Peter Drucker used to talk about “the future that has already happened.”
He meant this as a lot of the trends that are going to impact our work over the near-term are likely right in front of us, we just have to look and see them.
About a year or so ago, I wrote a piece on 10 challenges facing the performing arts that is still one of the most widely read pieces on my blog.
I wrote that piece with Drucker’s idea in mind.
Recently, I worked with Booking Protect on a piece that was focused on the trends that are going to impact people’s willingness to travel or attend live events this year.
Maybe you are seeing a trend, I look for the challenges that organizations are facing because the underbelly of the challenge is a comparable or greater opportunity.
That said, here are 10 challenges that all businesses are likely to deal with in 2019.
1. Growing income inequality:
I saw a stat somewhere that said the bottom 50% of Americans had seen a decline in wages over the last 40 years.
While you might be saying that you aren’t in the bottom 50% of Americans in income, the picture unless you were in the top 10% of income earners wasn’t as pretty either.
But to eliminate any political implications in this statement, the point is that as income inequality grows, people’s ability to spend is likely to be tempered. The choices that people will be willing or able to make will be compromised.
That’s a challenge we will have to deal with.
2. Continued issues around climate change:
99% of climate scientists say that man has had some sort of impact on the global climate.
In DC, we had the most rainfall in recorded history last year.
In the United Kingdom, there were several snowstorms when historically they were rare.
Superstorms are much more common.
Climate change, whether or not you are buying the science or not is having a real impact on us.
And, that is a challenge we will need to deal with.
3. Political instability:
I’m not letting any cats out of the bag when I tell you that America is divided politically and it is having a real drag on our mental well-being.
The same goes for the United Kingdom and Brexit. We’ve seen this stuff pop up in France. On and on this goes.
Along with the real impacts that not being able to get things done are having on our ability to find solutions for a lot of other challenges on this list.
Political instability is a real challenge for all of us because it can cause economic instability, civil unrest, and much more.
Again, a challenge to be aware of.
4. Economic trends:
Besides income inequality, we are also starting to see the implications of the major changes to US tax policy.
Because the US is still the largest market in the world, tax policy changes aren’t just having an impact on domestic economies, but the changes can be felt globally.
Combine that with other economic trends and cycles that tend to play out cyclically, and you can see that these economic trends, both good and bad, are likely to have an impact on our businesses this year.
5. Aging populations in many Western countries:
In America, Baby Boomers still suck up a disproportionate amount of attention.
This is important because while they are a huge wave, they are also an aging wave. Their advanced age is likely to have some interesting consequences on the American economy.
But this isn’t just an American issue.
The greying of the population is an issue for many countries including France, Spain, Greece, and Germany.
This will have some major impact on us.
6. Lack of innovation in America:
America used to be the home of innovation and despite the iPhone that we carry everywhere, innovation is something that seems sorely lacking in the United States, especially when you travel to other countries.
This loss of innovation that turns up in me-too products, remakes of movies and a general lack of forward progress on solutions to challenges is only reinforced by changes to tax policy that reward not taking chances, consolidating businesses, and pushing wealth and profits to the largest businesses, not the most effective.
7. Too much noise in our environment:
The average American is hit with over 5,000 ads, marketing messages, and requests on any given day.
I think that is the number, but no one really knows. That’s the most quoted one, for now.
Whatever the number is, we do realize that there are more demands on our time than ever before.
You might find yourself drawn in by the buzzing of your phone, the pinging of your email, or a knock from a colleague. All of these interruptions add up and they are causing real issues to productivity, focus, and rest.
8. Strengthening of China on the global stage:
We don’t know what impact Chinese strength will have on the global stage yet, but we can definitely know that it will create a challenge for all of our businesses and ways of thinking about the world we live in.
The first time China manages to pass the United States as the largest economy in the world that will open up a huge challenge for many businesses that have always relied on the size of the American market as a tool in their toolbox.
This goes on and on to include global sports and many other areas.
9. The continued intrusion of technology in our lives:
I used intrusion, but I don’t necessarily think of that as bad.
Technology is a tool. It is neither good nor bad, but what we do with it can be.
As technologies become more and more a part of our lives, they will have consequences, good and bad.
These will occurrences will raise challenges for all of us because even good intrusions will be bad for some people and vice versa.
10. The unexpected:
I know that I talked about the future that has already happened at the top, but we also have to keep our eye on the unexpected. We might not know exactly what it will be, but if we follow the news of the economy, business, politics, etc., that is likely to show us a door to what unexpected things might be in the offing.