Monday, 1 January 2018


I quoted Sam Goldwyn recently who said it was difficult to predict…especially the future. So only a brave man (or a fool) would try but here goes anyway.
Coping with change
Everything around us is in flux yet just pause for a moment. Wasn’t this Christmas quite like last Christmas? Wasn’t it mostly more of the same? For sure 9 year olds got laptops when they used to get a Space Hopper but 3 year old girls are still playing with Sylvanian Families which was launched in Japan in 1985 - 32 years ago.
Image result for sylvanian families

In the midst of chaos we are sometimes prone to exaggerate the speed and scale of change. Look at all the trends below and then aim off a bit - change does not always mean revolution. Things take longer to register than we sometimes think. Management thinking about first-mover advantage is usually exaggerated. Watch and wait is good advice. Change is normal but the momentum that leads to radical change takes time.  

Where and how we shop
2017 is already being described as the most chaotically difficult time on the High Street for a decade with early and significant price cuts. Debenhams, House of Frazer, Curry’s and Argos are cutting deep to avoid drowning.
Image result for New Year Sales in Britain
Online will continue to grow but I do not believe the admittedly overcrowded high street is finished yet. Look at the performance of those who continue to give a magical shopping experience. As time passes expect to see traffic-free shopping streets full of street theatre and pop-up shops. So long as shopping is exciting people will go out to do it and enjoy it; as Harry Selfridge said:  “Excite the mind, and the hand will reach for the pocket.” Yet Amazon continues (rightly) to terrify all retailers by their remorseless progress and stunning logistics. Many old fashioned retailers are history but online is not the only future. Above all remember the rise and fall of e-books.

How we get around
Every time I see a car park I reflect I’m looking at the past. I know very few people who now drive in London. With buses, the underground and over-ground so frequent and comfortable why would you drive? There are plans to make the western side of Oxford Street pedestrian only in 2018. And by 2020 the whole street west and east will be car-free.
Oxford Street Pedestrianised
Cheap-to-hire bikes will grow in availability whilst cars will diminish as will speed limits. Driverless cars are a brilliant idea that depends for success on being tested in a fully driverless-car town. Until then they are on the drawing board. They are as much the immediate future as Sinclair’s C5 was. But the demise of the internal combustion engine is much closer than we thought. Do not buy a new car unless it’s a Tesla or a hybrid. Or buy second hand saving depreciation and the carbon that goes into a new one.
What we experience most keenly
Live shows are what turn us on whether it’s football, a top comedian, singer, band or a theatrical show. And they’re getting better. From ‘Hamilton’ to ‘Scrooge’ the excitement is growing. And there’s evidence of remarkable price resilience. Better to pay £150 for something amazing than £50 for something that’s merely good. And good heavens! The idea of saving up for a great experience is actually catching on.

Image result for lapland windsor great park
Our grandchildren and parents went to ‘Lapland, Windsor’ and gave us rapturous feedback. Expensive but the magic was magical and memorable. Put your money into life-changing experiencing

Where and what we eat
As you may know I live in the food start-up capital of Britain (and maybe Europe.) Name a type of food or provenance of food and you’ll find it in Brighton. Our appetites are changing faster than one could have imagined. We want less sugar, less salt and our nirvana is brilliantly-tasting-healthy-food. Traditionalists are lamenting the three course simplicity of the past as we turn to tasting menus, small plates with small matching-wine glass accompaniments.
That’s what the wealthier do. Meanwhile Aldi and Lidl - now seen as value-food-markets not down- and-dirty-discounters - through a combination of great quality and price are eating the rest of the food retail market.

Image result for Aldi and Lidl new stores
The food market as a whole is undergoing transformation. If brands don’t innovate they die. No one is safe. Nespresso until recently ruled supreme but when their pod patent ran out players like Taylors of Harrogate with better tasting coffee took over. Reviving the dying can happen. Kellogg’s, for one, is a brand transformed. “New Improved” is the mantra of survival in fmcg.  Change is good. Embrace it.

Where we keep our money
Image result for bank closures 2018
As the UK’s financial sector has grown and become the most successful in the world, dwarfing Continental Europe’s, we can be sure the EU membership will be united in opposition to it. Only when it’s been drastically weakened in Brexit negotiations will we realise what we’ve lost. Meanwhile at home 11.5 million of those who are over 65 or small retailers, more used to using their local bank will find them, like the Dodo, a thing of the past as the banks close local branches. Meanwhile most of us will watch the switchback performance of Bitcoin with utter bewilderment. The banks as we knew them are in the past as is cash. Life is simpler for us this way they say.
Technology and those new brains
As technological marvels emerge with increasingly magical innovative ideas something has changed. Time travel - “yeah, yeah….invisibility cloaks - been there, seen that…” Techno-boredom is our current state. Especially when so much of it does, admittedly cleverly, what old solutions did cheaper and nearly as well…noise reducing headphones versus ear muffs…the former win on sex appeal rather than practicality.
Image result for mad technology
Technology will suffer from being too clever for its own good. As for AI - watch this space…don’t assume it’s going to replace human resourcefulness yet. Companies will start to look very hard at their inflating technology budgets. The rest of us will start resisting new NOT improved tech.

Medical breakthroughs will dominate the news
But technology is transforming medical science. The speed of development in potential breakthroughs in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Leukaemia and more, have filled and will continue to fill the news. The use of augmented reality in the treatment of eyes and ears are transforming prospects for many and the development of a drug called Erenumab could change the lives of migraine sufferers.
Image result for medical breakthroughs 2018

Virtually all medical conditions are benefitting (and sooner than we could imagine) from the momentum that technological advances have brought.

Where we live and how we’ll do it
Youth is showing us how. Rent, don’t buy; keep it simple with minimalist furnishing. Small open plan empty living spaces; small dark, quiet bedrooms; nice, generous bathrooms; fewer possessions; fewer clothes but good brands; your top 50 books not more (all paperback); good technology (proven not high tech); great mattresses; a big table to sit around, graze and talk. The big suburban mansions are for the hedge fund dinosaurs. Life is for living, friends, sharing and comfort.
Image result for minimalist modern small apartments
And it’s a base not a permanent place. The world is where you live and learn, not your home.

Big and small are both beautiful - it’s the guys in the middle I worry about
In the business world the big will (for now) remain big, avaricious and bigger. 3G, Apple, Google, Amazon, Tesla, Microsoft will all grow until they trip and then their fall will be vast - think Yahoo, Enron, Woolworths, Medici Bank (1494), South Sea Company (1720), Lehman Brothers and worse.
In the meantime the small entrepreneurial geniuses will create, invent, disrupt and be bought by the big sharks or when disruptors become more creative. Interesting things will happen like (for instance) Airbnb applying their marketing to supporting new, bright sexy restaurants in all the cities in which they operate.
Image result for the rise of the entrepreneur
Whatever else don’t be flabby and middle sized. Middle of the road is where the road kill is. Small is still the most beautiful because this is where wealth, creativity and independence exist. But you need to be resilient, brave and hardworking to survive and thrive.

A desire for self-improvement
I keep on coming across young and not so young executives learning new skills and languages. Increasingly it’s specialist-skill that matters. An arts degree says nothing much - good to do - mind expanding for sure but an alpha plumber, brilliant tango teacher, extraordinarily successful exam coach, spectacular Pilates teacher, inspiring guitar teacher or the osteopath whom everyone recommends is worth a lot more in the long run. We no longer live in a world of intelligent careerist/generalists. There are no longer long-term careers as we knew them. Today we are constantly seeking new ways to learn new skills so we can improve our chances in life.
Image result for tightrope walker

But if we can’t carry on learning and keeping ahead of change we’ll struggle. So learn something new in 2018.

The world of work
So a job for life, a career and life skills are all outmoded. Work is increasingly based on projects, short term contracts, interim assignments and the need for flexibility. For the more mobile young who are happy to up-sticks and fly to Mexico and then Singapore for specific jobs this is fine. We are creating teams of people like the skilled professionals on film crews who coalesce as a team on making a film and are unemployed again when it wraps.  In today’s world you’d better be good and be known for just how good you are…average is not going to be good enough.
Image result for Young executives at air[port
Today we are all mercenaries. And that’s fine. Just look for the opportunities around the world.

The media and the visible persuaders
There used to be just two heavyweights - BBC and ITV. Now we have Amazon, Netflix, Sky, BT and shortly Facebook and Google. People are watching more TV not less because the stuff on TV is so riveting. But old favourites like Crocodile Dundee (a 1980 film) still work - it topped the 2017 Christmas ratings with a 21 million viewership. Advertising - to one who once worked in it - seems as rich as ever in experiment and humour but without those jokes and one liners of the past. We are watching a battle of the Titans for talent and creativity, especially in writing. Now the great scripts are going to the small not the big screen; tough days in Hollywood; tough luck for them not seeing it coming.
Image result for rhett butler actor
And as Rhett Butler said in ‘Gone with the Wind’ (on TV over Christmas): “Frankly my dear I don’t give a damn”…just so long as the content keeps on improving.

Big, bad government
Democracy has become a tainted concept when the liberal elite discover it’s producing such bizarre and unexpected results. Like Trump, Brexit, the Five-Star-Movement in Italy, Sebastian Kurtz in Austria and so on and so on. We, in the UK, may soon have a Marxist leaning government. Bad news for those who’ve seen what Marxism has achieved in Venezuela or, closer to home, in Dieppe. Government virtually everywhere (to use those chilling words used often at school) has been “disappointing”. But the point of democracy is that we all have a voice. And our voice can change things. Philip Collins in the Times said: “At the end of an uninspiring year, British politics is broken”. But by using our voice we can repair it.
Image result for momentum movement in Labour Party
Sometimes we seem too prone to use our voice to try something new just for a change. But as all is not well we need to create a new centre of reasonableness….and good manners.
It’s our world to improve and probably won’t but (more hopefully) will…
We are so lucky. We are able to do unheard-of things - medical, in travel and mind-changingly experiential stuff; we have a wealth of food, drink and entertainment. We are (relatively) wealthy and getting wealthier over time. The two most restricting purchases in the past - houses and cars - are things we don’t really need to possess. We have the freedom of the world to explore and enjoy (today a return flight to New York from Gatwick on Norwegian cost only £314).  Everyone has talent. Focus on yours and go for it, improve, learn and change to stay ahead. Be optimistic and whatever you do use your vote. Democracy is empty if you don’t. And here are some words of encouragement from Emma Duncan Editor of 1843 magazine: “Amid the gloom over Brexit disputes and sex scandals we forget how tolerant, safe and prosperous our country is.”
The sun is rising on a New Year. Enjoy it.

Image result for sunrise

1 comment:

Michael said...

Terrific post Richard, i always enjoy your observations and advice, thank you and best wishes for 2018.