2019: A matter of life and death

After the year of the awakening in 2018, the feeling of living in the final age is growing. Gone are easiness and cheerfulness. It is serious now, and absolutely no time for an ironic knee-slapper. Honored institutions are being challenged. Old agreements are being broken. Our mental freedom is under attack. Death knocks on the door and no one can escape its cold grip. Suddenly life itself seems to be on the line.

After The Perfect Storm (2016), The Year Of The Culture Clash (2017), and The Great Awakening (2018), everything we hold dear is in danger. We live in extraordinary times. A time of transformations, confusion, break-ups, anger, and polarization. But also breakthroughs, new achievements, and visions. What defines 2019 is foremost the past years. 

Once we’ve finally awakened, we realize what’s at stake: literally everything. The feeling echoes throughout every situation. This means that no matter is too small to take up arms for. Everything is worth defending against the forces and powers whose mission is to tear down and destroy. Even the smallest grammatical error is a prelude of the coming downfall. 

Seriousness has leaked into every area. Easy-mindedness has been expelled and knee-slapping have been replaced with real punches and kicks. Or just the feeling of urgency and seriousness. The time to act is now, before it is too late. 

Ahead of 2019, we’ve spotlighted 10 areas where seriousness has taken over, creating a sense of life or death. This may not be the situation for everyone but for many it is, both individuals and companies and organizations. 

1. The age of enlightment

This magical awakening created a new world and a new age 250 years ago. It threw out magic, established hierarchies, provincialism, and intolerance, and paved the road for science, equality, and freedom of thought. Today it is attacked both from the left and right, and the supporters of enlightenment are doing everything in their power to preserve the open liberal democracy through building a bulwark against anti-enlightenment, whichever form it takes.  

2. World order

We didn’t think President Trump would make real on his promises during the 2016 presidential campaign. But he did. In most cases at least. This has put institutions that were laboriously built for 70 years at risk of falling down like a house of cards. A world where the USA took the lead and intergovernmental organizations kept the world from falling back into meaningless and harmful protectionism is being replaced by a much more complicated world where everyone puts their own interests first. 

3. Security

Getting rid of the state’s other responsibilities leaves only one: securing the wellbeing of its citizens. For this reason, states have a violence monopoly. But today there is an increasing perception that security is failing, meaning everything is at stake. The police is no longer able to ensure that businesses can operate, or to maintain order and a sense of safety. Regardless what crime statistics say on the matter. All the while conflicts are escalating, a nuclear arms race is being revived, AI is the new engine of militaries, and the West is at risk of losing its head start. 

4. The mind

Never before have so many said they want less pressure in their lives. And never before have so many ranked “doing nothing” as their favorite pastime. In our increasingly connected and performance-focused society, stress is the new health crisis. Not least among our youths where sick leave is escalating exponentially. This is serious. Remedies, psychopharmacological drugs and mindfulness help, but do they really get to the bottom of the problem? It is palpable now.  

5. Mental freedom

Things didn’t end up quite as we expected them to. Then, in 1984, Macintosh was launched. But the liberation movement ended in prison. Revolutionists became capitalists. Instead of reaching the promised land, we ended up in the grip of modern media moguls. Who decides what we should know and read. Who know everything we do, devoting endless power to capture us and keep us in their universe. Who sell our information to the highest bidder and find and destroy those who dare to criticize. Welcome to 1984.

6. Humanity

Bert Bolin and Al Gore made us aware. Or tried to. But we didn’t think it would go this quickly. But it did. With 2018, everything changed. With fires as large as smaller nations there is no doubting it anymore. It is going fast and everything is at stake. 15-year-olds playing hooky over the climate are praised by the UN’s secretary general while inspiring school strikes all over the world. Something new is emerging. 

7. Politics

Think back to 2011. In Sweden, pragmatists hold power, only making decisions based on science and facts. Italy’s prime minister is a nonpartisan economics professor. Politics are grey and there’s not a populist in sight. That is not the case today. Now, everything seems to be serious. Drama, attacks, and large gestures are found everywhere. Everything is life or death. While politics has become a hobby for many, our political leaders have checked out. 

8. Masculinity

For a quarter of a century men have been pitied. Not all men, but young men in small industrial towns, whose hay-days are long gone. Orin the less fortunate suburbs. Those left behind when girls left for the cities, the future, and opportunities. Or pitied? “Pick yourself up, get it together, and do something about it” they’ve been told. And now it is happening. The savior has arrived with a challenge, “make your bed, straighten your back, be strong and kind.” A challenge that has been embraced. Feminists of both genders are furious. And scared.

9. Businesses

Nobody is too large to fail. Everyone’s time is limited. And with Death on the other side of the chessboard, life itself has become serious. The way out is called the fountain of youth. Everyone chases it through innovations, entrepreneurship, and rejuvenation. Or by interacting with those who’ve drunk from it, the young tech companies who symbolize future and rejuvenation. Anything to escape one’s inevitable meeting with Death. 

10. Life

It’s as if life itself has become serious. Where is hedonism, the playfulness, pleasure, lust, and passion of the 80s and 90s? Today everything is serious: food, parenting, health, and fitness. Living right, eating right, and being right. The Swedish blog Unna Dig! (Treat Yourself) isn’t about treating yourself but living a life without sugar. Today’s bestsellers are books on how to clean away the messes in your life. With consideration for the environment, of course. Like King Midas, something happens when we finally get touch it. But it doesn’t turn to gold, it becomes serious.  

The art of being ahead of the competition

For 25 years, Kairos Future has helped companies, organizations, and government agencies prepare for and benefit from wide-ranging global changes. Like many others, we’ve observed that companies that are skilled at navigating a turbulent landscapes and adapting strategies, offers, and its organization based on new realities are also skilled scouts, with defined processes for capturing future signs and converting insights into purpose and action. Presented in a scientific paper during the Spring of 2018, researchers Rohrbeck and Kum showed that companies that successfully check these criteria have on average a 33% higher profit than the majority of companies while their market capitalization increases 200% faster than competitors. Future preparedness pays off. Seriously.

We’ve written volumes on How to accomplish this in practice, and talked about it in numerous lectures and speeches. In short, it is about building cross-functional teams systematically working with scenarios, identifying opportunity areas, experimenting with new solutions, and simplifying the organization to make it both agile and efficient. 

Our hope is that this year’s What’s On themes will serve as inspiration for your work on this issue, both in the short-term and long-term. Spur you on to think a little more, dive deep into the themes, build on them with other trends that lie close to your own organization and business, and identify challenges and new opportunities.  

If you want to learn more about how we’ve helped our clients prepare for the future, read some reference cases here.

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to discuss your company’s current situation. Contact our CEO Mats Lindgren or COO Johanna Danielsson who will put you in contact with our relevant industry expert. 

If you are interested in booking a lecture, perhaps with an attached workshop, contact Helena Mella.

By Mats Lindgren