New Trends for the Next Century
by Greta Couper, Director of Alumni Career Services

Life in the twenty-first century will require a new set of skills, both in the workplace and in our personal lives. Technology will allow virtual environments to flourish. These will include home businesses, on-line shopping, electronic neighborhoods, videotelephones, on-line education (at home or school), and even long-distance medical diagnosis and treatment. Companies will become groups of telecommuters, and small businesses that are open to rapid change will compete successfully with large corporations. Social factors such as traffic congestion and the "sandwich generation" (people caring for both children and aging parents) will contribute to the need for people to stay at home. One of the most important changes is speed: Quick product development and delivery, changing customer needs, international competition, and rapid sharing of information.

Futurist Daniel Burrus, author of Technotrends, makes the following suggestions on how to do more with less:

  • Re-Prioritize Tasks - Update, then eliminate; don't accumulate.
  • Use Technology to Create Time - Identify processes that take time; streamline them and automate when possible.
  • Create Communication Guidelines - Make sure everyone understands when to use what (e-mail vs. voice mail, FAX vs. Fed-X, etc.)

Gerald Celente of the Trends Research Institute ( focuses on the interconnectedness of certain "trendposts" in his new book, Trends2000. These include:

  • Clean Food - Beyond organic, foods will be grown in microfarms that enhance healthy lives.
  • Right Livelihood - Forced downsizing that leads to self-employment, individual creativity, and personal satisfaction.
  • Compassionate Capitalism - Social responsibility within business, and environmentally sound products.
  • The Global Age - A renaissance of new values in business, education, family, and religion; accompanied by rich intellectual artistic achievement and interactive on-line learning will replace outdated institutions.

Chuck Martin, author of Net Future, describes the e-business revolution that influences customers, careers, and relationships. He describes a "Netting" of the entire value chain, from product conception through consumption. Speed is key in the following areas:

  • Capturing the Consumer - Another company's products and services are just a mouse click away.
  • Reorganizing Distribution - Organizations will use wired suppliers to deliver goods.
  • Rethinking Pricing - Companies will segment markets into smaller pieces, driving costs down.
  • Changing Corporate Culture - An increasingly mobile and Net-savvy workforce will stay aware of alternative work environments.
  • Integrating Personal and Work Lives - Technology will gradually erase the lines between work and home, allowing instant communication and verification with experts and peers around the world.
  • The Cybereconomy Goes Main Street - New ways of buying and selling will cause traditional businesses to go on-line, and on-line businesses to adopt more traditional methods.
  • The Wired Workforce - Virtual work communities will irrevocably alter the dynamics of companies.
  • The Open-Book Corporation - Power shifts away from providers toward the recipients of products, information, and services.
  • Products Become Commodities - Values and prices will shift moment to moment.
  • Customers Become Data - Real-time demographics and consumer behavior analysis will require different corporate organization that is more customer-centric.
  • Experience Communities Arise - Collective sharing of knowledge will enhance decision-making.
  • Learning Moves to Real Time - Learners will be more empowered and independent, requiring self-motivation and sharing of ideas.

Faith Popcorn, of BrainReserve's Popcorn Report, was the inspiration behind the now-famous expression "cocooning," the word for people who choose to stay at home and focus their time on family and personal life. In her latest book she outlines 17 trends:

  • Cocooning: The stay-at-home trend, reflecting a strong desire to build comfortable nests in order to protect ourselves from the harsh, unpredictable realities of the outside world.
  • Clanning: The inclination to join groups of like kinds, providing a secure feeling that our own belief systems will somehow be validated by consensus.
  • Fantasy Adventures: Seeking excitement in basically risk-free adventures to escape stress and boredom, e.g. via travel, food, or virtual reality.
  • Pleasure Revenge: Consumers, tired of rules, regulations, and being told what to do, want to cut loose and try new self-fulfilling experiences.
  • Small Indulgences: Stressed-out from ever-increasing expenses, consumers are finding ways to reward themselves with quick and affordable luxuries.
  • Anchoring: Reaching back to our spiritual roots to promote security in the future.
  • Egonomics: Looking for more personal customized products and services, in reaction to the depersonalized Information Age.
  • FemaleThink: A shift from the traditional goal-oriented, hierarchical models to more caring, relational ones.
  • Mancipation: Men embracing a new freedom to be whatever they want to be, rejecting traditional roles.
  • Lives: Finding new ways to cope with our overcommitted multiple roles in the busy, high-tech world we now live in.
  • Cashing Out: Movement toward a simpler way of living.
  • Being Alive: Seeking not only good health but a better overall quality of life.
  • Down-aging: Nostalgia for carefree childhood symbols of our youth to counterbalance intense adult lives.
  • Vigilante Consumer: Frustrated consumers are manipulating the marketplace through pressure, protest, and politics.
  • Icon Toppling: Questioning the monuments of business, government, and long-accepted "pillars of society."
  • S.O.S /(Save Our Society): Responding to marketers who exhibit a social conscience toward the fate of the planet, ethics, environment, and education.
  • AtmosFear: Aware of polluted air, contaminated water, and tainted food, consumers show doubt, uncertainty, and "national nervousness."

Although futurists can only guess what the next millennium will be like, the use of technology and the Internet will surely be a part of our professional and personal lives. The "Information Age" will require us to be learning constantly. Personal resilience, internal courage, confidence, self-motivation, and the ability to live with high levels of uncertainty will be hallmarks of the new century.