We are witnessing the rise of the individual like never before.
Tremendous technological advances, ubiquitous connectivity, improvements in access to education and health are empowering individuals across the world. Almost 5 billion people are using mobile phones, and more than half of these connections are via smart-phones.
Social platforms have fundamentally changed the way people communicate, interact and organise their lives: from the way people share and organise knowledge and information on sites like Wikipedia, Facebook, Wechat and Twitter, to the way they fund new ventures on Kickstarter, to the way they facilitate collaborative consumption on Airbnb, Uber or Airtasker. Use of mobile payment is 11 times higher in China than in the United States. Alibaba, Tencent and Baidu rival Facebook, Google and Amazon.
There is an increasing expectation for experience rather than consumption, personalization and customisation in everything we do. Access to information anywhere anytime changes not only the way we consume but also the way we interact with companies and the degree of influence we have over companies, their strategies, products and services. By 2016 there were $22 trillion socially responsible investments compared with only $5.67 trillion just two years earlier.
This megatrend will vary however substantially across different regions and sometimes have unintended, opposing consequences. Those who do not yet have access to the sheer ubiquity of technology and connectivity most of us have will feel increasingly disempowered.
New forms of organisation such as the sharing or ‘gig’ economy also raise new questions around responsibilities of business and the status of workers as employees or self-employed.
This megatrend is accelerating as more individuals are connected to internet services and large social platforms invent new ways draw people into their ecosystem. We are just starting to wake up to how social media business models’ data-handling practices allow marketers and political agents to manipulate audiences.
We need to understand, create and imagine new ways in which people are empowered to organise and live their lives, create new businesses and workplaces and shape existing ones.