We’ve asked you about the future and how it is being shaped by the forces and sources of change: Sociodemographics, Economy, Technology, and Regulatory forces. And we promised to share the results. Before highlighting the findings, here is some background.
The 5-minute, 5-question survey was made available on-line throughout September employing Survey Monkey and KEI’s Network of over 25,000. Several reminders were circulated. 195 completed the survey. Most were located in North America – 89% in Canada and 7% in the United States, including 51% seniors age 65+ and 46% of working age 18-65.
The survey was designed to assess the overall significance of change anticipated, the contributors to change, and the respondents’ sources of information. Differences by age and sources of information are of interest. (Location is ignored given that most respondents were from North America.) Also of interest is how respondents anticipating the most change differ from those anticipating the least. Now the findings.
Technology and Economic Forces Are Interrelated and Disruptive
Very significant change is anticipated simultaneously on all fronts, driven in particular by the combined forces of Technology and the Economy. Less significant are Sociodemographic and Regulatory sources. Even for those expecting the least change, Technology is cited as the primary driving force.
Those of workforce age (18-65) are anticipating very significant change. Ageing reduces the significance – likely as the greater impacts anticipated are on jobs affected by rapidly emerging – generally unregulated, and pervasive technologies.
The contribution of Economic forces is secondary only to Technology; they are viewed as interrelated. Often cited is how both contribute to wealth disparity as technology displaces jobs and energy alternatives disrupt the oil and gas industry.
The lesser influences on change are Sociodemographic – ageing, population growth, and diversity, with the least being Regulatory – increasing government control, social intervention, and public debt. Noteworthy is the frequently mentioned view that Regulatory forces, namely governments, are unable to contain the personal and economic impacts of Technology.
Comments further explain the interrelationship between Technology and the Economy. For example, Technology is cited as a threat to the future of work – particularly for those entering the workforce (18-35), as is the impact of changes in the Economy – energy transitions and associated economic uncertainty. This is consistent with former surveys (The Future of Work – 2018) of Alberta youth who cited in addition climate change, racial diversity, and mental health concerns. These concerns may be more specific to youth (under 18) who were under-represented in the survey and whose concerns were rarely cited among the KEI survey’s working age and aged respondents.
Noteworthy also is that even though the Covid-19 pandemic was rampant during September, health and healthcare issues were rarely mentioned by survey respondents. Next, we turn to the Sources of Information used by respondents.
Expecting Change – Who To Trust?
The most frequently used Sources of Information are Periodicals and Magazines, Radio and Television, Webinars and Blogs. The least: Word-of-Mouth, Social Media, Conferences and Classes.
Interesting is that while the vast majority (73%) of respondents expect Significant change, those expecting the most change (94%) differ from those expecting the least (47%) in their Sources of Information.
Respondents who anticipate the Most change cite reading – a personal experience, as their primary Sources of Information: Newspapers, Newsletters via email, Periodicals and Magazines, and Other, e.g. Books and independent research; least cited are social Sources of Information: Word-of-Mouth, Social Media, and to a lesser extent Conferences and Classes.
Two Sources of Information differentiate those anticipating the most change from the least: Newspapers (50% v 24%) and Newsletters via email (47% v 30%).
Overall, social Sources of Information appear to be the least influential in driving anticipated change: Word-of-Mouth, Social Media, Conferences and Classes.
Preparing for Change? Be Well Advised!
What does all this mean? First, no one knows what the future will be. Regardless, people take action all the time in anticipation of the future. They plan. They save and invest. They insure. They join. They vote. They marry. They buy.
People expecting significant change are likely to take action that others – wedded to the status quo, may not take if the changes anticipated are threatening or expected to be painful. That seniors today are less prone to anticipate significant change in the future may be attributed to the fact that they have less future ahead than those of working age. Also important may be that the impact of the primary sources of change – Technology and the Economy, will not be in their lifetime. Not surprisingly, managing change is of most interest to those of working age.
Let’s get personal. Is reading contributing to the expectation of more change, or is anticipating change leading to an increase in reading? It is reasonable to expect that the more threatening the future the greater the appetite to learn about the forces and sources of change through reading and/or socializing. This is an important issue if selling “increased certainty” in the face of a threatening future such as: consultants, insurers, politicians, teachers, investors, parents. As for the buyer of “increased certainty”, be advised that “sellers of certainty” are prone to exaggerate future threats.
The survey’s findings are consistent with the observed bias of Regulatory forces – i.e. governments, addressing Sociodemographic versus Economic or Technology forces/issues. The workforce today would view positively Regulatory – government, initiatives to mitigate the negative consequences of Technology and embrace initiatives to capitalize on associated opportunities. The erosion of privacy is but one example. Job loss and industrial disruption are others.
It would also appear that “sellers of certainty” must be particularly vigilant in messaging. How they convey threats is critical in earning vs losing trust. The medium they use – personal or social, is important in who they are targeting to convey their message.
In closing, I have chosen not to burden you – the reader, with the mass of statistics supporting the report. The data is available and I welcome sharing it without reference to any contributor’s identity. Finally, and this is very important, the KEI Network is comprised of people who have an interest in the social and economic impact of Technology. Without question, this should be taken into consideration in reviewing the data and in interpreting the results.
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The next survey in October is to assess the status of economic diversification for states/provinces and the effectiveness of their associated innovation ecosystems. This is particularly timely given the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on the economy and interest in economic recovery.