What trends marked 2020 and how will they evolve in 2021? How can companies respond to these new trends to emerge as a winner from the crisis? We discussed this with Dado Van Peteghem, entrepreneur and digital expert.
What do you think were the main trends in 2020?
Dado Van Peteghem: “In 2020, the corona crisis forced every organisation to try to build a ‘digital twin’ for existing internal and external processes. For example, internal meetings took place through Zoom or Teams, online quizzes helped with team building and sales shifted to e-commerce. Of course, this digitalisation had already been happening for some time, but it certainly was not the case that all organisations had taken the plunge. Often, working from home was not yet allowed and online sales were barely developed, if at all. Due to the coronavirus restrictions, the evolution towards digitalisation was suddenly much faster. Afterwards, however, a number of things will partly revert to the offline approach. Educational institutions will certainly not want to continue teaching online full-time, and organisations and employees will not want continuous working from home. In addition, there is an increasing focus on social engagement and collaborations between companies in order to stand out in the market.”
Can you give some examples of companies that have responded well to this?
“New partnerships emerged during the corona crisis. For example, Delhaize and Colruyt collaborated on a free shopping service for healthcare personnel, and tech companies formed a partnership for the development of a contact tracing app. This also fits in with the trend for an organisation to ‘do good’ for society. A company like AB InBev is now also very much involved in sustainability. You cannot dismiss such initiatives as mere marketing. It really is about striving for ‘more than profit’. One does not exclude the other: ‘doing well’ and ‘doing good’ can certainly be linked and the result can be called ‘good money’. So organisations that produce locally, are meaningful and look beyond shareholder value score even better now.”
What do you see emerging as the main trends in 2021?
“I expect a ‘golden age’ of innovation. This is typical after a major crisis. Even in 2020, after the panic phase there was a phase when entrepreneurs created opportunities. I think that in 2021 and 2022, new concepts will emerge at an accelerated pace and start-ups will be established in every sector. This is important because there will undoubtedly also be companies that will go bankrupt. So there will be a forced disruption of the economy. Some companies will thrive in this wave of innovation, but others will not be able to keep up.”
“Not everything will go back to how it was before, but a new economy will take its place. In any case, thanks to digitalisation it is now easier to start a business without huge investments in a physical infrastructure. Many enterprising people have come to realise that they want to change their lives and will now act on long-cherished plans. At the same time, big tech companies like Amazon are getting bigger. They are the winners of the corona crisis.”
What can companies do to ensure they will be ahead of the curve when the corona crisis is over?
“Nobody knows exactly what the future will bring, but as an organisation you must always look ahead and experiment. By being creative and innovative and not sitting back when things get tough, you can create your own future and reinvent yourself. Some companies are like tankers that are difficult to turn. It is not easy to change course. Companies that cannot do this will find it difficult now that the economic and social realities are changing so dramatically. It is important to let go of your arguments against innovation and digitalisation. It can help to involve younger people in the management. They are automatically more in touch with new trends. That the future will be digital cannot be denied anyway. Organisations that do not see this or think it is not important for them are definitely missing the mark. Technology, being meaningful and a network with cross-sector partners are, I think, the greatest assets for success.”
Dado Van Peteghem is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker and expert in the digital sector. He is the co-founder of consultancy firm Scopernia (formerly Duval Union Consulting) and of various start-ups such as Social Seeder and SpeakersBase. Dado has also co-authored a number of management books. His latest book ‘Metasystems’, written with Nils Van Dam, was published in 2020 and is about how companies can build strong partnerships or ‘metasystems’.
Photo Dado van Peteghem: © Nathalie Dolmans Photography