency and traceability. Without these, they will lose customer trust. And fast!

It doesn’t matter how many discounts you offer, if a customer doesn’t ‘get’ why you do what you do, and how you do it, then they’ll most likely take their purchasing power elsewhere.

Customers nowadays want to know what’s motivating your business. Why do you exist? If it’s all about profit at any cost then that’s a recipe for disaster. 

Exploitative practices, dodgy raw materials, privacy breaches and environmental damage are just some of the issues that will turn customers away. Reputable companies are expected to be open. They need, for example, to share the details of their supply chain and environmental policies, to be honest about mistakes and to move quickly to rectify them.

The best way to create a successful, sustainable business is through the hearts and minds of your customers – and in today’s world you won’t achieve this without trust-building transparency.

 4.    Personalisation

This is a massive trend, and it can be a challenging one for start-ups. Customers are increasingly exacting, some would say demanding, and these days their expectations are sky high. In particular, the desire for personalisation is growing as people are increasingly interested in asserting their individuality.

This means that customers are seeking products and services that align with their values, and that affirm how they want to be, and how they want to be seen. Social media motivates much of this, but it’s a trend that also speaks to a growing desire to be authentic. and to stand out in the offline world too. 

Curation, recommendations and creating personalised experiences are key. Data and AI can automate this personalisation and bring incredible efficiencies to the process. However, human-to-human interactions will also remain sought after. This is especially true of customers who are deliberately seeking out a more crafted experience or product, even though these will come at a premium price point.

5.    Globalisation

It seems we are entering a new age of globalisation. The term was relatively unfamiliar back in the ‘90s when I took one of the first undergraduate courses dedicated to the subject, but it’s an ongoing process that’s been around for a very long time. Examples of what we would now call international trade are routinely uncovered in in archaeological digs. Ancient pottery fragments, jewellery and other artifacts that were manufactured in one region are re-discovered in far removed locations.

Still, and despite its longevity, globalisation gets a lot of bad press. I believe the process itself is neither good nor bad. It can be used to create opportunities for sustainable development and for bringing people closer together, just as it can be used to create barriers. It can be used to improve people’s lives just as it is often used to do the exact opposite.

Whatever your views though, globalisation is here to stay. The intertwining of people’s lives across the globe through trade and the transfer of ideas is a permanent fixture.

As entrepreneurs, we need to be acutely aware that we’re operating in a globalised system and to be open to all the advantages and benefits that brings. However, we also need to be mindful of the harm that can be caused to workers, communities and the natural world and to be on our guard to ensure we do not become part of any system that enables damage to happen.

This exploration of the critical trends shaping our world and our businesses will continue next month when we’ll be looking at the impacts of identity politics, feminism, spirituality and the growing desire for connection.

In the meantime, you’re warmly invited to stay connected.

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