7 Disruptive Forces for 2016 and Beyond

by Lisa Bodell

Labor revolutions, the extinction of shipping companies, and the ability to age in place are a few examples of disruptions on the not-so-distant horizon. As a futurist and CEO of an innovation firm, I study the implications of emerging trends through research and dialog with experts, scientists, and academics in diverse fields. As the first month of 2016 comes to a close, here are seven forces of the future poised to shift the way we live, work, bank, and vote.

1. The Gig Economy will disrupt labor laws. With its low barriers to entry and scheduling flexibility, the Gig Economy will expand its ranks beyond Gen X and Y to include nontraditional workers like senior citizens, stay-at-home parents, and empty nesters. As employers across all sectors use the contractor model to scale back benefits, freelance will become the dominant mode of work. Government will lose major payroll taxes, which, along with increasing influence of independent contractors, will trigger policy change and a labor revolution. Corporations will lobby for universal healthcare to shift the fiscal responsibility of health insurance to the state, and freelance unions will lobby for tax breaks, paid vacation, and retirement benefits.

2. Networked social-structing will disrupt the elder-care industry. As the Internet of Things expands, the power of individuals to social-struct—i.e. connect and share resources—will make aging in place more accessible. The networked family of the future will use more peer-to-peer platforms to organize and share the cost of caring for aging parents. Apps with two- and three-way rating systems will provide transparency for individual home-care workers, their patients, and the adults who hire them. Smart medicine bottles, toilet seats, and appliances will enable caregivers to remotely monitor the wellness of aging relatives. As networked social-structuring breeds new services for the aging population, assisted living will no longer be the default for aging adults with progressive, condition-based needs.

3. National security concerns will disrupt right to privacy. The U.S. government will make the case for becoming guardians of Americans’ personal data in the name of protecting national assets. Stolen identities will increasingly be viewed as a powerful cloak for terrorists vs. merely a frustrating hassle affecting the accounts and future credit of individuals. Hacks will be treated as the work of foreign spies who use information like social security numbers to fake their way into secure systems or leverage personal information for follow-on espionage. New bodies of government— Department of Database Security, anyone?—will be created to combat information warfare.

4. Digital natives will disrupt the financial-services sector. Millennials and their successors will force banks to evolve beyond money-holding institutions. Financial services of the future will use real-time prescriptive analytics to serve as financial coaches for users. Along the full span of the consumer decision journey, an intelligent assistant will remind us of regular monthly expenses, saving goals, and safe-to-spend amounts. Tomorrow’s banks will focus on behavior and outcomes, and leverage data to create new services that manage customers’ digital wallets beyond payment transactions.

5. M-Health will disrupt grocery and restaurant industries. The explosion of big data and mobile-health technologies will provide partnership opportunities for companies beyond health care. As integration of self-monitoring through wearables and apps deepen, grocery stores and restaurants will partner with health-insurance companies to manage the wellness of users. Upon entering the grocery store or restaurant of tomorrow, an intelligent assistant will summarize the user’s current health stats as well as his wellness goals. Food choices will be suggested, purchases recorded, and this data will be shared with his health-insurance provider. Users will be incentivized to share this data with third parties by lower-cost insurance premiums that are behavior-based.

6. Blockchain technology will disrupt voting fraud. Using blockchain database platforms, each registered voter will have her own digital key—a combination of biometrics and an encrypted code—that enables him to cast a vote using a decentralized and automated secure protocol. Instead of recording votes on paper or proprietary computer systems in a polling place, votes will be cast online and recorded on the blockchain, a secure electronic ledger. Because data cannot be manipulated once it’s been recorded on the ledger, blockchain is superior to state-sponsored alternatives, especially in countries with a history of corruption. Voting via blockchain removes the need to count paper ballots and prevents opportunities for mass tampering with electronic voting machines. While blockchain makes it impossible for unregistered individuals to vote, concerns about fair access to digital keys, bribery, or selling votes to the highest bidder will arise.

7. Localization will disrupt shipping. As adoption of high-grade 3-D printers increases, production and design will be localized, which reduces the need for shipping from a central location. The restaurant chef of the future won’t need to wait for an oven replacement part to arrive: she’ll visit her local additive manufacturer, who will download the specs from the appliance manufacturer and print the part on-demand. Unless today’s shipping giants prepare to become tomorrow’s manufacturers, they will risk marginalization or extinction.

Whether these predictions seem dystopian, utopian, or something in between, early signs of each disruption are already happening. Monitor these spaces and talk to experts and players within, adjacent, and beyond your industry segment for innovation and partnership opportunities. Conduct frequent innovation training and scenario-planning exercises so your business is prepared today for the disruptions of tomorrow.

image credit: tbwa.com

Follow @ixchat on twitter

Wait! Before you go…

Choose how you want the latest innovation content delivered to you:


Lisa BodellLisa Bodell, CEO of futurethink is on a mission to create space for change and innovation in organizations using the power of simplicity.  Lisa invites to check out more insider resources for forward thinking. Email her at innovate@futurethink.com and request a complimentary copy of futurethink’s “Futurist Sources,” or connect via Twitter and LinkedIn.

Leave a Reply