Zeitgeist Meta Trends, by Jutta Devenish
The ancient city of Xi’an (formerly Chang’an) in China is known as the starting point from which the Silk Road wound its way westward in order to open its doors to what we now know as globalisation. Poignantly, it is also home to some of the largest internationally operating company’s such as the well-known e-commerce business, Alibaba – trade to and from China now (or at least was up-to-now) part and parcel of the so-called global economy and its supply chain.
Ironically, Xi’an is also only 5 hours away by train from Wuhan, the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak and the launchpad for the global lock-down. A reversal which, in some ways, is symbolic of the changes we are seeing across the globe.
The current health pandemic and its impact on our economies is felt around the world with business closures, oil prices slumping, general fear of the future and the mouthing of ‘recession’.
One of the trends resulting from this is a move to reverse or adjust the path of globalisation away from global reliance to stronger local provision while maintaining open options and connectivity through ‘the cloud’.
This is creating, what we might call, a ‘Land and Cloud Economy’.
Land and Cloud Economy
Examples of this trend are the move away from reliance on foreign manufacturing, and foreign medical expertise, a cautious attitude towards the likes of the World Health Organisation and other pan-national organisations and an insistence on doing what is best for one’s own people. In Britain, this follows quickly in the footsteps of Brexit.
In the West we are also seeing an increased devolution of decision-making from national to local level with states and district authorities, or in the USA, federal government taking a much more active role in ensuring communities are safe and compliant, but also autonomously signalling readiness or lack thereof to re-open business.
In terms of business structures and operations going forward, we are likely to see an increased adaptation towards a ‘land and cloud economy’ – that is an increased move to working within the confines of our geographical boundaries while moving large parts of our cross-border activities to the cloud.
Crises such as the current COVID-19 emergency, while certainly devastating for many, have the potential of becoming the great catalysts for innovation. Following on from the depression in 1873, we welcomed some of the most ground-breaking innovations such as telephones, the electric light bulb and urban transport.
Christopher Freeman, suggested a proven increase of innovations during times of economic downturns which then bring enormous technological change as recovery begins.
The era of COVID-19 will likely follow this pattern, however, change might well also be seen on a community level imposing far greater pressure on governments, businesses and other organisations to deliver on social value through collaboration and trust.
We can expect a rise in entrepreneurship, innovation and a call for stronger community both ‘on land’, and ‘in the cloud’.