Seven trends that WON’T change in 2013

Happy 2013!

Although I don’t like making predictions, and a single year is usually not enough time to identify significant trends – I’m going out on a limb with a few things that I believe won’t change in the coming year. I’ll frame it in the DEEPEST context and offer some thoughts about what it might take to bend the trend or even some potential game changers. So without any further ado, here are my predictions of the obvious for 2013:

Demographics

The Graying of the Workforce will continue as the Baby Boom generation celebrates another birthday. Those Boomers fortunate enough to have kept their jobs through the Great Recession will likely hold on to them for at least another year, even those eligible for retirement. The long-suffering GenX will have to wait still longer for their opportunity to move up the ladder while the GenY Millennials struggle to understand why they have to show up at a particular time and stay all day.

What might change? A sudden surge in the stock market that restores the value of retirement accounts lost in the Great Recession might encourage Boomers to leave the workforce – although because many are still vigorous and healthy, they would likely seek some other form of employment such as part-time or volunteer.

Energy

Gasoline prices will continue to be volatile, but swinging within a fairly narrow range between $3 and $4. “Fracking” will drive the price of natural gas a bit lower, but the environmental concerns will begin to emerge more strongly. As a result, there will be some movement away from “dirty” energy such as coal, but no significant new development of new “clean” energy such as wind.

What might change? A crisis in the Middle East involving Iran, Israel, Syria, Egypt or even Saudi Arabia could send oil prices skyrocketing.

Environment

In 2013, several areas will experience a drought while others will have flooding. It will be hotter than normal, except where it’s colder than normal. Hurricanes will threaten the coast and tornadoes will tear through the midwest. In other words – a normal year. Some experts will blame any unusual weather on global warming, while others will point out that any single weather event can’t be attributed to any single cause. There will be no significant pollution or climate legislation passed (see Politics.) 2013 will end up as one of the warmest years on record.

What might change? It is possible that another Katrina or Sandy hitting a major metropolitan area could bring climate change to the forefront, but I see that as unlikely (the conversation, not the weather event.)

Politics

The gridlock in Washington will continue unabated. Major political/economic disasters will be avoided (fiscal cliff, default) but just barely. Any agreements between parties will be narrow, short-term and less than necessary, kicking the proverbial can ever farther down the road. Although there may be more open discussion about the need for moderation and bipartisanship, the hard-line, ideological, partisan voices will still dominate, drowning out more moderate voices on both sides of the aisle.

What might change? A failure to reach any agreement on a significant issue could result in real political or economic damage to the US. The popular backlash could be enough to force both parties to engage in true negotiation and compromise. On the other hand, a significant external threat to the country (North Korea? Iran?) might shift the focus away from partisan bickering to uniting for the good of the nation.

Economy

The recovery will muddle along, with consumer confidence slowly growing and unemployment slowly shrinking – but nothing anyone will get excited about. The stock market will continue to reflect political rather than economic realities, rising and falling based more on what’s happening in Washington or Berlin than in Greenville and Franklin.

What might change? Greece and Spain could implode, sucking the rest of Europe into another recession or depression – with serious implications for the US. Or the Congress could choose to default on the debt (see Politics,) sending the US economy back into recession.

Social

The “culture of celebrity” will continue with everyone from the royal baby to Honey BooBoo receiving front-page coverage. So-called “reality” TV will still make stars out of the worst examples of “ordinary” people and we will still express our distaste for their exploitation – even as we tune in each week.

What might change? Some reality show or celebrity gossip could cross the line either by showing something taboo or causing some tragic event. That might then cause a backlash from the public and a rethinking by the entertainment industry.

Technology

The proliferation of handheld devices will continue, with a few challengers to Apple’s iDominance. There will be more tablets sold than laptops in 2013 even while the line between tablet and cellphone blurs. More and more people will do business online, and will expect instant access to their own information, instant service, and increasingly, instant delivery. Facebook will continue to grow, although its prominence may recede somewhat due to the growth of other social media such as Pinterest.

What might change? A new “Apple-killer” device or software could come on the market, significantly changing the way people interact with the technology and with each other.

So there you have it! It’s pretty easy to predict the future when you expect that tomorrow will be just like today, only more of it.

But we know that’s not how it works. TrendSurfing is about taking what’s happening now and imaging what it would take to change things, and more importantly what to do to prepare for whatever might happen.

May your 2013 bring you only happy surprises!

Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust

Wired Magazine featured a story on “Why the Clean Tech Boom Went Bust” using the Solyndra failure as a case study. A long read, but well worth it, particularly if you believe that “clean and green” energy is just around the corner. I think this paragraph sums up the main point:

Perhaps the biggest force working against not just Solyndra but clean energy in general is this: Because natural gas has gotten so cheap, there is no longer a financial incentive to go with renewables. Technical advances in natural gas extraction from shale—including the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—have opened up reserves so massive that the US has surpassed Russia as the world’s largest natural gas supplier.

Clean Tech isn’t going to replace fossil fuels just because it’s a good idea and better for the environment. As long as traditional energy is cheaper to produce and use, clean & green will remain on the edges. Large investments in clean tech haven’t produced the breakthroughs needed, and fossil fuel prices haven’t reached the tipping point where consumers will demand alternatives in profitable numbers.

Do energy prices impact your business? What do you think it will take to make clean & green viable?