For nearly a decade, ever since I started the company that became ZEITGUIDE, I’ve been tracking cultural change. So—through the election of Barack Obama to the arrival of Donald Trump. Through the glorification of digital startups to the end of net neutrality. Through the near collapse of Wall Street to the new stock market highs. Through the denial-acceptance-denial of climate change.But 2017 was the most broadly disruptive year I’ve yet to see.
It was a great year for stock portfolios, but one filled with polarizing conversations. The vitriol of politics was its most prominent feature. But there was also the unstoppable destruction of hurricanes and wildfires—whole communities erased from the map. Not to mention the collective power of #MeToo, exposing so many workplaces as swamps of toxic sexual harassment. And technology—once our potential savior—has been revealed as a dangerous tool for fake news, hacking and possible election-tampering.
I recently reread the last six annual ZEITGUIDE books to get grounded in context, and what struck me most was how much the business cycle in recent years resembled the stages of grief. Like a death in the family, digital disruption spawned anger and denial (paralysis) followed by bargaining (deal-making) and acceptance (acquisition).
But looking back, and training my focus on legacy companies, I wonder how much the changes taking place reflect genuine innovation? All the open-concept workspaces, the internal business incubators, the enterprise social systems, the design thinking—did they really open minds and embed new ideas?
Innovation, it turns out, is not enough. Now we are entering an age of transformation. And if we want our careers and businesses to stay relevant, we also have to transform as individuals. We need to transform ourselves emotionally, spiritually and intellectually.
Emotionally, it could be painful, albeit exciting.
Spiritually, we have to accept it might be a long road ahead.
Intellectually … well, that’s the purpose of ZEITGUIDE. Always has been.
We have transformed our annual ZEITGUIDE compendium in three important ways for 2018. First, we turned it on its side. Rather than breaking chapters down, industry by industry, to examine the trends in each, we’re focusing each chapter on a cultural force causing those changes. Second, this ZEITGUIDE that you’re reading in January will be followed by three quarterly briefings—so that in April, July and October you’ll be filled in on how the leading-edge issues are panning out so far. And finally, we’ve added “Zeitguidance” sections at the end of each chapter to help you actualize what you’ve learned.
There’s much equivocation about the year to come. That’s how it is when the culture is at a crossroads. More swells of change are coming, and they will land faster and with more force. ZEITGUIDE is happy to be here to help you surf the big waves throughout the year ahead.
Wishing you a great 2018, and as we always say at ZEITGUIDE,
Founder & CEO, ZEITGUIDE
Corporate walls today are more transparent than ever. This creates an urgent need to be aware of–and responsive to–the tectonic shifts happening seemingly moment by moment in the landscape beyond. If the world outside is undergoing constant change, then the organization inside must adapt and transform–or else it risks sinking under the weight of obsolescence. The most agile companies are redefining job titles, altering workplace rules and environments, and adjusting their decision-making hierarchies. Moreover, while it used to be that companies expected a lot from their employees, today, employees expect more of their companies. For a business to succeed, it must be one of the top destinations for today’s premier talent, which means attending to the needs of its workers. In this chapter, we distill the most pressing issues facing every part of the org chart, beginning with the C-Suite.
We are at a crossroads: how do we get the most from technology, without losing what it is that makes us human?
Make no mistake—digital will continue to transform the business and cultural landscape at twitch speed. However, we are right now seeing a change in the public’s perception of digital technology’s impact on society. Just as the Industrial Revolution brought labor unrest, income inequality, and environmental distress, the tech revolution is grappling with its own litany of negative consequences.
This section will discuss the conversations swirling around Big Tech, what other companies are doing to stay competitive and the next wave of technology that will determine who dominates the business landscape—that is to say, who will redefine our culture and behavior?
We are in the midst of a tectonic shift that is upending the order of the commercial establishment. In the pre-digital era, consumer-facing businesses not only shaped the buying behavior of the public, they influenced the culture at large—what was good for General Motors was good for America.
Not anymore. Today, the impact of social media gives the consumer more of a voice—and more control. Now it’s the buying public that shapes a company, impacting not only the products that are created and how they’re brought to market, but the very values that form a corporate identity. Consumers have power, and they’re not afraid to leverage it.
They can even direct how the business leader responds to world events. Consumers now are loud, fickle and impressionable, and if one well-voiced opinion rings true it will be repeated and amplified with alarming speed.
Success is more of a challenge when your audience is that demanding. But there’s good news too. The very technology that created this landscape also provides the means to navigate it.
Digital provides a direct conduit between companies and consumers: it accelerates discovery, transactions, delivery and service, enabling brands to cut through the clutter and target consumers with more precision. Just as important, that conduit permits a point of contact—it creates a personal touch.
Today, the value of your product and how you perform in the marketplace is tied to how well you know your consumers. If you have any chance of keeping them, you must show them that you value them.
Even a quick scan of international affairs will provide plenty of reasons for concern. Each day brings a new development somewhere on the planet that could imperil and completely reshape the established order.
These issues are no longer limited to the portfolios of presidents and politicians. Corporate leaders have a responsibility to understand the global shifts taking place, and shareholders, employees, and community stakeholders increasingly expect them to be prepared to respond to political events.
“More than ever, you need intelligence and contingency plans for political developments, even as it becomes more overwhelming to keep track of it all,” says political scientist DJ Peterson, president of Longview Global Advisers, who is ZEITGUIDE’s external partner on geopolitical issues that concern our clients.
Having a solid point of view and a plan is a daunting task, especially when facing a seemingly endless number of global issues. To guide you along, here’s a quick tour of what we believe will shape the coming year as well as the conversations among investors, leaders working abroad and all our clients whose title contains the word “global.”
What worked culturally and financially in 2017? Here are ZEITGUIDE’s picks of some of the successes that resonated most with fans and critics alike, as well as some of the inevitable missteps and flops.
With ZEITGUIDE 2018, you will stay on top of everything you need to know to succeed during the year ahead! It is the secret weapon the C-Suite, creatives, cultural leaders and top executives use to navigate the chaos of our constantly changing culture.
“Zeitguide is a powerful and provocative tool that promotes relevance in the most dynamic era of our time.”
– Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company
Web and PDF versions of ZEITGUIDE 2018. Print orders will also receive the limited edition hard copy.
Three digital briefings at the start of each fiscal quarter updating you on how business & culture have continued to transform throughout 2018.
Weekly ZEITGUIDE Deep Dive that focuses on a distinct need-to-know subject emailed every Sunday.
#Ripouts by ZEITGUIDE, a weekly selection of “must-read,” “must-see” and “must-hear” items.
Tax, shipping and handling included in purchase. Digital access will be immediately available. All print orders will ship within one week of purchase.
Contact us to learn about enterprise orders of ZEITGUIDE 2018 and to have ZEITGUIDE CEO Brad Grossman come speak to your group