Latest thoughts
International experience It used to be enough to be well qualified and highly experienced with a good track record. It now seems that having experience of working overseas is becoming a further essential requirement. This is linked to the need for much more awareness of different cultures and how to work with them effectively.
Blurring of professional and personal life The march of the digital revolution and the enormous success of social media means that more and more we are having to grapple with how we balance people and things on the business side and those on the personal. “Brand Me” is an important concept in social media. I wonder whether people will continue to allow their work life to encroach on their personal lives or whether there will be a reaction and retrenchment.
Old consultants never die It surprises (and sometimes irritates) me that as soon as some new tool emerges, the market is suddenly flooded with people claiming to be experts in the field. Whilst I am sure that they enjoy great success while they ride the wave of huge demand, I wonder what happens to them (and their businesses) when their latest new fad becomes mainstream. Do they just keep reinventing themselves as new experts every couple of years?
Civil unrest and increased interest in politics We’ve all been upset by the media coverage of the riots during the summer both here and abroad and the numerous protests against banks and the corporate world. Most comment on the role of social media in galvanising people to participate. However, I like to consider the more positive side where more people are taking an active interest in issues of interest to them and their local community. If you add the scandals eroding the credibility of our politicians might we see more grass roots political activity.
School education As a Governor I am constantly amazed at how forward thinking and creative modern teachers and teaching methods have become. I look forward to when this next generation of bright students reaches the work place – their heightened expectations will transform the commercial and occupational training systems.
Older thoughts
How many clothes? It seems that the fashions change at an ever increasing rate – presumably to encourage us all to buy more clothes. The Bargain Stores make it easier to buy numerous items as they are so cheap. But there must come a time when we have everything in just about every colour and need no more clothes. What then?
Single dads It used to be that a mother was a mother for life. These days it seems that women feel equally at ease abandoning their children. Shocking. If you add that to the increase in relationship breakdowns there are more and more single dads. Over 225,000 in the UK at the last count it seems. And in American, single dads is the fastest growing social group.
Well travelled Notice how so many youngsters are so much more well travelled than many of the older generation? How will this affect global cultures when everyone is aware of the way everyone else lives across the globe? Will there come a time when people expect others to be well travelled as one of their many life skills?
Boomerang grand kids The media covers the trend of kids leaving home to go to university and then returning home. But as relationship breakdown and divorce continues to accelerate we can see kids coming back more often – and perhaps even with their own kids.
Wealthy single women As more women are left alone after divorce or as a matter of life choice and decide not to bother with further cohabitation/marriage will we see communities of wealthy single women emerge instead of the traditional mixed sex retirement homes?
Digital natives As more and more youngsters enter the workforce who are digital natives (ie grown up with technology), what happens when they finally outnumber the digital immigrants? Will there be a massive change in work culture?
Other people’s children As more and more families break up and reform – creating more blended (and transient) “new” family groups I wonder whether Debrett’s will evolve a section on how to behave towards kids that aren’t your own flesh and blood but are effectively part of your family?
Search engine overload As the search engines become less and less effective at finding you the sites you seek (delivering up those who want you to buy who are very good at SEO instead) how will people find the information that they want in future?
Waiting room upgrade Whilst sitting in the hair salon the other day, flicking through the usual variety of glossy girl magazines and impossible hair style catalogues, I wondered why there wasn’t a number of laptops (or better still, ipads) available so that customers could look at the material they are most interested in. Other waiting rooms could also dispense with those TV screens showing the news or some inane soap opera to everyone and have people sitting quietly (with headphones) looking at stuff they were interested in.
Spam and scam email point Despite sophisticated software to deal with spam emails I still receive a fair few. Why isn’t there a central email address to which you can forward your spam and scam emails so that someone, somewhere notices an increase in traffic from particularly nasty sources and does something about it. The major online sellers (like Amazon and Ebay) and banks could then see at a glance how their brands were being abused to the detriment of their corporate reputations and act swiftly to protect their customers.
Collection points I love on-line shopping. So easy, so quick, so convenient. Until, that is, you have to manage the delivery. Like many other people I am out a lot – usually when the postman or courier arrives. And I am fed up going online to request a redelivery at a convenient time. So why isn’t there a collection point in each community where people can have stuff delivered and then pick it up when it suits them. And I’m not interested in driving to the Post Office or complying with its ridiculous opening times (why can’t they be open beyond mid day?). And I’m not prepared to pay £1 to have my parcel delivered to my local Post Office (have you seen the queues?). Come on, this must be a class A franchise opportunity for someone.
One card fits all My wallet is bursting. Sadly not with cash. But all those membership and loyalty cards – why isn’t there one card on which I can register my gym and club memberships, the assortment of coffee and other shop loyalty cards as well as my professional membership groups. And while we’re there, assuming that the security is good, can you put my debit and credit cards on there as well?
Dog share I used to love having dogs. Border collies were my favourite. But they are such a big commitment and it’s unfair to have them when sometimes work takes you away for periods of time. So why isn’t there a scheme where you can share a dog with one or two of your neighbours – a sort of shared custody like you have with kids after a divorce.
English culture Whilst I appreciate multi-culturalism, I do find that it becomes harder and harder to hold on to and convey to my kids the essence of being English. So why isn’t there more focus and resource on capturing and promoting the best elements of the English culture?
Community and co-operative groups As more families break down and reform and more households than ever before house lone adults (some with kids and many with older folk) why isn’t there an easy way for local communities to come together and share resources – whether this is in terms of shopping, cleaning, house repair work, child care cover etc. Surely we all have something to give that our neighbours would value?
A decent web site index Search engines are now corrupted by people who are good at SEO and want to sell you stuff so why isn’t there a proper site index that directs you easily to where you want to get to. For example, when seeking the web site of a restaurant have you noticed how you have to plough through pages of review and listings sites before you get to the actual site you searched for?
Child tracking My daughter’s school offered a “track your child’s mobile phone” system but sadly the constant “Are you happy that (your mum) is tracking your movements?” texts made us disconnect from the service. So why isn’t there an easier way for parents to see – on a map – the whereabouts of their child? With permission it could be extended to schools who are checking up on truancy too.
Party lights service Love garden parties. Love lots of twinkling lights on party night too. But rather than having to buy all my own lights and candles why isn’t there a service that arrives to really light up your garden – and then take it all away again the next day
Home makeover service We’ve seen it on the TV. Your entire house (or several rooms) made over in an hour. I want to give the brief, pay the money and return from a shopping trip to find that they’ve done an entire room – including moving all my books, clothes, other stuff out of the way and replacing it without involving me.
Sync my life service In our house we have several desktop and laptops, numerous iphone and ipods and mobile phones. Wouldn’t it be great if – with one touch of a button – everything could be synced without any effort.
Time and skill bank Lots of people would be happy to do more for their community. And Big Society is coming. Why isn’t there a local register where we can enter what we have to offer and for how long and a computer match us up with someone or a group who needs us?
Previously observed emerging trends
Integration of online information I used to maintain a number of different online personas – there’s the original one on Friends Reunited, the business one on LinkedIn and the more recent social one on Facebook. Then I had my own web site and various blogs that I wrote. These days though – with such heavy use of search engines – people can find them all. There are worrying reports that employers are now using personal online profiles (and all those embarrassing photos and comments from your friends) to check out people before offering them a job.
The experience society Whereas older generations still might see it as important to collect material things, the younger generation seem increasingly focused on the need to collect experiences. So instead of asking for clothes, CDs or other stuff they now want tickets to attend gigs, concerts and festivals. Or, of course, cash so that they can travel the world for some real experience.
Declining user value of the major search engines There used to be a time when you started most searches on the web with Google or some similar huge search engine. But as everyone (particularly small businesses) wises up to the latest in search engine optimisation Google is more often than not producing pages of unrelated sites when you are trying to get to official sites for places quickly. New search engines will start to become more popular.
Stay at home The smoking ban was the thin end of the wedge and the economic down turn put this trend into overdrive. Why go to the pub or some restaurant when you can stay at home, relax with friends and have a fun evening cooking your own favourite meals. Gordon Ramsey is a star for encouraging more people to do this and for helping to improve the Nation’s cooking skills.
Recycling your old stuff In the olden days, things you no longer needed in your home would be given to local groups for their jumble sales. Then car boot sales arrived which took over from them. Higher value items are now sold (if you make the effort) through e-bay whilst charity shops are the recipients of a lot of stuff. Whilst raising money for charities, it is often rather wasteful – will we start consuming (and disposing of) less? Or will we find new ways to recycle stuff we no longer want or need?
Caesarians The press blame the increase (now around 30% of births) of Caesarian births on the ‘too posh to push’ attitude. Two other theories: a) you know the risks – which are mostly to the mother – of the operation in advance. However, for a natural birth you do not know the risks to the mother or the child (usually much higher if things go wrong) and with the NHS in its current state you have very little reassurance that the right staff will be available when you need them. b) Now how can I put this delicately? So few people want to talk about this. Natural childbirth can really mess up a woman’s future sex life – maybe modern women don’t feel that having a child is sufficient reason to sacrifice their happy sex lives. (PS I had my kids by Caesarian for health reasons – they were in the breech position).
Native Americans Turquoise and silver. Leather tassels. Suede. Plaits. We are seeing the resurgence of interest in Native Americans on the fashion scene. Their sayings and way of life (very back to nature and the balance of the natural world and the need to preserve the environment for future generations) are edging onto the mainstream business agenda. Will their culture become more dominant?
Personal career planning As the likelihood of a ‘job for life’ becomes a long distant memory and the need for people to constantly update their skills – there is a much greater need for people to use (and pay for) personal career planning advice. This includes advice on training and qualifications, interview and self-promotion skills, CV preparation and networking assistance. It is true that there are commercial providers of ‘outplacement services’ but these are usually paid for by employers who are shedding staff. Perhaps we will see an increase of Personal Career Planners in a similar vein to the rise of the Personal Trainer.
Portable everything PCs are even smaller, mobile phones can receive emails and now the latest PDAs offer personal entertainment systems as well. OK – so we are never truly alone anymore. OK – so everything will get even faster. Perhaps there will be a rise in the service industries needed to maintain and repair this kit, to load all your information onto it and to integrate all your systems and information into one cohesive whole.
Accelerating children 10 year old kids now know as much as the 18 year old adults of 30 years ago. Now that kids have access to unlimited knowledge on just about any subject will we see them starting to “specialise” at a much younger age?.
Theme Park Overdose Much as we love the theme parks, they are rather expensive and after a few visits the novelty wears off. Might we see the emergence of new ‘natural activities’ parks where kids can get involved in good old fashioned fun things like building dams, pond dipping, fishing, riding horses, taking care of animals, picking fruit, clearing streams and planting new forests
Experience presents In the olden days, when I was a girl, you waited in much anticipation for Christmas and birthdays to get ‘big’ presents. These days, prices have come down and incomes have increased which means that often the kids get instant gratification in the presents stake – and they can only have so many PCs, TVs, music systems and must-have designer trainers. So rather than the ‘big ticket’ material items might we see those presents being replaced with ‘experiences’ – like travel or unusual visits. It would cost time rather than cash to arrange and attend parents, but “Hey!” isn’t that what the kids really want anyway?
Really? It was with pride that many years ago I designed the catch phrase of “Real People. Real Solutions. Real Estate” for some leading commercial property surveyors. Since then the ‘real’ thing has appeared on a tabloid newspaper, a leading coffee shop retailer and various other places. Was I really so ahead of the times?
Secular celebrations As political correctness and racial tensions increase, are we witnessing an increase in the importance of secular celebrations – notice the increased popularity of things such as Halloween (“Trick or treat?), St George’s Day and The Jubilee.
E-babies We have had e just about everything now. The last thing was e-pets – your personal, on-line, 24 hour a day, low maintenance pet. What about e-babies – no moral dilemma in designing exactly the child of your dreams there. And just think – you have a volume control on your screen for those all night screaming sessions. Being more serious, don’t you think a lot of new mums would find it helpful if the web site ‘remembered’ the age of your new baby and offered hints, tips and development milestone guidance so you could compare your real baby to the e version. Might save new mums a few sleepless nights.
Weekend breaks We are increasingly time poor. We all work harder and longer hours. You just can’t wait for the few weeks annual leave to make it up to yourself and your families. Will we therefore see an increase in weekend and extended weekend breaks – particularly as travel costs come down and everyone becomes more mobile.
Retail coffee No self respecting High Street is without a designer coffee store. Some have Internet cafes. Some suggest they are just like ‘Central Perks’ and offer an entire social scene. Why not expand the concept further and have meeting areas for the mobile, office free modern worker (a separate area would prevent them irritating the ordinary public – and vice versa!). Then how about a driv thru coffee thing?
Art and culture education The National Curriculum and necessary focus on literacy and numeracy has meant that many schools have had to sacrifice major elements of their arts and cultural programmes. Plus we have lots of people from different cultures in our society who missed out on the grounding in English/British art and culture provided by the educational system. It’s a bit daunting trying to get into this stuff without some knowledge so might we see an increase in channels and mechanisms to help people get up to speed/up to date? It would be real nice to see some sort of central electronic repository and introductory guide (albeit in summary form) of all our art and culture, wouldn’t it?
New York No Manners For all our faults, us Brits at least used to have the common decency to arrive on time and adhere to appointments that we had made. The New York trend towards (very) late arrivals and simply not turning up (in my day this was called ‘Standing up’ if it was a date, ‘Unreliable’ if it was a friend and ‘Lacking in professionalism’ if it was a business meeting) seems to be getting a grip here too now. Please help fight this appalling decline in manners and common decency and ensure that you only commit to those things that you absolutely intend to attend – and provide an early apology if, for some very good reason, you won’t be able to make it.
Support for self employed women Question: “Why do so many women work for themselves?” Answer “Because it’s the only way they’ll get any support from their employer!”. But seriously, the statistics show that a record number of small businesses are run by women now so where are the government, financial, professional and domestic support services that are so desperately needed for this specialist market niche? And how about a more sensible type of taxation system that accommodates and encourages the need to accrue income to cover periods of maternity leave and early child care rather than penalising the prudent?
Housekeeper vs husband/wife? Could we reverse the divorce statistics by making sure people know the difference between a husband/wife and a housekeeper? Perhaps by having the housekeeping role clearly outlined at the start of a marriage – and proper consultation on who is expected to do what – might help things. And did you know the salary of a really good housekeeper? Now add on the cost of full time nanny care.
Buy real art People are beginning to recognise that for the same price as a High Street store reproduction print they could own a genuine piece of art. For a little bit more you could even commission your own work. People might feel they need some guidance but there are already some great web sites and High Street galleries offering very affordable real art.
The self help and distance learning market continues to grow at a pace. Are we getting close to the time when the Internet might provide a friendlier and more interactive method of delivery? Might main stream educational institutions go this way too? How about learning packages on DVD and MP3s? Portable e-learning?
It used to be guys who sought the beautiful blond (Swedish) trophy wife. But am I detecting a trend for successful career women to seek tall, young, (Caribbean) trophy husbands?
Might a new area of psychology and law involve composite and extended families where step siblings and step parents are the norm?
At last we are seeing more and more people working – at least some of the time – from their homes. Does this mean that we will see bigger houses being built to accommodate those home offices? Might we see new community centres where home workers can go to use shared resources and meet colleagues for a coffee so the social element of working is not lost?
There are lots of single mums (and dads) with kids. There are also lots of divorced parents who alternate custody who might appreciate getting together with similar people to form temporary ‘family units’ for days out and holidays. Might there be new clubs and associations (almost communes) where these mums and dads come together to form new support groups allowing child care, housekeeping, babysitting and parenting to be shared in a more consistent and safe environment?
Nearly a third of all UK homes now have a PC and many of these are used for business purposes. Is there a growing need for domestic emergency PC repair people (like plumbers) who can come out and fix irritating problems or recover crashed systems? There might be an ongoing service contract where they come out regularly to run diagnostics, do backups, add additional peripherals etc? Just like plumbers (oh no!)
One of the main barriers to greater use of the Internet for shopping is the distribution and delivery issue. There have been lots of suggestions – delivery to local convenience shops where you can pick up your goods at a time that suits you, milk men delivering other parcels, using the catalogue couriers who tackle a small area with a personal service etc. How about greater community involvement – schools could make revenue by taking parcels that could be collected with the kids, neighbourhoods could ‘pay’ older residents to take in parcels for the younger “at works” etc?
The domestic service market (e.g. nannies, babysitters, cleaners, gardeners, drivers) has been one of the fastest growing for some time now. Will further growth be added by PC maintenance people (see above), natural therapists, personal sports coaches and trainers, affordable interior designers, companions?
Electronic and checklist relationships – In the past we had to meet people and learn about them over a period of time by going on dates. Increasingly, using faster and more comprehensive electronic communications people can reach and assess potential partners quickly without the need for meeting in person. This might lead to less face-to-face relationships than we had before as people ‘explore’ their fit electronically before agreeing to meet. It might also reduce the length of relationships generally as we short cut the usual “getting to know you” phase by the generally more open electronic communication exchanges.