5 Trends: Can futurists help investors pick the winners of 2012?

23rd December 2011

Futurists are useful in challenging conventional thinking and for helping investors decide on the corporate winners of the future.

Social Networks

For example, many are now predicting a halt to the insistent march of technology that has been seen over the past few years. For example, Mal Fletcher says: "2012 will see a drive to recalibrate our reliance on digital communications. Social networking services will continue to play an important role in introducing people to new acquaintances and in facilitating ongoing communication with existing friends. However, people will become more aware of the limitations of cyber-communication and will try to invest more in building face-to-face friendships."

Digital detox

Marian Salzman sees a similar phenomenon at work and predicts a ‘digital detox'. This is, she suggests, "a natural result of internet dependency, more and more people will seek to cleanse themselves and get offline – at least at the dinner table. Essential digital detox reading is The Winter of Our Disconnect – one woman's account of six months sans digital devices. Establishments will soon proclaim "No Wi-Fi" as a selling point."

But technology will continue to have an impact, just in a different form. Fletcher says: "The continued explosion of data in the post-digital age will mean that the value of our contribution will not be judged according to how much we know, but how much we are able to innovate with what we know.

Drive for innovation

"A new drive for innovation will emerge in 2012, within business (large and small), government, education and local community organisations. Driven by the need to solve problems with fewer financial resources, entrepreneurs will emerge with new approaches to seemingly intractable problems in every sphere of activity from manufacturing to medical technology." Those companies with strong intellectual property and a structure that encourages innovation will thrive, while more cumbersome companies will struggle.

The cloud

Salzman predicts that ‘life in a cloud' will become increasingly important: "Mobility, portability, and transience – cloud computing will be the most talked about trend. People will share more than ever, playing music and accessing their information from anywhere, providing a seamless digital experience. The biggest player in this cloudy business? Mobile – the perfect device because of its extreme portability and ability to access our emails, notes, social networks, and favourite music and shopping sites from one place." Will the mobile groups – in many cases now seen as simply dull utility-type businesses and valued accordingly – see a resurgence from this?

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