For leaders and businesses wanting to stay ahead and shape the 2013 they want, there is one critical ability above all others that will count. In a continuing context that will be both unpredictable and unstable, the ability to understand and leverage the big trends will turn challenges into opportunities and help you create the results you are looking for.

In this uncertain world there are some things that leaders can count on in 2013.

  • The context we operate in will be unpredictable and unstable;
  • The pace rapid;
  • Power will continue to shift from government and institutions to people and communities;
  • Extreme climatic conditions will create havoc and major disruption ( as we have seen in Tasmania this week, the unprecedented high temperatures fuelling fires with tragic and catastrophic consequences);
  • Social networks will shape organisations and be a key means for fostering innovation;
  • Connectedness will be part of the environment we work in, with partnerships and relationships critical for delivering outcomes and dealing with the complexities faced by managers.

Leadership is faced with the challenge of operating in two time frames. Needing to be responsive to the short term pressures of delivering business as usual on one hand, whilst also preparing for essential change necessary for long term success. To reconcile these, it is critical to understand and have an informed and discerning view on the future, and to prepare for the major changes that lie ahead. The focus is on planning with forward looking metrics. The Global Trends Report 2013 (Tracey Keys and Thomas Malnight) identifies a number of themes through looking at data and considering the implications.

The authors suggest that there are 10 key global trends to focus on in 2013.  They make for interesting reading and I have summarised them as follows:

  1. Social networks will support organisations build broader networks, foster innovation, build agility and help deliver value to consumers.
  2. Consumers have choice and they have rapid access to information and knowledge sharing. They are redefining value. They want a personal approach and to participate in having their needs met through a co-creator approach. Younger generations value experience they can share and they are interested in experience that delivers benefits to society.
  3. Mobility and connectedness will be a core focus in the business environment. Above all, we will continue to see a greater spread / a more dispersed approach that includes power, work, partnering, co-creating and greater mobility amongst other key factors.
  4. Technological advancements have both an upside and a downside, with the major downside being workforce downsizing.  The upside being multiple fold in addressing cost and labour intensive issues as well as providing the opportunities to create new roles. The authors identify an “industrial revolution” in re shaping work through robots and smart machines.
  5. The “new space race” will push the frontiers of technology with programs that will impact from advanced materials to global telecommunications.
  6. Radical power shifts to the people and political shifts will drive dramatically different economic, social and political systems at home and globally.
  7. Resource scarcity will drive the critical need to lead the way in creating new technologies and rethinking consumption.
  8. Knowledge and information create power and are also a source of competitive advantage, which is also likely to give rise to increased litigation, policies and regulation.
  9. Businesses, often with partners, tackling social and economic challenges.  Consumers, employees and shareholders care about the impact and motivations of companies with whom they deal with and businesses will seek to build legitimacy to meet these demands. In addition, business will recognise the mutual benefits with the communities they operate in.
  10. Reshaping the financial system will be driven by regulators who demand change, businesses who want new ways to finance and consumers who are looking to exercise choice. In an increasingly crowded and cashless financial system, banks may no longer be key players.