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TODD SMITH — Top 20 predictions for next 2 decades from Fast Company



As we prepare to close the chapter on 2015 and open a new book for 2016, we enter the season of predictions, observations and prognostications.

Fast Company turned 20 this year, and has released 20 predictions for the next two decades. They consider the world of tomorrow, where work is still heavily dependent on human beings , technology is still social – and most importantly, knowledge is still power. The only constant is transformative change.

1. Speed Will Triumph.

Speed emerged as a business imperative in 1995 with the meteoric rise of Netscape, and it has become even more central in the years since. Constant iteration and redefinition are central features at businesses from Amazon to Google to Netflix, and every industry is now required to embrace that pace. (The unanswered question: Which governments will learn to operate with this speed imperative?) Facebook may be the ultimate expression of iterative change, expecting new initiatives to be imperfect – and relentlessly improving them over time.

2. Mark Zuckerberg Will Lead.

When Fast Company called Zuckerberg “The Kid Who Turned Down $1 Billion” on the cover of the May 2007 issue, he was a baby-faced 22-year-old with just 19 million users. Today he still has that baby face, but he has grown into an unparalleled leader. Now 31 years old, with nearly 1.5 billion customers across the globe, Zuckerberg is wildly successful yet still underestimated. He has relentlessly improved himself as a businessperson and continues to be focused on learning. This psychological feature, along with the fact that he has a net worth north of $30 billion and a controlling stake in a world-spanning enterprise, virtually guarantees that he will be a bedrock figure in our economic and cultural evolution for decades to come.

3. Malala Will Build.

After you’ve won a Nobel Peace Prize as a teenager, what’s next? Malala Yousafzai is answering that question by leveraging her global public image not simply to raise awareness of the educational needs of girls in the developing world, but also to orchestrate on-the-ground programs that will have tangible impact. What her nascent Malala Fund represents is an ongoing effort to change societal expectations. Malala herself represents the leading edge of a cohort that is only just being unleashed: young talent growing up in obscure corners of the globe. This generation will increasingly have the tools and opportunity to redefine our world. Malala is just the beginning.

4. Elon Musk Will Inspire.

Whether Musk is the real-life incarnation of Tony Stark is not the point. Nor is the ultimate success of his enterprises: Tesla, SpaceX, and SolarCity. What matters is that Musk’s ideas, and his example, are a catalyst for progress on one of the most complicated issues of our time: climate change. As the world’s population grows and the standard of living improves, we will produce more greenhouse gases, more pollution. Concerted, high-impact government action will not materialize unless there is a crisis. What remains, then, is a market-based solution, which is precisely what Musk is dedicated to instigating. Musk not only wants to build a bigger business, but also inspire us to address our biggest challenges.

5. Technology Will Improve the Human Condition.

Science fiction often depicts a dystopian tomorrow. But if you consider the long lens of history, technological advances have consistently improved people’s lives. We cannot forget the often cruel and rapacious things that have been perpetrated in the name of progress. Nor do we expect an end to the tragedies of natural disaster or disease outbreak, of war or terrorism. Whether by accident or overt design, nuclear, chemical, and biological threats remain constant. But it is also worthwhile to remind ourselves that fears of tomorrow have often been overblown. Perhaps the most telling statistic: Global life expectancy has climbed consistently over the centuries and in the past decade has improved for all regions of the world. That advance will continue unabated.

6. Digital Tools Will Unlock Opportunity.

Inequality remains rampant across the world. The digital divide has often served to heighten the gap between the haves and have-nots. But rising mobile penetration offers the potential to shift that dynamic. When broadband smartphones achieve global ubiquity, digital learning tools offered by Khan Academy, Duo­lingo, and others will transform opportunity in the developing world. The teachers and students of tomorrow will not be confined to classrooms, or to the countries and cities that can afford them.

7. Democracy Will Be Digital.

Naysayers have given many explanations for why voting in the United States does not take place via the Internet: identity authentication, security, and reliability. These concerns have all been overcome by businesses such as banks and retailers, and before long government will solve them as well. As a new generation of voters comes to the polls – a  group raised on one-click purchases and instant access via apps – the traditional voting process will become untenable. New candidates will establish their credibility by extolling their technological sophistication, and e-voting will be everywhere.

8. Diversity Will Deepen.

Those controlling the halls of power in business and government in the United States remain predominantly male and white. This will not persist as our population becomes more heterogeneous. An increasingly diverse leadership will be more successful too: as the pace of change accelerates, we will face increasingly complex problems, and the greater the variety of approaches and experiences available to tackle them, the better the likelihood of success.

9. Mission Will Trump Money.

Economists have long stressed the power of financial incentives. What’s measured is what matters; competition breeds excellence; you get what you pay for. It is all logical, yet in many circumstances it is coming up short. Recent real-world studies have shown that having a purpose associated with work produces better performance than pure financial reward. The next generation of workers will expect to be engaged in their jobs through more than just financial means.

10. DNA Will Be Unstoppable.

The decoding of the human genome has launched a wave of new treatments and approaches, although the impact of genetic data is in its infancy.

Tune into the Spin Cycle next week for the other 10 predictions for the coming years.

Top Performance Brand Entering Holidays: Nordstrom

Nordstrom is a top performer on social media, according to a new ranking that explores how good retailers are at engaging with shoppers as we enter the holiday shopping season.

The Engagement Labs study features insights from October and November, measured using the company’s eValue tool. It records over 100,000 brands’ performances on social media, scoring them between 0-100 based on engagement, impact and responsiveness metrics.

Engagement is the level of interaction content receives on a specific social network. Impact is the reach content receives on a specific social network, and responsiveness measures how much, how fast and how well a brand responds to actual conversations amongst its users.

According to Engagement Labs, it’s imperative for retail brands to utilize social media to not only increase brand awareness, but also keep their followers updated on holiday sales.

Upscale fashion retailer Nordstrom is a top performer on Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, Nordstrom has the highest eValue average score on the list at 93.11. It has enjoyed fan growth of 89,536 within the one-month tracking period and attracted 380.57 likes per 1,000 fans – the highest on the entire list.

Gut-Wrenching Mic | Costco E. Coli Outbreak Traced To Celery

Health officials have determined an E. coli outbreak that left 19 people ill was traced to a celery-and-onion mix used in Costco Wholesale’s chicken salad. The California-based maker of the diced vegetable mix, Taylor Farms Pacific Inc., issued a recall on the Food and Drug Administration website last week. Montana state health authorities said the blend tested positive for the E. coli strain, which can be deadly and cause serious gastrointestinal illness. At least five of the 19 people who were sick were hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. The outbreak was reported in Montana, Utah, Colorado, California, Missouri, Virginia and Washington state, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, it appears Costco and Taylor Farms Pacific handled the outbreak swiftly and with transparency, and this shouldn’t prove malignant to the brand’s sterling reputation.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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