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As I predicted when the COVID pandemic began, we've seen very few if any new trends, mainly acceleration of existing ones.

Here is the truth about the longer term impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, which one day will be history, sooner than you may think in many nations. (written July 2020 - predictions turned out to be correct - read on)

* "How AI Will Change Your Life - A Futurist's Guide to a Super-Smart World" - Patrick Dixon's latest book on AI is published in September 2024 by Profile Books.  It contains 38 chapters on the impact of AI across different industries, government and our wider world.

That is especially likely in emerging markets in countries like Nigeria, Uganda, Indonesia, Vietnam or Brazil, with very few resources to prevent rapid spread, where most people are likely to gain immunity far more rapidly than in developed nations with repeated lockdowns, however fast a vaccine is developed.

I have been forecasting global trends for over 25 years, with a strong track record of proven results, advising over 400 of the world's largest multinationals, in every industry, across every region, often sharing platforms with their CEOs at their most important events.

And I also warned many times of new global pandemics like COVID.

(This article was posted July 2020 with minor edits in October 2021 - Judge for yourself how accurate it was.)

Tens of thousands of senior leaders have heard my keynote messages at global events that the world can change faster than you can hold a board meeting.

So AGILITY is absolutely fundamental to survival.  

AGILITY means having more than one strategy.  

Yes of course, there will be a plan, and hopefully the world around you will enable that to be delivered, but all global businesses need to have other plans, just in case. Thinking ahead.

Having contingencies, taking account of risks, flexible, dynamic, with enough diversification of business, supply chains and so on to manage rapidly evolving events.

It's easy to get carried away by sensationalist headlines, and to imagine that life on earth will never be the same again, that COVID will permanently reshape our whole world, causing revolutions in every industry and nation.

But as I predicted, the reality on the whole has been rather different for most companies in most industries....despite lurid headlines.

Why is that?

Many megatrends are relatively unchanged by COVID

I could list over 100 significant trends that will drive our future, for the next 30 years, as they have for the last 30 years.

Here are just a few examples:  

  • Rapid rise of India and China to become fully developed global economies, representing a third of humanity
  • >85% of growth of middle class consumers will be in emerging nations (where 85% of humanity lives)
  • Fall of Europe and United States % of global economy - becoming gradually less significant economically
  • Continued fall of technology / computing costs towards zero, with exponential rise in processing power and speed
  • Rapid fall of networking costs, bandwidth and mobile phone charges
  • As a result, increased home working, virtual teams etc
  • Huge increase in mobile payments, switch from traditional retail to online sales
  • Ageing of many developed nations, in huge contrast to high birth rates in nations like Nigeria and India
  • Growing concern about sustainable living, rapid decarbonisation of energy
  • Rapid growth in numbers of people globally who want to travel as tourists to other nations, and can afford to do so

COVID has accelerated many trends but not changed them

COVID has certainly accelerated the pace of many existing trends, so what we expected by 2025 will now happen in 2021 (eg % online sales; % virtual working), but the direction of those trends remains fundamentally the same.

Yes of course, we have seen massive disruptions, particularly in the travel and tourism sectors, as we have in the past with any viral pandemics.  

But the human desire to explore is unchanged.  Airlines may go bust today, but flying around the world will recover in future.  The same in many other badly affected sectors.  There will be life beyond COVID.

The greatest changes in some sectors will be ownership: billions lost by owners of companies that ran out of cash, bought as bargains by others, who will later make huge capital gains from such rescues.

The greatest debates about the future are usually about timing

Most board room debates are not about what is going to happen regarding megatrends, but about timing. The trends themselves are beyond doubt.

And we need to rethink some of those timings in the light of the pandemic.

  • By when will most new cars in Paris be electric powered?
  • By when will most electricity production in India be from solar / wind or other sustainable sources?
  • By when will 5G mobile bandwidth be available across all the EU?
  • By when will average life expectancy in Switzerland reach 90 years old?

What does all this mean for business strategy or government policy?

  • Focus on the bigger picture - just just the latest COVID headlines or other things in the news
  • Keep focussed on the fundamental needs of your customers - in many sectors relatively unchanged
  • Keep focussed on quality, consistency - keeping all the promises made in every contract
  • Keep focussed on efficiency and cost reduction - delivering world-class value every time
  • Take hold of your own future - with rapid innovation, leading your own industry
And as I say, invest in AGILITY, flexibility and dynamic decision-making.

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