Google John Naisbitt and you’ll find more than 1,300 web pages, most of the referencing his 1982 seminal work Megatrends. In it, Naisbitt identifies the global trends that will form the future political and economic world. His predictions, seen with hindsight, make pretty interesting reading. In 2006 a time when social media was just starting to take off, I wrote a summary list of his predictions, (and provided my feedback on each point). Now 12 years later let’s see what, if anything, has changed in the trajectory of the megatrends that Naisbitt had predicted.
Megatrends in today’s world
The move away from national economies towards a global one forcing the adjustment to a world of interdependent communities. (Corporate globalisation is well underway. Many large free trade zones have been established. But, the north/south divide hasn’t begun to be addressed nor the religious tensions cause major divisions.) (Trade wars are underway for the first time in decades. NAFTA is under threat. China and Russia are aligning against the West. Are we seeing a regression here? Maybe it’s just a Trump blip?)
Short-term profits become less important as companies adopt long-range planning to maintain steady growth. (This will require a fundamental change in human nature. Greed is a human condition.) (No change here. Panama Papers, Wells Fargo, Volkswagen.)
Centralized hierarchical structures become a thing of the past as flatter decentralised corporations become more nimble to cope with the accelerating pace of change. (He got this one right.) (A bit of a reversal here. A handful of companies, such as Facebook and Google, dominate global markets. They expand their ranges of influence by buying competitors and branching into new realms such as the driverless vehicle.)
Dependence on institutional help declines as people become more self-reliant. (This moves back and forth depending on left/right swinging governments. The Boomers thought,”all you need is love”. It hasn’t quite turned out that way.) (The Gig Economy with so many people working independently or in short-term positions is evidence that this megatrend is still going strong.)
A gradual shift from representative to participatory democracy including consensual management. (People spurn the polling stations. But social media is definitely opening up new avenues for participation.) (Populism is alive and well, and the democratic process has brought surprising changes in the past two years, i.e. Brexit and the Trump presidency. So Naisbitt’s prediction here holds true.)
Eroding hierarchies give way to social networks as a way of solving community problems. (Care in the community, but does it work?) (This prediction is still right on the money. Ask anyone working in news or publishing. Or the taxi business. Or the hotel business.)
The break up of a unified society into diverse groups of people with different tastes and values. (Psychographics and narrow casting!) (Yes and this feeds the point above as social media technologies have exacerbated these divisions.)
In 1982, Megatrends was the result of almost ten years of research. It was on The New York Times Best Seller List for two years, mostly as No. 1. It was published in 57 countries and sold more than 14 million copies. It’s as relevant today. Get it and John Naisbitt’s other books here.