2021: Acceleration / Collapse / Rebound
[Note: This is a small part of the just published mini-eBook “2021 A Look Ahead: Acceleration / Collapse / Rebound ”
This mini-eBook is a look into 2021 with predictions based upon trends and within the context of the 2020s decade. It is available for only $.99, less than your daily newspaper. Prepare yourself for this new year. If you are a leader you will be interested in the last chapter, about the best form of leadership for 2021 and the rest of the decade.
Some of this column has been published in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
This is a continuing series of columns on 2021, what will continue from 2020 and what new developments are ahead
Many people view the new year as a fresh start, a new beginning. This of course is only relevant on a personal level of commitment and resolution. A nice break in the calendar. This year I got frustrated with all the language about the end of 2020 and the new year 2021, as though the Gregorian calendar measures new beginnings and a clean slate for all. There were the same number of COVID-19 deaths on 12/31/20 as on 1/1/21. So, this short book from which this column is a small part provides the context of trends and the decade to better understand why the predictions are made. Not just a list of predictions but the underlying dynamics of them.
2021 flows from 2020. In 2020 the U.S. and the world had 10 months of the deadly blanket of COVID-19. 2021 will have the first 10 months of the same. This is dealt with in greater detail in the eBook and in the next column, where I have the less than happy responsibility to suggest that we will not be in a post-virus world until the 4th quarter of 2021 at the earliest.
The three words below are good ones relative to what is ahead, All will be occurring in this new year, in many cases simultaneously.
All forms of connectivity will accelerate. We all used video conferencing technology in 2020, many for the first time. This will continue and increase. The technology led advances will continue. There will be new platforms, and old ones will be upgraded.
Home is increasingly the cockpit or the bridge of the starship from which life is managed: work, play, school, purchasing, delivery mechanisms. All will accelerate in 2021.
The online 21st century distribution models will all accelerate, usually at the expense of the 20th century physical distribution model.
Technological Intelligence will accelerate both in cutting edge developments globally and in how it finds its way (often unnoticed) into our daily lives.
Convenience and customer service will accelerate in importance regardless of screen or physical distribution. Free shipping is now the base line not a perk based on the size of the purchase. Knowledge of the customer accelerates in importance based upon the home-centric lives we have moved to.
New habits are accelerating. Research shows that it takes weeks to establish a new habit. We have been adapting for months and are now habituated to spending more time at home – commuting less, cooking more. The total number of people going to theaters, restaurants, sporting events and theme parks will not return to pre-COVID levels.
Disintermediation of old distribution models and transaction structures will accelerate. Distributed realities will increase across the board. It will be immediately apparent in education, healthcare, entertainment, any activity that can be accomplished at home now. Activities that we used to have to travel for. We will see an increasing dispersion of industries with education and health care at the top of the list.
A key factor in this shift to online will be our looming climate catastrophe. Far less greenhouse gases are emitted when people stream a movie at home rather than driving to a movie theater. Far less GHG emissions when companies restrict executive travel. The concept of an individual or company’s carbon footprint will become a metric closely followed and perhaps taxed * This will result in coordinated efforts to have employees work from home and to also limit activities that generate GNG emissions. Now that we know what can happen when billions of people stay in place at home, we may be called on to coordinate activities during times of extreme pollution due to an inversion, heat waves, and perhaps nations adhering to lower emissions and waste commitments made and agreed upon globally.
During the 2020s there will ultimately be times when humanity will have to stay at home for big chunks of time when facing the climate threat.
Legacy thinking collapses everywhere. Thinking from the past infusing pre-2020 realities will continue to collapse. This is the flip side of Acceleration. As online learning in higher ed increases, the old in-person and high-priced model will wither. Online enrollments will increase while in-person enrollments will decrease precipitously. Several hundred colleges in the US, operational in 2019, will have closed by 2022.
Commercial real estate (especially office space) will collapse until it is fully redesigned and reconfigured (likely by 2023). There will be vacant office buildings everywhere. When it does start to recover in 2022, the entire concept of the office will be reinvented. 100% of employees will no longer go into the office five days a week. Maybe closer to 10 to 30% on any workday, the remainder working from home or wherever.
Prior to 2020 the US had the most retail space per capita in the world. By the fourth quarter of 2021, 25 to 35% percent of all non-restaurant locations that were open on 1/1/20 will be gone.
It will take most of the decade for commercial real estate to recover due entirely to design and redesign
The global economy and the US economy will rebound from 2020. GDP will get back to 2019 levels. Many “boosters” of the old economic model will exult in how much growth there is relative to 2020. Of course this will happen. The more relevant comparison is to 2019… before the economy tanked. The question that must be asked of any legacy business model is how it is doing compared to 2019.
Globally, some economies will rebound to a much greater extent than other countries. Countries that have successful vaccination campaigns… those that vaccinate a majority of their citizens, will attain herd immunity and will be back in business. Those that do not… due to a lack of medical resources or due to anti-vax sentiment, will have a slower and weaker rebound.
Assuming President-elect Biden is able to fund his “build back better” vision of America, and other national leaders can initiate broad new clean energy initiatives, the billions of dollars invested will trigger economic rebounds and create hundreds of thousands of jobs globally in 2021.
In the US and globally there will be a massive investment in 21st century infrastructure. This includes multiple types of clean energies, upgrades and expansions to the electricity grid, ever more high-speed connectivity, electric transport on ground and in the air, and charging stations for these new electric transportation modes.
There will be new business niches focused on conversion and retrofitting of older forms of transport and the installed base of buildings. Wasteful destruction of the old and building/buying new will be relatively rare. Conversion shops will turn internal combustion engine vehicles into electric or hydrogen powered vehicles. Office and industrial buildings will be converted into green and energy efficient structures, often residential.