This year, as we recover from a massive shock to all forms of structure and life as we once knew it, we have a chance to create the future. We will dust ourselves off, begin to rebuild, and attempt to return to a sense of normalcy.

However, we ask that you, as Outthinkers, take on this challenge with great care. In 2021, perhaps more than ever before, you will be writing the rules of a new reality. So, as you take your first steps toward shaping this new year, be sure that it is a reality in which you want to live.

Twice monthly, through our Outthinker Strategy Network, we gather a group of top CSOs to deliberate on the most important things on their minds while running a business today. This is not a massive global survey sent to thousands of CSOs asking them to agree or disagree on popular buzzwords or pre-defined topics. Rather, our trends report comes from in-depth conversations and trusted relationships, even if our list may not match up to the latest keywords in the news.

Each week, we will expand upon one of these trends with the intention of supporting your organization’s strategy for the next year and beyond. Our newsletter subscribers will receive early access to each weekly announcement. If you’re not already a subscriber and would like to be, click here.

Here is the list of top trends chosen for this year:

  1. TeleXaaS: This is the rise of “everything” as a service that can be delivered online. The pandemic has introduced new opportunities for the XaaS model where traditionally in-person experiences have become virtual.
  2. Be Good: Customers, regulators, and employees are paying increased attention to Environmental, Social and Governance practices. Organizations with purpose are gaining more traction than those that only care about profits. A 2021 strategy is one that aims to benefit all stakeholders: the community, employees, the environment, the government, and society as a whole.
  3. Proximity: Production and delivery of products and services is moving ever closer to the moment of customer demand in time and space. A wider range of products and services can be customized to each individual at the moment they’re demanded.
  4. Autonomous Connected Devices: This refers to automation and the Internet of Things powered by the speed and capability of 5G. This network of autonomous, interconnected devices that collect and share data continues to bring disruptive and transformative changes across industries.
  5. Ecosystem Development: The competitive landscape is changing. As we become more interconnected, unexpected partnerships are forming. Organizations that form ecosystems through partnerships and M&A expand their capabilities and gain ground, especially when rallying behind causes or movements.
  6. Geopolitical Retrenchment: This year marks a major political shift in the United States. The world trends toward deglobalization, while China’s economy continues to thrive and political tension presents business challenges.
  7. Future Organizational Models: As we reenter the post-Covid workplace, organizations are struggling to create agile organizations and bring Scrum and Lean models outside of IT. Companies have the chance to reimagine the future workplace by replacing hierarchical models and reducing bureaucracy.
  8. Future of Work: The immediacies of working during a pandemic have forced organizations to rethink how we enable, train, and support employees. Remote learning presents new ways to upskill and reskill the workforce. Younger workers are driven by brands with purpose, diversity and inclusion, and work-life balance.
  9. Digital & Platform Mindset: Companies like Airbnb, Uber, and Netflix have discovered ways to gain mind and market share without ownership. By coordinating the uncoordinated, platform business models are growing in prevalence and possibility, but it takes a shift in mindset to transition from product development to service and platform.
  10. Community Coordination: The dismantling of traditional systems of hierarchy and centralized structure is bringing power into the hands of communities. Platforms (in-person or virtual) that gather communities and foster connections, increasingly without an official organizer, have the capacity to uproot outdated traditions and create necessary structural reform.

Every week, we will release an in-depth perspective on what each trend means for your business. Newsletter subscribers will receive early access. Click here to subscribe.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels