CAREER IN (FORE)SIGHT: DON’T MISS OUT ON THESE 5 GLOBAL MEGATRENDS
“Change is inevitable…” It has always been a feature of human existence but, for many of us at this point, it feels like the rate of change is increasing like never before. More than ever, we need to be watching for changes that will impact us and our future. That entails the need to look beyond the boundaries of our organization, our sector, our competitors, or even our country. Why? Because big, emerging changes that will transform organizations, communities, economies, and countries are taking place. These large, global transformative changes are known as the megatrends.
As per definition, global megatrends are macroeconomic and geostrategic forces that are shaping our world, and our collective futures in profound ways. They are big and include some of society’s biggest challenges (to be mitigated)— and opportunities (to be seized). The concept of megatrends is not new. They are factual and often backed by verifiable data. The overarching and intricate effects of the megatrends will demand “whole of society” solutions that start from us, individuals.
Here’s presenting a perspective on the FIVE GLOBAL MEGATRENDS with respect to you - the stakeholders of your career and the future:
1) RISE OF TECHNOLOGY (and you)
On a longer timescale than the one, we can possibly imagine, technological convergence is at a pace that is exponential. Being exponential is all about evolution and the acceleration can be measured in the “returns” of the technology - such as speed, efficiency, and overall “power” - which improve exponentially too.
What about technology and its exponential expansion when it comes down to you: unmissable! . Imagine the positives of being able to access any service you want, or physical asset or tool you need, just when and where you need it. People’s association and interaction with the web/the internet as a mental, social and physical extension of themselves is more evident than ever. Computing, communications, and storage everywhere – the ability to interface with digital technology, data, and the web anywhere, anytime on any device. The “Internet of Things”, artificial intelligence, and big data – the ability to access and analyze vast and disparate data, along with the ability for computers to make decisions based on this data are being tapped into. The sharing economy and distributed trust heavily rely on tech leading to even more digitization of matter as we shall move towards 3D printing and the creating of physical materials on the spot based on digitally transmitted parameters. The potential is huge and the possibilities are endless.
It should be no surprise us that technology weighs so heavily in geopolitics: it is already present in all aspects of our lives. But unlike previous ideas of rooms/states full of robots, today’s automation framework focuses on collaborating with humans to interpret data cognitively and establish smart insights to make better decisions. That leads us to a rethinking of urbanization as we know it today.
2) UNDERSTANDING ACCELERATING URBANISATION (and your position)
The challenges of navigating the transition are great as well. The individual, organizational, governmental, and societal adjustments are real, and the impact of these adjustments will be felt by everyone. We are urban. Our future is set to be urban. A new generation of mega, smart cities is booming, thanks to global migration and we are bang at the middle of it.
This global urban transition has transformed the way we live, work, travel, and build networks. And it’s just the beginning. A staggering 90% of this urban population growth is said to take place in African and Asian countries with huge demands on infrastructure, services, job creation, climate, and environment. Mumbai in India and Lagos in Nigeria are prime examples of the same.
Urbanisation is complex. Apart from the strong relationship between urbanization and economic growth, cities can go on to become more powerful and influential as development tools than nations as we know them today. India has reached a turning point in the journey of its economic transformation wherein our cities occupy just 3% of the nation’s land, but their contribution to the GDP is a whopping 60%. Semi-urban India already has 60% of the population.
While the country witnesses a quantum leap in its planning capacities, there is immense scope for accelerated development of private sector companies, innovative solutions to the public sector, and good quality career growth to future urban professionals. A bottom-up approach is set to enable smart citizens rather than just smart cities. How smart are you?
3) SHIFT IN GLOBAL ECONOMIC POWER (and your decision-making power)
In a nutshell, by 2050, the list of the most economically powerful countries in the world will look very different to today.
China is well on its way to being a global superpower. A force to reckon with as its economy is now predicted to overtake the US by 2028, five years earlier than previously thought. With China, India will take up a rising share of world output as the world’s economic center of gravity shifts toward Asia with its huge asset of untapped natural resources. The diffusion of power from west to east will bring about great changes in the international system, given that the world will no longer be dominated by a strong power block but by diversified power centers.
Globalization is in the midst of a transformation. And the public debate from our end needs to shift from recapturing the past to looking toward the future. The mix of countries, companies, and professionals (read: you) that stand to gain in the next era is changing. Hence, employability takes center stage with us - the lifelong, continuous process of new knowledge, purposeful learning, and skills that contribute to improving one's employment through various shifts in the labor market linked to the economy. Career building then takes the nuanced form of employability and understanding the relationship between work, society, and the economy.
4) CLIMATE CHANGE AND RESOURCE SCARCITY (and what you’ve got)
You only need to look at the abnormal weather patterns and natural disasters we’re experiencing to know that it’s a classic case of ‘Infinite Growth on a Finite Planet’. And yes, climate change is real!
Global warming due to increased carbon emission, depletion of non-renewable natural resources, and rising sea levels are all aspects of a major domino effect in play at this moment in time. Extreme weather events such as droughts, fires, and storms have doubled since 1980. Floods and other hydrological events have quadrupled in the same period. The water crisis by 2025 can be the #1 global risk.
At its core, the megatrend contains the “environmentalist’s paradox”: the more we deplete our resources and degrade our ecosystems, the more average human well-being improves globally. In short, the world’s current economic model is pushing beyond the limits of the planet’s ability to cope.
Resource scarcity is an important issue because resource scarcity in turn imposes social costs. Corporations and individuals alike can no longer ignore the trade-off between economic and environmental well-being. It is no longer possible to continue with ‘business as usual. With a global majority agreeing that the world is facing a huge crisis, we can expect consumers (for our business) and ourselves to gravitate towards more sustainable options opening a vast world of endless possibilities. The sustainability race is on…Are you keeping up?
5) DEMOGRAPHIC SHIFTS (and the foundation of your future)
By 2030 the world’s population is projected to rise by more than 1 billion, bringing the total to over eight billion. People in all regions are living longer and having fewer children. The result is that the fastest-growing segment of the population will be the over 65s. And you are headed towards that yourself!
The increase in the aging population potentially brings drastic demographic changes that are set to create powerful ripple effects in the 21st-century economy. It will hence require dramatic social changes from the very core of society. Demographic change can influence the underlying growth rate of the economy, structural productivity growth, living standards, savings rates, consumption, and investment.
“Work” will also take new forms and require new skill sets. The foundation is shifting. A more globally interconnected market will see global talent moving in all directions. ‘How’ we work is changing, too. Remote work has seen a boost and the coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated this “work from anywhere” culture. In addition to financial incentives, re-training and the development of new skills for you, as you grow older will also be critical. As the demographic profile shifts, the traditional linear lifecycle will become increasingly disrupted and the social change that comes with needs adopting and adapting in equal measure.
CONCLUSION (but this is where you begin)
Through these examinations, it is apparent and crystal clear that these megatrends have impacts that cannot, and should not, be addressed in isolation. The intent of delving deep into these is to anticipate these changes, take them seriously, and apply creativity and resources to stay ahead of the critical issues they will present. It is to start a constructive dialogue in this regard--and a sense of urgency of sorts.
I’ve got some questions that could be food for thought to get you started: Imagine it’s 2030. What three significant changes do you think have happened in your industry? Do you recognize the exponential expansion of technology impacting you in terms of relevant skills, say, how would you be dividing your current role between yourself and a robot? How important do you consider upskilling to be in relation to the growing Asian economy in particular? Better yet, which of your strengths would be most useful if your organization was to double in size. Do you sense the underlying social change around the demographic shift yet? How would you transfer your talents if your industry disappeared overnight - how would you rebuild differently?
Through all this, “We have not inherited the land from our parents, we are borrowing it from our children.” It’s time to question our relationship with the planet. Are you doing it?
Answer them honestly and assess the clarity you discover. The key to unlocking success is to scan the horizon for these megatrends with a mindset of opportunity rather than fear. When considering the rapidly evolving environment, and its enablement/acceleration by the megatrends, assess what are you doing to make yourself adaptable, innovative, collaborative, and ready for growth. The quote that I started with completes now: “Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” Best believe that you’ve got only one option to thrive on.