Monday morning started off with a great session by demographer and futurist Ken Gronbach, who laid out his predictions on where we’re going and what associations can expect as demographics change. I was pleasantly surprised that the future isn’t sounding as bleak as the news might have you believe.
Gronbach offered lots of predictions for where our society and our world are headed. His predictions were given with a purpose: To help associations build their vision and plan for the future. As Gronbach stressed, “Wait and see is not a plan.”
I have seven full pages of notes from this session, so I’ve decided to arrange this recap into a list of my takeways rather than a narrative recap. I hope you get as much out of this information as I did!
Things to Expect:
Big Changes in Retail: Gronbach explained that Generation Y, who are now ages 10-29, are a generation that shops primarily online. We can expect to see a shift in retail, especially away from the big box stores of today.
3-D Printing: I’ll be the first to say that this technology blows my mind. I don’t get it, but Gronbach said that I should. He also said manufacturing industries especially need to watch out for this trend.
Remote Everything: From robotic surgery to drone aircraft operated from another continent, Gronbach says this is just the beginning in terms of remote operations. This also applies to education, and colleges are already seeing a declining enrollment, supporting this trend.
Elderly on Steroids: With improving healthcare in our country, Gronbach says in the near future it won’t be unheard of to find people living to 120. Is our society ready to support the needs of this growing group of elderly people? (Gronbach says my home state of Florida should especially be watching out.)
Cars that Drive Themselves: Now, call me cynical but I don’t see this. I was promised flying cars back in kindergarten and those haven’t come to fruition, maybe that’s the root of my cynicism. Gronbach says that these cars aren’t far away, and explained that we can expect them to make us safer on the roads.
Homogenization of Culture: Today 35 percent of the U.S. market is a minority. That statistic paired with the statement by Gronbach that Generation Y seems to be the first that does not see race or color will level the playing field for minorities, leading to a more homogenous culture.
Smaller Housing and Hotels: Walk around your nearest IKEA store and Gronbach says you’ve just seen the future. He says homes will be smaller, more energy efficient and will feature more sophisticated security systems. He also predicted a rise in new home construction as more Gen Y members leave home, get married and start their own families.
Entertainment at Home: Think Netflix and video game culture. Gronbach says fewer of us are leaving our homes for entertainment like movies and even recreation like riding bikes. This may give us a clue as to where the obesity epidemic he also mentioned is stemming from.
Car or Internet: Which would you choose? Perhaps not surprisingly Gronbach says if given this choice most young people today would choose the Internet. In fact, 25 percent of teens who are eligible to get their drivers licenses, don’t. (Interestingly, Gronbach took this opportunity to point out that teen pregnancy today is on a decline.)
Succession Planning: “Baby Boomers can’t just walk out,” Gronbach said, pointing to the huge amount of knowledge, both experiential and operational, that this generation is holding on to. Sharing that knowledge with the new generation, is key to the survival of our businesses and industries, he said.
Recruitment Strategies: Interestingly, the goals of Generation Y and the perks that attract them are being able to help others, being a good part, and building a successful marriage. Goals like being rich and famous fall lower on the list. Grohbach also stressed that Gen Y, “will not work for mean people.” It’s important to know what this generation is looking for if you’re going to attract the best and the brightest.
Immigration Reform: While many people think Latin America when they think of immigration reform in our country, Gronbach says to look to the east instead. He predicts rising numbers of immigrants from the European Union and Asia. The typical look of these immigrants is different than you might imagine, with many being rich, young entrepreneurs.