One of the defining themes of our current era is the way its major forces–like mobile technology, globalization, or secularization–connect us more widely than ever before, even as they drive us apart. The internet gives us access to a staggering diversity of human experience by the same mechanism that it enables misinformation; globalization has increased trade with one hand and given jobs away with the other.
This strange tension between interconnection and division has also been a characteristic of the pandemic. The alone-togetherness of quarantine is a #mood within a zeitgeist–a meta version of the way the pandemic has compounded more tangible trends, like casual fashion and digital transformation. Network effects made COVID-19 a pandemic, and masks, social distancing, and herd immunity leverage the same power in reverse.
The trends in this report are all about connection in its many forms–through community, between technologies, to home–and also about divergence, via loneliness, migration, and inequity. Yes, the trends predate 2020 and have been accelerated by the year’s intense circumstances. And their waves are just beginning to crest.
To identify these trends, we dove into the data and analyzed the cultural momentum around growing conversations, attitudes, and ideas. We brought together strategists, designers, and technologists from our offices around the world to find patterns with global implications, and we tapped internal subject matter experts across a dozen verticals to talk about the difficulties facing their clients.
This helped us choose topics that aren’t just new and interesting, but challenging and important. Rather than shy away from the adversity of this moment, we’ve paired next year’s biggest unresolved challenges with perspectives and questions that help you think about solutions and paths forward. Our approach to trends is about connecting the major currents of change in our world to the on-the-ground choices facing businesses in the coming year: We believe that it’s the ability to draw the line between micro and macro that makes trends powerful as tools for strategic leadership and long-term thinking. We’re confident that the six major trends and 13 strategic perspectives in this report will help you meet the urgent problems facing your customers, business, or industry in 2021.