The new fabric of life
Fjord Trends 2022 by Accenture collectively tell a story of people and their relationships with the planet, technology, brands, and each other. The dominant theme is about the need to respond to changes in all relationships—the threads that form the new fabric of life.
The choices we make next might impact our world and its structure in more ways than we can imagine, and it all points to shifts in people’s relationships—with colleagues, brands, society, places, and with those they care about. People are also coming face-to-face with the impact they’re having on the planet, and finally accepting they cannot go on behaving as though people were separate from nature.
We’ve had two years of disruption to the systems on which society is run, and it’s taking its toll. There are challenging times ahead, but we believe there are also great opportunities to design new systems, and new ways of being.
We should define how we—collectively and individually—consciously stitch together positive relationships to create a fabric of life that’s good for people and the planet.
Come as you are
People have a growing sense of agency over their lives, which is affecting the way they work, relate, and consume. They are questioning who they are and what matters to them and, in many cases, finding new confidence to show up as themselves and live their true lives.
This rise in self-agency is also manifesting in a change to how people think about work, which means companies aren’t just competing with each other for talent, but also with the other things people want to do with their lives.
Side-hustles are a feature, a cause and a symptom of this phenomenon. Technology is making it easier to seek out new income streams, either alongside or instead of traditional employment. This is presenting employers with new challenges, as they need to balance the flexibility they offer to individuals with the needs of the collective, and work towards the greater good of the organization so that creativity, diversity and trust-building can thrive.
The tension lies between people’s desire to meet their own needs versus their share of responsibility for the wellbeing of the collective they belong to and rely on. The rise of a “me over we” mentality has profound implications for organizations in
how they lead their employees, how they shape a new employee value proposition, and how they nurture company-customer relationships.
The end of abundance thinking
Those who are used to getting whatever they want with minimal effort—those who have enjoyed “abundance thinking”—are having their relationship with convenience upended, and pitted against their relationship with the planet.
Supply chain disruptions, inflation, a shortage of workers, and climate change disasters are leading to shortages around the world. Scarcity of goods will affect customers’ morale, and brand owners should be prepared to manage expectations around convenience and sustainability. However, this could also bring opportunity to reframe consumerism, and it’s possible that the enforced behavior change becomes a catalyst for new habits.
To make progress, it’s important that businesses start to decouple innovation from the notion of “new”. One method might be to create new value for customers through services that extend a product’s life, rather than making incremental upgrades that prompt people to discard an item in decent condition for a marginally improved new release. We forecast a growing momentum towards “regenerative business” that replaces the traditional “take, make, dispose” model with a more circular approach. Having recognized the interconnectedness of everything, organizations will have to start collaborating with others in the ecosystem to tackle climate change—the most pressing challenge.
As the role of abundance thinking in business is thrown into doubt, “less” doesn’t have to mean “loss”.
The next frontier
The world is buzzing with metaverse fever, evolving digital culture and offering people and brands a new place to interact, create, consume and earn.
The metaverse is the next stage of how physical interacts with digital. It’s a place where people can be a part of events in real time, and where digital assets can be created, minted and traded on non-fungible tokens. Brands will need to understand how/if their customers will exist in this new world, and how their brand promises might be fulfilled there.
In the immediate future, we expect to see a period of questioning, learning and experimenting on what’s possible and what people want. Any brand or creator wanting to operate in the metaverse must be ready for a lot of trial and error, with all focus on the end user’s experience. Embedding ethics from the start is an absolute must. As brands seek to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the metaverse, we encourage open debate around the ethics relating to how people present themselves and what they do there.
We may well be on the brink of a new cultural epoch. If this is true, this cultural shift will be associated with the metaverse. Whatever happens, the metaverse may offer infinite potential as a brave new space for companies to explore, test, and innovate, all of which makes it—to say the very least—tremendously exciting.
This much is true
Since Google launched 24 years ago, asking questions and having them answered immediately has become part of everyday life, so people are asking more questions but increasingly doubting the answers they get.
Incidences of inflammatory language, lack of integrity, misinformation and the politization of everything are furthering a breakdown of trust in information systems, and undermining people’s trust in brands. Information layers—how they’re designed and communicated, especially—are a critical and complex place for a brand owner to build trust.
Brands must navigate limited space for information layers and people’s limited attention span. The layers must be simple and easy to use, personalized, transparent and contextual to place, interface and people’s ever-changing modes. Content design will be key, and we expect conversational AI to evolve both in ambition and sophistication. Hybrid interfaces will be able to augment physical objects with a digital layer of information. Increasingly, brands will compete with one another on information layers—if one brand owner decides not to include them, a rival brand might.
As companies find themselves under growing pressure to respond to people’s questions, new information layers will provide a powerful trust-building opportunity.
Handle with care
Care and compassion are rooted in human nature—they’re arguably the character traits that define humanity. In all its forms, care became more prominent this past year: self-care, care for others, the service of care, and the channels to deliver care (both digital and physical).
The issue of care is expanding beyond the health industry, as traditionally non-health businesses and services are finding new ways to show care to customers. Self-care, taking care of others, and taking care of our carers has become an important focus.
This isn’t going away—the responsibilities around self-care and care for others will continue to be prioritized. This matters to brands and employers because it’s a much-needed addition of emotional touch that builds trust.
There are many ways to create new value in caring through design, including: expanding accessibility and defining it more broadly, prioritizing mental wellbeing and safety, exploring multisensory design to boost inclusivity, reducing operational white noise for employees, and protecting customer data.
Care has always been an important part of being human, but the difference is that it’s now more visible and openly discussed—a welcome change. Designers and businesses alike need to make space for practicing care—it’s not enough to talk about it. The aim should be to deliberately design and build care into systems.
For the full report, click here.