By: Nick Edwards, Managing Director, White Space Strategy
2030 provides a fantastic aiming point for growth: it’s far enough away to allow companies to change fundamentally, but close enough for the rewards of success to be tangible.
I wanted to know which of the Whiteboard 2030 growth themes are most important to business leaders, to create a polestar for longer term growth planning.
Are all eight universally considered to be major drivers of future change, or are some thought to be of greater future significance than others?
White Space Strategy surveyed 100 business leaders to find out. I’ve summarised the results on this page, starting out with the top 3 themes identified in the business leader poll.
#1 = Environment & Sustainability
74% of business leaders think environment and sustainability factors will be extremely impactful on their businesses between now and 2030. This makes it the most important of our eight 2030 themes, and the one business leaders recommend prioritising the highest:
“To me, climate change is the number one challenge facing humanity. It’s something which I’ve dedicated my career to and, increasingly, I can say that it’s something that everybody will need to dedicate parts of their career to as well”
(David Watson, Head of Energy Transition, Cadent Gas).
Read our views on how to act in light of this in the sustainable growth feature area of this site. It’s packed with insights and resources co-created with business leaders to enable positive, sustainable and also profitable change.
And, to view more extensive content and on this critical future theme, visit the Environment & Sustainability area of Whiteboard.
#2 = Digital Innovation
65% of business leaders think digital innovation factors will be extremely impactful on their businesses in the run up to 2030. This makes it the most important of the tech focused trends included in our 2030 worldview. Given how widespread the potential applications of new and emerging digital technologies are, this is unsurprising:
“As consumers we’re extremely unforgiving. Once we’ve had an experience in one industry we expect to see it provided elsewhere: ‘I know the technology exists that is now my benchmark. No one might do it in your industry at the moment, but I’m going to punish you through poor satisfaction ratings because you’re not meeting what I know is available elsewhere'”
(Tim Andrew, CEO Localz)
This shows how business leaders in all sectors are expecting further major digital changes that radically change how they work and how they run their businesses. Listen to them speak about challenges and potential solutions by watching these short videos.
#3 = Data & Automation
63% of business leaders think data & automation factors will be extremely impactful on their businesses over the next 8 years. The world has already seen significant change in this area, and it looks like a lot more is coming down the track:
“Some of the data that’s coming out from social listening is really, really interesting. It’s helping me understand scenarios in our business fundamentally differently”
(David Alexander, CEO Quick Lane Europe (Ford))
To learn more about potential changes in this area, and to understand possible implications, visit the Data & Automation themed area of the Whiteboard site.
What about the other five ‘World in 2030’ themes…?
The top 3 themes above relate to major, near universal trends which will have a seismic impact on almost every sector across the world. The other five themes are equally and sometimes more important to business leaders who run a certain type of company. I think this is borne out by the results of the business leader poll.
It’s not surprising that a healthcare business leaders would view the Health & Wellbeing theme as critical, whereas someone working in Financial Services might not. A CEO of a global multinational is likely to be more concerned with Global Population & Demography than a CEO of a company that operates only in the UK.
Here are the remaining five 2030 Growth Themes in their order of importance, as rated by the business leaders we surveyed. The figures relate to the percentage of business leaders who think the theme will be extremely impactful on their businesses between now and 2030.
Connectivity & IoT 49%
5G, 6G, omnipresent connectivity, a proliferation of connected devices worldwide. It’s easy to see why business leaders think this trend will be so important in the run up to 2030. Read more about this, and hear views from business leaders in the Connectivity & IoT feature area of this site.
Health & Wellbeing: 38%
It’s becoming increasingly clear that the effects of Covid-19 will be enduring, to 2030 and beyond. Alongside mental health, diabetes and dementia, workforces and consumers will be shaped differently by their health than they are today. Read and hear more about this in the Health & Wellbeing feature area of this site.
Quantum Computing & Generative AI: 25%
AI has the potential to revolutionise many business sectors across the world. It could be powered up significantly by the processing power offered by the kinds of stable quantum computers being developed by Google and IBM. However, in other sectors the impact is likely to be lower. In some sectors, like hospitality, leisure and education, AI will become more important but will potentially not be as critical to change as in sectors like financial services, pharma and ecommerce. Our Quantum Computing & Generative AI feature area contains a wealth of additional insights and video content.
Global Wealth & Education: 17%
To more globalised businesses, this theme clearly has the potential to be highly impactful, especially because it relates to the growing economic power of China and India. Leaders who think this theme will be extremely impactful on their businesses in the run up to 2030 came from sectors including credit referencing, B2B payments and energy extraction: all of these sectors and businesses are fully multinational. Leaders who think it will be of low significance come from sectors including events, hospitality and charity management, where there is a lot less focus on international markets. However, even these organisations will have the opportunity to source talent on a more global basis going forwards, and all have globalised supply chains. To hear more about how the future might unfold, visit the Global Wealth & Education feature area.
Global Population & Demography: 6%
The most significant population shifts are going to relate to African population growth and European population decline. Relatively few business leaders feel this will impact their businesses significantly, perhaps reflecting the historic lack of importance of Africa to organisations in the West. One of the exceptions came from the payments sector. Africa has been at the forefront of innovation in microfinance and mobile payments, and many of the world’s most dynamic start-ups are expanding rapidly in cities like Nairobi, Cape Town and Kampala. To find out more about trends in this area, visit the Global Population & Demography feature area.
A pole star for growth
The results of this poll will be really useful to the team at White Space Strategy, as we help clients in different sectors identify themes and focus areas for their growth planning. Hopefully the summary above, and the broader resources on Whiteboard, allow everyone to plan ahead with greater confidence.
About the author:
Managing Director, White Space Strategy
Nick set up White Space Strategy in 2005. He’s been instrumental to the company’s growth, and has worked with over 200 leading corporates over his career.
White Space Strategy was named as one of the UK’s leading strategy and innovation consultancies by the Financial Times in 2021 and 2022.
Nick is an expert in growth strategy, and has developed numerous bespoke models to support clients with this.