Everything except crystal balls

Ripe plums, rising rivers and white coats feature prominently in the forecast for trends in 2007.


Recently I talked to the International Women’s Federation of Commerce & Industry on the future, Making the Most of Your Business in 2007. We discussed the ripe plums, rising rivers and white coat scenarios for the rest of this year including the very real risk of a major collapse in both business and consumer confidence.


The Ripe Plums – the low hanging fruit that is just there to be picked up – included the necessity for small business to be more personal and in direct touch with customers, the fact that it is the premium high-value clientele (David Jones vs Big W) that will thrive in the next few months and the impact of a return to inner-city living and urbanisation that will drive the domestic market.


The Rising Rivers – the short-term trends that raise the bar on business prospects – included the impact of the “pig in the python” (the demographic bulge of baby boomers hitting the household market), the increasing priority being given to resource utilisation in water, energy and the environment and the impact of the web as a source of global customers and cross-cultural trade opportunities


The White Coat scenarios – ones that lead you to be spending time with people in white coats who seriously doubt your sanity – included a significant rise in community anxiety and concern with personal security and protection from identity fraud and a commercial interest in promoting happiness, a scaled-up concern with the ethical practices of those seeking to have IPOs and the necessity for a shift to sustainable prosperity with a quadruple bottom line, as proposed by Dr Peter Ellyard in his recently relaunched book Ideas for the New Millennium.


Think of the way micro enterprises, small-business franchise managers and professional consultants working from home can make the most of these trends to segment their markets and communicate effectively within these emerging markets.


A note from Charles Brass at the Futures Foundation that appeared in http://www.shapingtomorrow.com/newsletter.cfm


Anywhere/anytime workplaces


The technologies are here in abundance to enable us to work from wherever we want, some or all of the time. If the images in advertising are to be believed the whole world is working on trains, planes, coffee shops, kitchens, the beach, the garden, to name but a few.


But it is not necessarily just sales people, high-flying knowledge workers and managers who can work flexibly and remotely. But spreading the benefits and rewards wider needs more than just technology; it needs different approaches to management.


Task, trust, team and time are some of the main issues. Task-based management ensures managers and staff know what is expected and by when; how employees fit it into their day is then less of an issue.


Trust is closely related to task, but enables managers and staff to be clear about roles and responsibilities rather than simply being “visible” or “seeming busy”.


Team is important to ensure that anyone who works away from the office some or all of the time still feels part of the team, as part of the gossip network, and in the loop for promotions and important meetings.


Taking the time to stay in touch and catch up with life, the holiday, last night’s TV, whether by phone or when remote workers are in the main office for meetings that are scheduled effectively, and ahead of time – taking the time is of the essence.

Dr Colin Benjamin is chairman of independent Melbourne think-tank Marshall Place Associates and director general of Life. Be in it International.  


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