Big Ideas for 2019

19 Dec,2018


By Dipti Jain, Abhigyan Chand and Isabelle Roughol


If 2018 left you breathless and exhausted, expect little break from action in 2019. That’s the one conclusion we could glean from the predictions of our soothsayers – corporate leaders, authors, journalists, and political commentators – for the next year. And change will cut both ways: while our work, life, and institutions will be impacted by new challenges, we’ll also find solutions to some pressing pain points. Here’s our annual look at the year ahead. We also want to hear from you: weigh in with #BigIdeas2019.

1) AI will be in every industry and every job…

We asked 200 LinkedIn Top Voices about their Big Idea for 2019; one in four mentioned some application of AI, from parsing evidence in medical research to helping surfers spot the best wave. Six of the 15 hot emerging jobs of the past year relate to AI, while AI skills are the fastest-growing on our platform, up 190% globally from 2015 to 2017. “While 2018 was the year of AI hype, it feels like we’re at an inflection point where these technologies are being incorporated into more of the tools we use every day,” says Sharon O’Dea, co-founder of communications consultancy Lithos Partners. “It’s when technology trends start to become invisible that they really make a major impact.”

2) …but its indiscriminate use will result in a clampdown.

Late last month, a Chinese scientist announced he had used CRISPR-Cas9 – an AI-powered gene-editing technology – to alter embryos. That would have been acceptable science, had he not implanted the genome-edited embryos in a mother’s womb. Kamesh Goyal, chairman of Digit Insurance, feels governments will be compelled to devise some kind of regulatory framework because life-altering AI is dangerous and unethical. “Next year, a huge debate may start where at least one country – and I hope it’s America because that’s where the technology is most advanced – starts seriously thinking about some checks and balances,” says Goyal

3) Governments will seize the opportunity to tax and regulate Big Tech.

India is in the throes of finalising its data policy framework. That would require companies in payments, e-commerce, and adtech to house data locally and compel them to start offices here, says Satyarth Priyedarshi, head of product marketing, JioChat. Other countries are also tightening norms. The UK plans to introduce a “digital tax” of 2% on tech companies’ British revenue, fighting back against US tech giants that evade taxes by domiciling their profits in Ireland or the Netherlands. European governments are also likely to turn to antitrust, predicts Emily Taylor, CEO of Oxford Information Labs. “We will rediscover competition law and regulation as a way of combating over-concentration of power and distortions in the market,” she says. Smarter companies will help shape regulation rather than obstinately oppose it, says CEO Gillian Tans. “This collaboration will be the deciding factor of which sharing economy companies will see success in the future,” she says. “Regulation will be something to lean into – not fear.”

4) Inclusive design will go mainstream.

A growing awareness among professionals and advances in artificial intelligence is transforming inclusive design, says Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft (LinkedIn’s parent company). “We used to call it assistive technologies and it used to be a checklist of things you did after the product was built,” he says. Now it’s “about taking this way upstream into the design process. What if we said upfront we want a design for people of different abilities to fully participate?” He points to the new Xbox adaptive controller, where even the packaging was designed to be accessible, or new AI that helps people with dyslexia read and comprehend written text.

5) Machines will take over your hiring and performance appraisal.

The upside: Expect a fair and unprejudiced evaluation of your efforts and skills. “Sensors are capable of killing gender biases, interaction biases, frequency biases, et al. The resourcefulness of machines will be superior to the resourcefulness of human beings and the starting point will be in 2019,” says brand strategy specialist Harish Bijoor. The downside: Leaner HR teams, meaning job cuts.

6) Automation will disproportionately impact women’s jobs.

By Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund

“New technologies like artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing the way work gets done all over the world. The automation trend is especially challenging for women because they tend to be employed in more routine tasks than men across all sectors and occupations, making them more prone to automation. New IMF research estimates that 26 million women’s jobs in 30 countries are at high risk of being displaced by technology in the next 20 years. This means 180 million women’s jobs globally!

We don’t have much time to act, so 2019 is the year to make important inroads in tackling this challenge. How? We must help women get the skills they need to succeed. Education and training will be key — including greater emphasis on lifelong learning and STEM. Think, in particular, of coding programs like Girls Who Code in the US or developing tax deductions for training as they do in the Netherlands. We also need to close gender gaps in leadership positions across all sectors, while doing more to help men and women combine work and family life. Finally, we need to do a better job at bridging the digital divide and ensure women have equal access to finance, bank accounts and connectivity. 2019 is the year we should take a leap forward in leveling the playing field between men and women.”

7) The future of online is offline. And vice versa.

The Amazon vs Flipkart rivalry could soon play out at a storefront near you. “Expect explosive growth in hyperlocal (commerce) with Amazon translating its stake in More (and the other retailers it aims to buy) to new products with additional cities or offline stores,” says Satyarth Priyedarshi, head of product marketing, JioChat. Flipkart hasn’t responded assertively in this segment and with a new management (read: Walmart), I wouldn’t be surprised if they take the M&A route with a player like BigBasket,” he adds. And that would compel more mom-and-pop stores to reinvent themselves with digital payments, e-billing and loyalty programmes.

8) We are finally going to spend more time online than watching TV.

Around the world, people will start spending more hours a day on the internet than on television. The glass-half-empty way to look at it is people are turning away from legacy media, says Viacom president and CEO Bob Bakish. The glass-half-full vision: “There is more content being consumed today than ever before in history,” he adds. Closer home, regional language content will find more takers as people turn to digital screens for news and entertainment. “Vernacular and Indian language-focused startups are booming, as domestic and international investors look for India’s very own social network,” says Pooja Sareen, editor-in-chief of Inc42.

9) Content creation will move beyond studios.

User-generated content has long been touted as the holy grail for businesses tapping into the power of content. Ankush Sachdeva, co-founder and CEO of Sharechat, feels there will likely be an explosion in the segment: “These would not be studios producing content. These would be common people, in towns and cities of your country, building content for the people around them.” Data and handsets have never been cheaper in India, so the stage is well and truly set. But what’s going to be fueling this revolution? Advanced camera technologies (doing duty in humble phones) and machine learning are at a scale where UGC won’t just compete but even surpass professionally generated content (PGC), Sachdeva adds.

10) For respite, we will turn to inspirational commerce.

In an anxious world, we’re going to need more than a juice cleanse to take care of our exhausted psyches, writes Gina Bianchini, CEO of Mighty Networks. Health and wellness influencers, exhausted themselves, are shifting their models to building supportive communities and connecting their fans to each other, rather than amassing a large number of one-way followers — communities they can monetise through memberships or events.Bianchini writes: “While the first generation of e-commerce was about selling physical products online, this coming wave of ‘inspirational commerce’ is about creating opportunities for people to buy experiences and connections to realise their full potential.”

11) We will stop living an Insta life.

The social media honeymoon is over. As people question their screen addiction, the impacts are felt in all walks of life, from dinners where guests demand the phones be put away to changing trends in the beauty industry. “In 2019, people are looking to scale back, simplify their routine and their look,” says Melissa Butler, founder and CEO of The Lip Bar, after years where trends were set by Instagram influencers and elaborate makeup tutorials on YouTube. “Social media has played such a big part in pressuring us to show up in a certain way. People are looking to reconnect with who they are, go back to the basics.”

12) Move over, Millennials; it’s Gen Z’s time.

In 2019, Generation Z will outnumber Millennials, that generation you’ve loved to hate for the past decade. “Generation Z is now heading into the workforce in meaningful numbers and for the first time in modern history five generations will be working side by side,” says Michael Dell, CEO and chairman of Dell Technologies. Gen Z — which Pew Research Center defines as those born from 1997 onward — will be about one-third of the global population and one-fifth of its workers. What is this new generation’s work ethic? “My experience is that they lean in and lean hard,” says best-selling author Brené Brown. About half of her staff is Gen Z. “They are all very different people, but as a group I experience them as curious, hopeful, always learning, painfully attuned to the suffering in the world, and anxious to do something about it.”

13) A US-China cold war will first be fought on the technology front.

Despite current tensions, the US and Chinese economy are too interlinked for a trade war to truly escalate in the short term, says Eurasia Group President Ian Bremmer. A cold war is more likely in five or 10 years, he adds, when an economic downturn and sustained animosity have undone those ties. But for 2019, the fight is on the technology front: “There you do have a cold war. There you have the Chinese with their AI model, the Americans with our AI model. The Chinese with their internet, the Americans with our internet,” he says. He echoes former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, who warned in September that our online world risked a “bifurcation” into Chinese-led and US-led internets. “They’re not playing nice at all,” Bremmer adds. “I do think that longer term we’re heading for big trouble between the Americans and the Chinese.”

14) …and India will be a key battleground.

Chinese and American companies are facing strong headwinds in each other’s markets and winning in a large country like India can be a gamechanger for both sides, “especially if you believe data is the new oil,” says Ravi Venkatesan, UNICEF’s Special Representative for Young People & Innovation. But the influx of foreign capital and companies could also stoke fears of digital colonisation. “The absence of strong Indian companies, barring Reliance Industries, in most sectors queers the pitch for Indian policy makers and regulators trying to decide what is good for India in the long term,” Venkatesan adds.

15) But desi equity investors won’t complain: they could become richer.

Expect the trade conflict to hamper the US’ economic growth and necessitate a second round of quantitative easing, says Vivek Kaul, economic commentator and author of the Easy Money trilogy. “All the easy money that drove up Indian stock markets between 2008 and 2015 might just come back. And the stock market might reach a newer high,” he said.

16) India will (finally) get a national policy on employment generation.

It will help the country move away from a growth-based approach to an employment-first slant, across government plans, says Amit Basole, associate professor, Azim Premji University. In fact, the National Employment Policy will demand that job creation becomes the primary goal of India’s fiscal and industrial measures. Eventually, we will also get the answer to a needling question: is there a job crisis in India?

17) Coalition politics could make a comeback.

2019 promises to be an election year with a difference. “The swing away from (power concentrated with) a single dominant party has begun and we will see more pluralistic kind of politics,” says economist and former Union minister Yoginder K Alagh. And that means governance will be more decentralised. Expect higher collaboration between the government and private organisations, including industry chambers such as the Confederation of Indian Industry, he adds.

18) Brexit will continue to consume the European political scene.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May is now touring European capitals to attempt to renegotiate her Brexit deal with the EU after she canceled a parliamentary vote. Brexit should have been the most predictable geopolitical event of 2019 – we’ve known for two years the clock runs out at the end of March. Instead, it continues to defy predictions. Negotiations will be uncertain to the very last minute, Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, warns. “May now needs to be thinking about plan B, since she’s lost so many [members of parliament],” he says. A revamped “Norway plus” deal is becoming the most likely outcome, but the tail risks of a no deal Brexit or a second referendum are also increasing, he adds. “It is really, really hard to come to terms to negotiate something this complicated with one of the most challenging supranational institutions in the world, the EU, and one of the most dysfunctional developed governments in the world today, the UK.” Writing any more about Brexit at this point would just be handing the stick you’ll beat me with in a day or two.

19) A “me first” world will be harder to steer.

Some of the institutions that since WWII have held the world together — the UN, NATO, G20 and more — are weakening, notes Stan McChrystal, CEO of the McChrystal Group and former commander of US forces in Afghanistan. What comes after is uncertain, he warns, because when you pull the key stone from the arch, things may fall apart that you did not expect. “Our challenge is we’re in a ‘me first’ world now, and I mean ‘me first’ by nations, but also ‘me first’ by leaders, ‘me first’ by companies,” he explains. Leaders need to make decisions from a broader perspective and consider interdependencies, McChrystal says. If you go into a negotiation expecting to win everything and leave the other side weakened, he warns, “in many cases, what’s happened is the very ecosystem we both depend upon is gone.”

20) #MeToo will enter Phase Two…

Less than a year after #MeToo exploded onto the public scene, the stream of executives undone by their own bad behaviour flows unabated. In India, the movement took down several powerful men from the journalism, media and entertainment industries in its wake. It will now spread to mid-level leaders and less visible industries, predicts Ross Martin, CEO of marketing firm Blackbird. “You won’t know all of their names, but you’ll certainly know the brands that they lead or work for,” Martin says.

21) …but some disgraced executives will make a comeback.

The spin doctors have learned to plan for it and manage what Martin calls “the sorry cycle.” “We’re compressing the time and space between success, failure and then redemption,” he explains. “Apology content has become a major component of any marketing strategy.” It’s OK to find that cynical; he does too.

22) Workforce diversity will be a core priority for HR heads.

While most big companies are already trying to move the needle on gender balance, the scope of inclusion will “expand to differently-abled professionals, and an out and proud LGBTQ community,” says Nathan SV, Chief Talent Officer at Deloitte India. The last couple of years have seen the emergence of a gig economy powered mainly by India’s millennials and the Gen Z. In 2019, Nathan expects the part-time work culture to cut across age and experience as retirees, early retirees, and young mothers look to restart their careers. Project-based hiring suits employers too since mid-to-senior-level employees drive up payroll costs. Net-net, organisations will be gauged on how well they manage the integration process, predicts the HR influencer.

23) What will matter at work is your humanity.

When robots take all our jobs, what do humans have left? Precisely that — our humanity. Creativity and so-called soft skills are becoming all the more important to your career because that’s what can’t be automated. In fact, LinkedIn data shows the fastest-growing skills gaps — the difference between what employers seek and what workers bring to the table — are related to soft skills: oral communication tops the list, followed by people management, time management or leadership. Employers who want to make the most of their human employees make sure to look after them as whole people, not just task performers, says Susan Cain, author of “Quiet” and CEO of Quiet Revolution. “I’m increasingly seeing employers having a goal of facilitating the entire life of an employee,” Cain says. “I don’t mean it in a Big Brother type of way, but being an aid in the entire life of an employee as opposed to just the part that shows up to make wages.”

24) Conscientious objectors rise up in the workforce.

In a tight labour market, professionals can afford to have principles. It’s starting with Google, always a bellwether of corporate culture, where in the past few months employees have spoken up against the company launching a censored service in China, forced it to back out of a contract with the Pentagon and staged a walkout to protest sexual harassment in the workplace. “Employees at these companies are no longer going to stand for leadership doing things they just don’t believe in,” Ross Martin, Blackbird CEO, says. This instinct is particularly potent among Millennial and Gen Z workers, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman notes. “This idealism has opened a generational rift between managers and our younger protégés, who can sometimes be strident,” he says. “But their passion is one of the main reasons I’m excited about the future: The people just entering the workforce now will become the conscience of the corporation.”

25) The combustion engine will get smarter before it goes away.

Going green doesn’t have to be reserved for the wealthy who can afford to switch to an electric car, says Bertrand Piccard, chairman and pilot of Solar Impulse, who flew a solar plane around the planet. For middle class people struggling to fill up the tank — we were speaking at the start of the Yellow Vest protests in France — there are solutions. He points to an anti-smog device installed on the engine for a few hundred dollars that reduces fuel consumption by 20% and particles by 80%. Built-in AI in your car can help you drive greener and cut another 20% off the bill. “Today, half the energy we use is wasted because we have inefficient systems,” Piccard says. “There will be more carbon taxes because we can’t afford to keep wasting fossil fuels. But we can put systems in place to be less wasteful, to consume less, and in the end we’ll save money.”

26) Don’t even try to guess the price of oil.

By Bethany McLean, author of “Saudi America: The Truth about Fracking and How It’s Changing the World”

“Here’s a prediction for 2019: Energy markets are going to remain wildly unpredictable. One realization I came to when I worked on my last book was that most everyone who makes predictions about the future of oil prices is alike in one remarkable respect: They are wrong.

“Remember M King Hubbert’s famous prediction of peak oil back in the 1970s? He looked roughly right — until the shale revolution changed everything. Now, the shale revolution is supposed to ensure a mammoth and growing supply of U.S. oil for the foreseeable future. ‘Lower for longer,’ meaning oil prices in the $50 range, has become something of a mantra on Wall Street. But skeptics suspect there may be fewer wells that are profitable at $50 oil than executives would have you believe. If so, and if the dearth of long-term projects over the past decade results in less supply than expected, there may be price spikes in the future. Or not. I think this is the ultimate truth about the oil market: It defies people’s attempts at predicting it, much less controlling it.”

27) Expect a multimodal transport platform to emerge.

As the country’s public transport system improves, last-mile connectivity will become the battleground for mobility players. “What we are trying to do at Uber is build this platform that allows you to, say, take a bike to the bus station, take a bus to go to near your office and, from there, take an auto or another bus,” says Apurva Dalal, head of engineering at Uber India. The company placed its bets in the space with the $200-million acquisition of electric bicycle company Jump, and it is negotiating with scooter-sharing startup Bird for a potential “multibillion-dollar” acquisition. Closer home, Amazon led an $11 million round in bus-aggregator Shuttl, Hyundai pumped funds into car rental startup Revv, and Ola led a $5-7 million round in bike-sharing startup Vogo. Dalal does “see a company building that multimodal platform, furthering the cause of transportation to a whole new level.”

28) We will reach peak outrage.

In the last couple of years, public opinion has been driven by “polarised tribes,” says Willow Bay, dean of the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism: “Outrage has been modified, optimised, personalised and, of course, monetised.” Outrage, like fear, is helpful in the short term but unsustainable in the long term, she says. “Many do not want to live in a state of semi-permanent outrage, they’re simply tired of it,” she adds. “And I believe increasingly, people are going to want to reclaim consensus, collaboration and shared values rather than polarizing ones.” While Bay is referring to the United States, any country where people discuss politics on social media will recognize a version of this. She points to a study by More In Common which showed that 67% of Americans did not conform to partisan ideology or had disengaged from politics. They’ve been dubbed the “exhausted majority.”

29) We will ask ourselves hard questions about what free speech means.

By Glenn Kelman, CEO of Redfin

“This isn’t about the death of free speech on college campuses, which sometimes can’t find a hall to host a political provocateur on short notice. It’s about a deeper and more deeply fraught idea that has already been embraced by Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, that European-style censorship may be necessary. Maybe there are ideas so obnoxious, like the belief that the parents of students slain in a mass shooting are part of an anti-gun conspiracy, that we shouldn’t let them be amplified endlessly on the Internet. Or maybe we should be uncomfortable that these censorship decisions are being made by a few tech leaders, who historically have had little interest in either the journalistic principles that have guided other media magnates, or the costs of paying human beings to gather and weigh facts. It’s unclear to me how we quash or validate dangerous ideas except through vigorous, open debate, but even I have to admit that this hasn’t worked well recently. What we all know now is that the case for free speech is weaker now than it has been in 50 years.”

30) The battle against extreme poverty will heat up.

Over the last 25 years, more than a billion people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty, and the global poverty rate is at its lowest level in recorded history. However, that trend may not continue into 2019 due to increasing poverty concentrations in areas like Sub-Saharan Africa, says Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We can’t always change the circumstances a child is born into, but we can invest in that child’s potential to thrive in spite of them by investing in their health and education,” says Gates. “Economists call health and education ‘human capital,’ because they’re proven to be the twin engines of economic growth.” Especially important, she argues, is investing in the health and education of women and girls. “Healthy, economically-empowered women are some of development’s best allies,” says Gates. “If the number of people trapped in poverty continues to decline, these women will be a big reason why.”


Republished with permission of LinkedIn. Original post at:

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