For most of us, hindsight is 20/20 ... and foresight is a lot less clear.
But Grossman & Partners, authors of the Zeitguide, must be wearing a stronger prescription. The cultural think-tank specializes in analyzing the present to predict the future—and then publishes some of their most noteworthy findings in their guide.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Get started with a free financial assessment.
Those of us who don't work at a think tank—who aren't hired to study what happens in every professional sector, from medicine to industry—may wonder why exactly we need to examine the current (and future) "cultural climate."
We spoke with the company's founder, Brad Grossman, to find out what exactly the Zeitguide can mean for us—and our money.
LearnVest: Why should we be using a tool like the Zeitguide to keep an eye on cultural trends?
Grossman: The world is changing so quickly, and people tend to get a little nervous: They're insecure that they aren’t relevant. For instance, they worry that technological progress might interfere with their careers—that their jobs might not even exist in the near future because things are changing so much.
Plus, being financially literate and responsible is about understanding where the jobs are. The guide gives you a granular explanation of how corporate America is changing that’s relevant to anyone in the workforce. In terms of investments, it gives you a big-picture view of what’s happening in every sector, so you can understand why your stocks and mutual funds are behaving the way they are.
How could finance and business trends affect people who don't work in finance or corporate jobs?
Grossman: In trying to take a big-picture lens to what's happening in corporate America, we were able to isolate three big trends that affect all of us:
1) It's becoming more expensive to source labor outside the U.S. (like China, where labor costs are up to five times as high as they once were), so jobs are coming back home—it's insourcing. Boston Consulting Group predicts that 2 million or more jobs could head back to the U.S., which is an exciting development for people who are nervous about unemployment and the economy.
2) Corporations are changing their environments not only to be more nimble and more relevant in the 21st century, but also to attract people who are more accustomed to technology. We talk about social enterprise, which takes the mechanisms of social media—tweeting, pinning, Instagramming—and brings them into business, like letting employees set up Facebook groups for projects. With these kinds of developments, you can have communication between different departments and ranks. It's not only exciting for corporations who want to attract recent graduates, but also for the graduates.
3) The new job of the future is the data scientist. We have so much information on the internet that we need really good analysts who understand how to connect the dots among these huge data sets. McKinsey & Co. reports that, by 2018, the U.S. will face a shortage of up to 190,000 people with the necessary deep analytical skills to fill this need.
Which trends did you find particularly noteworthy when compiling the Zeitguide?
Grossman: One of the trends that's really exciting to us is how traditional media companies are experimenting with how people consume media. We talk about binge viewing, which is what Netflix is doing with House of Cards by releasing the entire season at once, rather than one episode per week. What’s interesting to us is that, because of Netflix, people may now be able to create TV in their own way—without having to adhere to the policies of cable.
The traditional model is called programmatic viewing, and networks are trying to adapt to the shift away from it. If people are binge viewing—not all tuning in at the same time—how do you connect with an audience? These companies are moving toward second-screen software (literally, a second screen, like a tablet or phone) to engage with customers who watch a primary screen and communicate on a second one.
How is the recession recovery reflected in the trends listed in the Zeitguide?
Grossman: Uncertainty is exacerbated by political turmoil, and that plays across most demographics. We believe society as a whole has become timid, hesitant and reserved. Because of this uncertainty, people are managing their businesses—they aren’t making large acquisitions ... although that is changing. They're running their businesses with lean working capital for fear of what’s around the corner.
Similarly, people are spending with limited visibility and limited vision—even the consumer is spending less. The economy is definitely recovering slowly, but no one wants to be accused of making a bold decision too soon. But non-action is just as dangerous as taking bad action. Living in uncertainty is dangerous in the long run.
We're actually feeling very positive though. We're hoping that, with the move back to American manufacturing, leaders will invest in American labor and some of the most innovative products in history. We've created amazing new ways of doing business, especially on the internet. I think this is the year that business leaders will take action and start acquiring startups to create relevant communities within their businesses.
Interested in reading more of the Zeitguide? Visit the website to read three free sections and purchase access to the full text.