Changes Wrought By The Pandemic Expected To Influence Decades To Come

The pandemic’s impact on how economies and society as a whole functions has spurred a wave of innovation that is expected to serve as a blueprint for several decades to come. A new report from global professional services company Accenture, “Fjord Trends 2021”—the 14th in a series of annual reports from Accenture Interactive’s global network of designers and creatives—claims that organizations will have the opportunity to map out new territory as they embrace new strategies, services and experiences to meet evolving human needs.

“Throughout history, after a global crisis, a new era of thinking begins,” says Mark Curtis, head of innovation and thought leadership for Accenture Interactive. “As we look to the future, a wealth of potential worlds opens up in front of us. Some are scary, some are exciting and all of them are largely unexplored. What we do now will define the rest of the century. Businesses have the ultimate permission and space to think and do differently.”

The Fjord Trends 2021 report examines seven emerging trends expected to shape business, consumer behavior and society:

Collective displacement: How and where people experience things changed in 2020, and Accenture notes that this has left them with a shared sense of displacement as they collectively seek new ways and places to do and experience the things we need and love to do. How people work, shop, learn, socialize, parent and take care of our health has changed for many, and brands need to seek new ways and offer novel experiences to interact with people.

Do-it-yourself innovation: Accenture’s report says that innovation is increasingly being driven by people’s talent for coming up with innovative ways, or “hacks,” to deal with their challenges, from the at-home worker using their ironing board as a standing desk to the parent-turned-teacher. Technology is playing a newfangled role as facilitator for people’s ingenuity and as a result, their creativity is shining through, with individuals from politicians to personal trainers repurposing platforms like TikTok and video games to stage concerts and get important messages out. Everyone wants better solutions, but the era in which a brand was expected to create a finished solution is transitioning to one where brands are creating the conditions for personal innovation.

Sweet teams are made of this: Those who work remotely now live at the office, and Accenture describes this as having a huge effect on the reciprocal agreement between employer and employee and the many assumptions around it—such as who has final say over what people wear for a work-related video call in their own homes or whose responsibility it is to preserve home-workers’ right to privacy. Even with the promise of widespread vaccination on the horizon, it is predicted that a permanent shift has taken place in the relationship between people and their work and between employers and their teams. The future won’t be one-size-fits-all—a lot of prototyping in the world of work can be expected for some time to come.

Interaction wanderlust: Accenture’s report points out that as people spend much more time interacting with the world via screens, as a result they have noticed a certain “sameness” caused by templated design in digital experiences. It advises organizations to reconsider design, content, audience and the interaction between them to inject greater excitement, joy and serendipity into screen experiences.

Liquid infrastructure: Because the way people acquire products and engage with services has been displaced, organizations have had to rethink the supply chain and the use of all their physical assets and focus on points of delight—such as the immediate gratification many took for granted in-store—in the last few feet before purchase. This requires that companies build agility and resilience across their organization so they can adapt quickly to change. Accenture says to expect more change to come, often driven by sustainability.

Empathy challenge: People care deeply about what brands stand for and how they express their values. Accenture notes that the pandemic has shone a light on many broken and unequal systems across the world—from access to health care to equality. As a result, companies must work hard to manage the narratives that shape their brands, prioritizing the subjects that matter most to them and building their behaviors around those subjects.

Rituals lost and found: The cancellation and disruption of rituals—from celebrating birth to bidding farewell in death and everything in between—have had a significant impact on the greater collective’s well-being. This trend points to the prime opportunity companies have to help people in their search for meaning through new rituals that bring joy and comfort. It starts with understanding the blank space left by a lost ritual and designing the right thing to take its place.

“Innovation doesn’t start with technology, but as we’ve seen over the past year, it can be a powerful tool to augment human ingenuity—even out of chaos,” says Brian Whipple, group chief executive of Accenture Interactive. “The next year should be one defined by hope. We’ve witnessed—and been part of—great changes in our society. These trends are a blueprint for how we think and what we do next—what we take with us and what we leave behind. We can do better and people deserve better.”

Each year, Accenture Interactive crowdsources trends in business, technology and design for the coming year from its global design network of more than 2,000 creatives in over 40 locations. Fjord Trends 2021 focuses on how people, organizations and brands are meeting human needs. To read the Fjord Trends 2021 report, click here.

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