We are deep into the age of the individual. Never has there been more emphasis and focus on the individual. But what does that mean for entrepreneurship and SMEs?
We spoke to Dion Chang, founder and trend analyst at the Johannesburg based forecast agency, Flux Trends. Chang, whose agency releases its own annual 10 trends list, says the individualism trend is here to stay, and is largely being driven by social media and technological advancements.
However, the spanner in the works are the millennials – last year referred to by Time magazine as the ‘me me me generation‘ – who have come of age and are entering the work force, and are doing things their way.
All these developments which, from the outside may look like bad, can actually be good, says Chang, who adds there are many reasons to be excited.
Here are his trends that forward-thinking entrepreneurs and SMEs should be on the lookout for in 2015.
1. A multi-skilled workforce
We are living in the age of the career slashes, says Chang. Today, people are skilled in more than one thing. This is the reason why career titles like developer/designer/blogger are no longer the exception, but the norm. This can be a major plus for SMEs, Chang says.
“SMEs must learn from the big corporations like Google and IBM, bring someone into the team but do not box them,” he says.
2. Lookout for the splinter market
Now is a good time for SMEs to explore untapped markets, says Chang. “SMEs have to be hyper vigilant of opportunities otherwise others will grab those opportunities,” he says.
“This is where SMEs have an advantage over big corporations – they move faster and can do things faster”.
“The idea is that you no longer have to talk, you lead by example”
3. Budget for failure
While it’s good to pioneer into the unknown, tapping into untested market has its risks. “You might be the first to test it and it might not work out,” Chang says. This is a risk, he says, that entrepreneurs should prepare for.
4. Money versus meaning
“Millenials are using their early careers to experiment,” says Chang. While money will start to mean more as they get older and are looking for more security, the early twenties is a period of learning and in which they need to feel like they are having some sort of impact, he says.
“Once they feel they have stopped learning, they move on,” he says. He adds that careers are also no longer about the company’s journey but a more personal one.
5. The self in self-motivation
Instead of turning to motivational speakers and workshops for inspiration and motivation – the reverse is happening, says Chang. This is largely because of the increased access afforded by social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. “People are naturally gravitating towards pioneers, like Richard Branson – people who think differently,” he says.
“The idea is that you no longer have to talk, you lead by example”.
“You don’t want to be king of the castle”
6. Unconventional career trajectory
The future of work, he says, will include “five or more careers” with the average individual switching jobs multiple times. Say goodbye to working for one company your whole life, Chang says.
Dion adds that the new career template will be a lot more fragmented and will probably look something like: school, work, a mini retirement, work again, with bouts of education in-between. The Japanese call this, he says, kaizen, or continuous improvement.
7. Death of the king
“You don’t want to be king of the castle, it doesn’t allow for flexibility or flow,” says Chang. Instead he suggests that leaders start thinking of themselves as the centre of a circle with teams orbiting around them. This will not only allows for greater flexibility, but a flatter management style, which allows for quicker decision making and more effective communication.
8. Entrepreneurship is no longer just for the young
Because of the economic recession and the scarcity of jobs, Chang says more young people are looking to start their own businesses. An interesting development, he says, is that the older generation who don’t want to retire, are turning to entrepreneurship too. “They have the skills and experience, and are starting businesses as well,” he says.