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2023 and Beyond

Taking Stock

Issue 88, December 29, 2022

One could argue that January 1 is an arbitrary date to evaluate the past 12 months. We routinely like to look back to the past calendar year, determine what went well and reflect on what we wanted to change. We view January 1 as a fresh start to tackle our procrastination, fix things that are broken, generally refresh, and forge a committed pathway forward. We all know that for many, these reflections, decisions, and goals are soon forgotten or made less important than they were in the moments leading up to January 1. And that results in an endless loop of déjà vu, which stalls progress.

Annual Review

Our inherent need to refresh each new year can also infuse organizations. Typically, leaders take advantage of the slower pace during the holidays to reflect how they can leverage their workforces to renew and re-energize to change, pivot, or take on a full-scale transformation. It is a great opportunity, but only if it is understood in the right context and with the recognition that time, stewardship, and inspiration will fulfill the commitment to the path ahead. It also requires an appropriate amount of perspective and energy.

Here at 2040, we also reflect on what we have learned over the past calendar year. We process and analyze the factors and variables at play in a highly dynamic environment and society and the influences they will continue to have in 2023 and beyond. Since our mantra is successful transformation, a holistic approach to factoring in the past to make a better future makes mindful reflection an essential tool.

In this final 2022 Ideas and Innovations newsletter edition, we seek to inspire you to reflect on the emerging patterns that become new directions. And we hope to catalyze you and your organization to recognize the most relevant, productive and realistic path to successful and fruitful change and transformation.

On that note here is our annual review with a selective list of what we believe are the most important considerations that you may want to reflect upon and plan for in 2023.

What Surprised Us This Year

  • The shocking lack of oversight on crypto and the implosion of the darling of the tech community, along with the rapid erosion of trust and faith in the big tech companies. Did everyone forget what we learned from the dot-com era and the sub-mortgage crisis? What surprised us is how quickly we forget and don’t learn from the past.
  • The solidarity of so many nations unified in support against the war in Ukraine. This demonstrates that perhaps physical territorial lines and goals of unlimited expansion are no longer badges of power and influence. Maybe we are finally at the trigger point of recognizing that knowledge, intelligence and technical prowess collectively benefit us all and can move society forward productively. And that would be a really nice surprise.
  • Climate change is finally getting the traction it deserves. What surprised us is why it took this long. And it continues to surprise us that despite the obvious evidence of environmental damage it causes, we continue to over consume, toss fast fashion into the landfills and over package in plastics.
  • The insane level of free publicity and buzz that Elon Musk gets for himself on a daily basis. What surprises us even more is that the public totally loves it. Everyone needs a hero and a villain, in this case, one in the same.
  • The resilience of the American democratic system. Votes matter and votes count. What surprised us is that having lived through such a divisive time in our recent history, our mid-term elections prevailed.
  • How powerful consumer demand continues to shape our organizations and workforce cultures. The surprise is the ongoing power of the customer to force change in everything from how we deliver information, goods, and services to how our leaders run their organizations.

Things We Learned This Year

  • After plenty of runway, organizations are still not prepared for the new individual-focused privacy rules that take effect starting January 1. Organizations are not only unprepared for compliance, but most have also not even recognized the necessity to create a strategy that accommodates the new power individuals have, across organizational, customer and member relationships; data management; and marketing communications.
  • Legacy organizations continue to be laggards in digital transformation mired in the past, confused in the present and oblivious to what is truly necessary for a successful and fruitful future. Bonus! Buy our book: The Truth About Transformation.
  • How critical it is for most organizations to have a position on social justice, ethics, and sustainability; stakeholders will not forgive inauthentic brands that are not transparent and do not take a stand. Our future workforce and consumers (Gen Z and Alpha) think differently and demand accountability and an honest relationship with organizations. In a transactional marketplace they are only loyal to brands that reflect their values. Without any allegiance to your brand, they will simply find another one — including your competitors. And most importantly, those stewarding organizations need to recognize what has permanently changed. A fundamental shift has occurred spurred by next gens that demand a transformational change in the nature of leadership and how leaders manage themselves.
  • The number of organizations that still operate with short-term thinking that has substantial unforeseen, unintended, and often negative consequences that are generally ignored. Short-term thinking is reactionary, without context and ignores objective reality, yet many organizations continue to misalign themselves to the true wants and needs of their customers and the market.
  • Social media has its limits, and the crescendo of its ability to influence society is reaching a turning point. The level of manipulation, misinformation and mismanagement among many social media brands is causing a backlash among customers of all ages. A group of self-proclaimed Luddites is emerging. These are teenagers who reject smartphones in favor of flip phones and turn their backs on obsession with social media. The NY Times quoted one Luddite, “When I got my flip phone, things instantly changed. I started using my brain. It made me observe myself as a person. I’ve been trying to write a book, too.” The back story on Luddites:  Ned Ludd, the folkloric 18th-century English textile worker who supposedly smashed up a mechanized loom, inspiring othersto take up his name and riot against industrialization, as reported by the Times.
  • Mental health issues at work are real. The pandemic has had lasting residual effects, with an accelerated reassessment of where and how to work with remote and hybrid models triggering many physical and mental wellbeing challenges that employers must address. In fact, many leaders are out of touch with a workforce that doesn’t share their traditional work/life values.  Essentially, leaders need to recognize that they are often the cause of work-related mental health issues when they continue to practice disconnected industrial age-focused measurements of the traditional timeclock and on-site physical presence. As a result, quiet quitting and quiet firing have become ubiquitous. Decreases in productivity, significant challenges in recruiting and maintaining a talented workforce, and a void in institutional knowledge have become commonplace and compromise set goals and strategies. If leaders refuse to recognize the shift in employee expectations and are disconnected from their workforce’s needs wants, they will continue to be a large reason for the problems. According to Indeed, employers need a top-down commitment to protecting employees’ physical and mental health no matter where they work with the strongest medical, health, and vision benefits that budgets will allow. Health literacy programs—backed by science and expertise—can also help combat the increasing barrage of misinformation and disinformation that often prevents people from helping themselves.

Are We Asking the Right Questions?

As preamble, there are lifelong questions we carry within us. Questions that we inherit from our ancestors about space, place, and personal meaning. There are questions that bring us joy and those that disrupt and lead us somewhere new. Deep questions can be both revealing and enlightening. Shallow questions are more ego than erstwhile.

  • How many high-gain questions do we ask? Most are surface-level or questions we already have answers for. Or worse, answers that align only to our own reality infused by our beliefs and values. Why do we resist those sincere, valuable questions that embrace and recognize objectivity?
  • Are we asking questions to learn a truth or change directions? Or rather, do we use the construct to deflect others, exercise our personal power, hide our insecurities, shield what we don’t know (that others think we do), or just to hear ourselves talk?
  • Do we question holistically using systems thinking to consider a problem or issue from a multidisciplinary, interdependent perspective that embraces contextual analysis and recognition?
  • Do we start questioning from the foundation of a shared purpose aligned to an objectively defined market orientation? Or do we avoid questions and instead chase any shiny new object that appears to be exciting or aligned to a personal goal or desire?
  • Do we use the Socratic questioning approach to reveal our biases, conscious or subconscious? Do we know how to consciously recognize how strong our inherent programming (biases, beliefs, and values) influences how we receive and interpret what others are saying?

Are We Starting the Right Conversations

  • Have we honed our communications skills to listen actively to engender trust and be heard to build a connection?
  • How interested are we in deep, meaningful connections with people? Do you engender a sense of belonging? Ask someone a question you couldn’t possibly answer. Or even better, ask someone to tell you something no one would ever guess about them. And then reciprocate.
  • Do our conversations focus on intention with actionable outcomes?
  • How do our conversations tell a story or capture a narrative about our products, services, or brand?
  • Do our conversations build community and consensus, or do they create division and hierarchical gaps?

What We Think 2023 Will Bring

  • If you really want to predict the future, look at what kids are doing when they are supposed to be doing something else. Don’t just read an article or do a Google search, really look around you, observe and see where the opportunities may be.
  • Most economists (70%) believe there will be a recession. We agree. We write often about the unintended consequences of short-term decisions. We steadfastly hold onto our belief that we haven’t yet seen all the “fat ladies sing.”
  • Personal travel given the freedom of mobility offered by hybrid work schedules will broaden workers’ horizons.
  • The majority of consumers coming out of the pandemic will continue to value experiences above material goods. This mental shift will have a real impact on retail and commodity companies and will be a boon for service companies.
  • The mandate to meet in person, attend a conference or even go to a movie will continue to decrease. Although theatre companies, convention and conference organizers, and similar organizations seek to return to what was, the model is permanently threatened by customer preferences. A new model needs to be built.
  • The need to belong will prevail over transactional relationships within our societal and workplace cultures. The 24/7, go-at-all-costs mindset will start to fade.
  • Organizations will continue to be challenged with change and transformation by over reliance on technology to solve every human cultural and organizational dynamics problem.
  • Fragmentation, culturally, socially, and politically will continue to dominate the conversation and further divide our nation if we quickly lose sight of what we proved to ourselves just two months ago during the recent elections.

To 2023 and Beyond

Here at 2040 we are forever optimistic. We truly believe that we all have the capability, and capacity to lead with courage. Regardless of who we are, our passions, and what roles we play across our personal and professional lives, we can lead shared purpose-based organizations that matter to our stakeholders. We are a social species: we want to belong, make a difference, work with others who believe in something larger than themselves and be part of a relevant community. This is what we work toward with all our clients, and in our opinion, it is the sum-total of everything we have learned, what surprised us, and how to ask the right questions.  We invite you to join us on this journey to make the industry you work in and serve smarter, more empathetic, and successful.

Get “The Truth about Transformation”

The Truth about Transformation Book Cover ImageThe 2040 construct to change and transformation. What’s the biggest reason organizations fail?  They don’t honor, respect, and acknowledge the human factor.  We have compiled a playbook for organizations of all sizes to consider all the elements that comprise change and we have included some provocative case studies that illustrate how transformation can quickly derail.

Order your copy today and let us know what you think!

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