Where Are We Headed in 2016? 11 Predictions

As we move into week one of a year when international news won't be "all bad, but much of it is," according to NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel's 2016 forecast, let's see what's in store closer to home.
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As we move into week one of a year when international news won't be "all bad, but much of it is," according to NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel's 2016 forecast, let's see what's in store closer to home.

In the process of looking ahead, serious trendspotters revisit their previous forecasts to see how they've panned out. We did a lot of reexamination in our "11 Trends for 2016," including looking back to five years ago, when we spotted Mad as Hell--and Only Getting Madder. Today, we see the trend realized in such prominent examples as President Obama's angry address after yet another mass shooting and in the entire campaign of Donald Trump, plus many other day-to-day manifestations we all encounter.

From 2014, Tinkering and Experimentation has proved quite salient--witness the rise of "maker" culture and 3-D printing--and it is the driving force behind several of Havas PR's trends for the coming year.

But these aren't just self-promotional pats on the back; they show why new-year trendspotting lists are worth attention. No one would doubt the marketing impact and geopolitical ramifications of trends like anger and making.

Here's what we think is worth attention in the new year and beyond (all distilled from Havas PR's annual trends report for 2016):

1.The Übertrend: Uneasy Street
A sense of unease, if not outright fear, pervades much (most?) of life. It's an abiding feeling that things aren't as they should be, that threats are looming and that people need to do something about it. We're engaged in a constant struggle between staying in or bailing out. Emotional alarm bells are endlessly ringing, and we're trying various ways to quiet the din. Here's the constant question: How can I make my present and my future more secure? (And, as it is 2016, what's the easiest or most enjoyable way to do it?)

2.Tech Addict, Control Thyself
Although technology might well bring people together virtually, it can also draw them apart physically. The jury of informed opinion is out on whether technology is ruining our ability to pay attention to one another, but people can't help but worry. Expect to see programs for cyber self-control becoming as common as diets and exercise plans. (And expect them to have about as much effect, as each new cycle of technology is more addictive than the one before.)

3.The Golden Age of B.S.
Social media democratized free speech: Anyone can have a voice. In theory, this is great. But rather than trying to track down the truth, most people are satisfied with some form of truthiness. B.S. is looming even larger in our political primaries and cultural mainstream. Brands (including individuals with personal brands) will find more mileage in making bold claims than in sticking scrupulously to the facts.

4.What's Renewable Will Be New Again
Weird weather has led the majority of Americans to believe that climate change is happening. But they're much less clear about how worried they should be and how much human activity is a factor. Whatever the outcome of the COP21 summit in Paris, what will matter for ordinary people won't be the conscientious policies of leaders but the cool products they can buy. (Think Tesla's Powerwall home battery.) Tech lust will motivate people to try out things like personal power-generation technologies and monitors.

5.Out: Overprotective Parenting
It's no wonder parents have gotten so protective (see trend No. 1; plus, people are having fewer children). But there's increasing concern that kids who are shielded from all risks will be more vulnerable as adults. Expect major angst as parents want their children to grow up resilient but also want them to be safe. Organizations will devise ways to help parents toughen up their kids safely, backed by scientific studies to reassure everybody.

6.Mind the App
Less than a decade ago, nobody had heard of apps. That changed with the debut of the App Store in July 2008. Now everyone wants to launch an app--and it's getting easier and easier. A DIY apps economy will spout up soon, and developers already use technologies such as Appery, TheAppBuilder and AppMachine for their clients. Soon non-techie DIYers will invent apps in a massive wave of crowdsourced problem solving.

7.Getting Smart
When future historians look back to see what people aspired to in our era, they're going to be struck by how much we love "smart": smart people, smartphones, smart watches, smart fabrics, smart shoes and smart drugs. And in the works: smart fridges and smart power grids. Big innovations will radically change everything, but many small innovations will make all of life that much smarter. But it's buyer beware: "Smart" will be used for anything with a chip, and the word will become as overused and meaningless as "luxury."

8.The Roar of the Cloud
We're always with our screens, and they are always our location. Companies (including ours) coordinate work from people down the corridor, in their home kitchen, in a café, on public transportation or just about anywhere else. Who needs to schlep through commuting hell, let alone endure long-haul travel, when we can collaborate through the cloud? And yet, not everything is cloudable. Observing how people are using the cloud will also help us understand which activities need a physical presence. (Think of assembling a live audience for a concert, rather than just streaming it.) Increasingly, people will find no functional, operational value for many activities, so they won't bother.

9.Livin' Large No More?
People might think terrorist attacks are dethroning the world's great cities as the places to be, but reality has shown that the largest risks are affordability and livability. These cities are crowded, clogged and expensive and only getting more so. Many of the smartest people in London, New York and many more are cashing in and moving on, and the next generation is bypassing big cities altogether. Employers and talented workers are looking to second- and third-tier cities, often drawn by the intellectual pull of regional universities.

10.Experience Is the New Classroom
Book learning is nothing special anymore--now hands-on skills are more valued. Instead of obeying and copying one master like old-style apprenticeships, though, disruption (i.e., disobeying) is key. Following your own drummer--and even spectacularly failing--is hailed as the ticket to success. Organizations will understand that robust experiential education has to be not just a nice-to-have, but a core part of their business, giving them fresh minds, creating a pipeline of valuable talent, cutting down on recruitment costs and garnering CSR kudos.

11.Cooking, R.I.P.
No matter the lifetime's worth of ideas and inspirations from food channels, TV shows, cookbooks, magazines, websites and blogs, says the Havas PR report, "assembling is the choice for people who want to feel involved in preparing the food but are happy to pay a company to do a lot of the work." Traditional cooking, in the sense of making things from scratch (and cleaning it up), is on its way out. As Time editor Bill Saporito put it, "The reason my wife and I don't cook our food is the same reason that we don't hunt our food. These skills are no longer required to sidestep starvation." A growing proportion of kitchen activity involves warming up ready-to-eat meals and precooked ingredients, and the market for them will keep rising.

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