Appearing with Peter Switzer recently on his Sky Business program Switzer, I was asked which industries will be hot in the future and which will not – http://www.switzer.com.au/video/steve-tighe.
Now, as a futurist you are always being asked for predictions about the future. You also know that not only is the future not predictable, but to make such predictions on a nationally televised business program could be a little misleading.
However, whilst the future might not be predictable, what we can know, and what we can study, are patterns of social change, and methods for understanding why the future might be different.
One such method is the Pendulum Theory of Change.
According to this theory, whenever we gain something, we lose something else. Over time what we lose becomes scarce and increasingly valued, causing a re-perception in our attitudes, and ultimately driving a shift in social behaviour.
So how does the Pendulum Theory help to answer Peter Switzer’s question regarding ‘Which industries will prosper in the future?’
Well, if we look at social change in Western economies over the past 40 years, the major driver of this change has been the shift in values from Traditionalism to Materialism – the desire for visible economic achievement and material wealth. Industries or areas of the economy that have gained from this shift in values have included housing, construction, fashion, finance & banking, retail and even cities.
But what about the losers?
In a social context where the accumulation of possessions has been seen as a form of status, our natural environment has been reduced to being perceived merely as a source of raw materials. Because of this view the environment has been a clear and visible ‘loser’ of social change over the past 40 years.
And true to the Pendulum Theory of Change, as resources have become scarce, society’s perception of resource usage is changing, and sustainability has become the growth area of 2011.
Just as clear a loser, but less visible, is the other great victim of the past 40 years – time.
Our desire to express who we are through what we own and what we earn has come at the cost of our scarcest resource – only recently the Courier-Mail reported that Australians in 2011 are working an extra 6 hours a week more than they did in 1997.
In essence, the silent epidemic of time poverty has overwhelmed us as we have become beholden to constant activity and busy-ness.
And if this epidemic were to continue are we to believe that in 2025 we will have lost another 6 hours per week to work?
I think not!
Just as the environment as an issue has reached a tipping point, surely the same is about to occur with time poverty?
Our focus on time saving innovation as a potential saviour has failed.
Instead, what’s required is an internal re-perception on how we think about time and how we choose to use our time.
And as this social re-perception occurs, as always there will be industries that are winners and losers.
So, as I tried to explain on the Switzer program, rather than make a hard and fast prediction about the future, let me put forward the following scenario:
Our changing attitude towards time will be as great a catalyst for innovation and industry success in the future, as our changing attitude towards the environment has been in the present.
As an outcome of increasing dissonance with time poverty, society will switch its focus from Saving Time to Savouring Time, and experiences rather than possessions will become the new collectible. Industries that meet the rising demand for experiences are therefore likely to prosper from the trend of Savouring Time.
How will you spend your time in the future?