Megatrends and How to Survive Them: #2 Shifting Values

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Authors: Patricia Lustig, MD LASA Insight and SAMI Associate and Gill Ringland, SAMI Emeritus Fellow and Director, Ethical Reading.

Megatrends and How to Survive Them is the title of our book that is due to be published on November 1st, by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

This is one of a series of blogs based on the work we have done for the book. We chose Shifting Values as a megatrend for a number of reasons:

  • Until relatively recently much of the global population was concerned with surviving wars, famine and plague. Wars are still present in some areas of the globe, but affect fewer people than in previous generations. Famine is still a problem in localised areas but more people are obese than are malnourished. And though there are ongoing concerns over pandemics, international responses have improved to head these off (cf response to most recent Ebola outbreak).
  • Until recently much of the global population was poor. Again, the situation varies across the globe and within countries, but the figure shows how different the world is now from even 40 years ago.

economic activity

  • With this increase in wealth has come increased education. Literacy rates among women still lag behind that of men in some parts of the world, but overall, we can say that by 2025 there are expected to be more graduates than the total population in 1945, 2.5 billion. The second figure is from “Beyond Crisis: Achieving Renewal in a Turbulent World”:


Population & Education levels

“For the first time, the number of people in the middle class surpasses those living in poverty,” says World Bank President Jim Yong Kim. Putting these factors together, more people than ever before now have choices. They also now have a basis for making decisions about what is important to them.

Once basic needs are met, Maslow’s hierarchy suggests that people are motivated to look for ways of belonging, for esteem and self-actualisation. The emergence of a global middle class means that more people in all regions seek ways of realising these. This sometimes results in migration or may lead to new attitudes to their work/life balance or their role in society. It is this change in attitudes to work/life balance and role in society that we capture in the book under the heading of Shifting Values.

Generational differences are making themselves visible globally. Some differences between generations in different geographies are the result of history in that region, other differences result from the ubiquitous reach of ICT via TV, smart phones and the internet. There are already many similarities among Millennials globally. This is likely to be because there are more similarities between people who are middle class (regardless of which country they live in), than there are differences.

The key generational discontinuity seems to be that Millennials – born between 1980 and 2000 – think more globally and are more techno-savvy than previous generations. They worry about government policies and social inequality, lack of opportunity, and are willing to move countries and regions to better themselves. The number one reason millennials leave organisations is due to lack of personal career opportunity within their parameters of work/life balance and job satisfaction. Millennials are exhibiting a shift from consumerism to shared experience: tourism, leisure and sport. There is also an increasing acceptance, in many regions, of aspects of sexual diversity e.g. trans, non-binary, and gender-fluidity.

Statistically, Millennials account for a quarter of the world’s population. They will make up three quarters of the global workforce by 2025. Generation X and Millennials outnumber traditionalists, those born before 1945, but they do not vote as consistently. This is sometimes because they have less of a sense of belonging, or less respect for the results of the democratic process.

The other shift in values, visible across generations is a wider interest in spiritual aspects – of self or others – sometimes expressed as religion, sometimes as mindfulness or well-being. Religion has, of course, been a source of divisiveness over the millennia, whereas mindfulness is inwardly focused. While in the global north, the influence of religion is in decline, this is not so in much of the global south.

Some questions you might like to consider, looking towards 2032:

  • Thinking about shifting values in your country, how might your strategy and business model need to change in order to continue to be successful?
  • Who do you think you will be selling to, and what are their values?
  • How might your product/service offering need to change?

We live in interesting times!




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