In January 2017, I wrote an article ( Missing the point of innovation ) about mega trends, including Peak Water and drought, that could have an effect on the way you do business. Some of these trends, unimaginable twelve short months ago, are now very real.
In response to this list, we had some conversations along the lines of – “Well, that’s interesting, but how am I supposed to use the insight?”
Today Capetown is running out of water. And it’s only the start of things to come.
Did you even know about the probability that whole cities are facing no mains water supply inside three months from today? Capetown’s problems may not be of direct concern to you if you live in London but the news still has immense consequence.
This list was in that blog:
The following insights are just a very few of the things we heard this week. They underline the need to look up and look long.
- Peak oil production has probably already occurred. From here it’s all downhill.
- For every calorie of food that is produced, 10 calories of fossil fuel energy are put into the system to grow that food.
- Peak water has been and gone. According to, well, lots of people, useable water availability from sustainable sources will put 30% of the world’s population into water scarcity by 2025 and the rest of us will face water stress.
- Artificial intelligence is influencing our behaviours now and augmenting our potential to function efficiently, creatively and effectively.
- Robotic process automation is reducing the amount of repetitive work but also replacing the need for people numbers in the workplace. It is predicted that 3 million jobs will be replaced by RPA in the UK by 2020 and this is affecting the decisions students are making at GCSE Options selection in schools now.
Development of AI is so newsworthy and potentially transformational that the more significant trend is often ignored. Maybe the problem is just too big to consider, so let’s focus on water. It has always been true that looking as far as you can into the future usually means trying to make sense of improbable-sounding insight. In this regard, ‘Peak water has been and gone‘ was thought of as less than helpful.
Now Google ‘Water shortage Capetown’ and see what you get. Your results will return articles like this.
“In 10 weeks engineers will turn off water for a million homes as this South African city reacts to one-in-384-year drought. The rich are digging boreholes, more are panic-buying bottled water, and the army is on standby.”
Looking for trends in your market takes a wider view of things than you may have been able to get away with in the past. Preparing for a market in which things are changing so quickly, and so radically, hasn’t previously been necessary in quite the way it is today. Whole product sectors are being side-swiped and losing ground to emerging products designed for a new unmet need.
There will be winners in a situation like in Capetown today: companies who can drill boreholes are drilling the city like Swiss cheese and dry shampoo sales are through the roof, but broadly this mega factor presents millions of consumers with a new list of priorities. Companies who sell products that rely on water in their utility are gong to see a dip in sales for – well, how long?
This is why we maintain that every company needs an innovation strategy at the core of what it does. We can’t make it rain, but we can help with that.
Future thinking. Future Proofing. It’s what we do.