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2021 Will Usher in a New Wave of Business Innovation, Says Study

Accenture Interactive has released its 14th annual trend report, which proposes that 2021 will truly define what the rest of the 21st century will look like. Throughout history, after a global crisis, a new era of thinking has begun.


While the Covid-19 crisis has upended businesses, economies and society as a whole, it has sparked a new wave of innovation, forcing people to experiment with new solutions, places and experiences out of this chaos. This ‘new wave of innovation’ is set to be the blueprint for the decades to come, according to a new report from Accenture.

Fjord Trends 2021”, the 14th in a series of annual reports from Accenture Interactive’s global network of designers and creatives — found that organizations will have the opportunity to map out new territory as they embrace new strategies, services and experiences to meet evolving human needs.

“Throughout history, after a global crisis, a new era of thinking begins,” said Mark Curtis, head of innovation and thought leadership for Accenture Interactive. “As we look to the future, a wealth of potential worlds opens up in front of us. Some are scary, some are exciting, and all of them are largely unexplored. What we do now will define the rest of the century. Businesses have the ultimate permission and space to think and do differently.”

The report found that the pandemic has brought clarity and surprises alongside its chaos and tragedies. It has highlighted what is important to people and inspired community spirit and at-home innovators. As a result, a brand new set of challenges has emerged for businesses: how to respond from operational as well as communication perspectives; how to meet consumers’ constantly changing expectations; and how to stretch their empathy — all while fighting for survival in a precarious economy.

The report identifies seven trends that map out new, hopeful territory for businesses, consumers and society.

  1. Collective displacement: How and where people experience things changed in 2020, leaving them with a shared sense of displacement as we collectively seek new ways and places to do the things we need and love to do. How we work, shop, learn, socialize, parent and take care of our health has changed for many of us, and brands need to seek new ways and offer new experiences to interact with people.
  2. Do-it-yourself innovation: Innovation is increasingly being driven by people’s talent for coming up with new ways, or “hacks,” to deal with their challenges, from the home worker using their ironing board as a standing desk to the parent-turned-teacher. Technology plays a new role — as facilitator for people’s ingenuity and as a result, people’s creativity is shining through. With individuals from politicians to personal trainers repurposing platforms like TikTok and video games to stage concerts and get important messages out. Everyone wants better solutions, but the era in which a brand was expected to create a finished solution is transitioning to one where brands are creating the conditions for personal innovation.
  3. Sweet teams are made of this: Those who work remotely now live at the office, which is having a huge effect on the reciprocal agreement between employer and employee and the many assumptions around it — such as who has final say over what people wear for a work-related video call in their own homes or whose responsibility it is to preserve home-workers’ right to privacy. Even with the promise of widespread vaccination on the horizon, a permanent shift has taken place in the relationship between people and their work and between employers and their teams. The future won’t be one-size-fits-all — a lot of prototyping in the world of work can be expected for some time to come.
  4. Liquid infrastructure: Because the way people acquire products and engage with services has been displaced, organizations have had to rethink the supply chain and the use of all their physical assets and focus on points of delight — such as the immediate gratification many took for granted in store — in the last few feet before purchase. This requires that companies build agility and resilience across their organization so they can adapt quickly to change. Expect more change to come, often driven by sustainability.
  5. Interaction wanderlust: People are spending much more time interacting with the world via screens and, as a result, have noticed a certain ‘sameness’ caused by templated design in digital experiences. Organizations must reconsider design, content, audience and the interaction between them to inject greater excitement, joy and serendipity into screen experiences.
  6. Empathy challenge: People care deeply about what brands stand for and how they express their values. The pandemic has shone a light on many broken and unequal systems across the world – from access to healthcare to equality. As a result, companies must work hard to manage the narratives that shape their brands, prioritizing the subjects that matter most to them and building their behaviors around those subjects.
  7. Rituals lost and found: The cancelation and disruption of rituals — from celebrating birth to bidding farewell in death and everything in between — have had a significant impact on the greater collective’s well-being. This trend points to the prime opportunity companies have to help people in their search for meaning through new rituals that bring joy and comfort. It starts with understanding the blank space left by a lost ritual and designing the right thing to take its place.

“Innovation doesn’t start with technology, but as we’ve seen over the past year, it can be a powerful tool to augment human ingenuity — even out of chaos,” said Brian Whipple, group chief executive of Accenture Interactive. “The next year should be one defined by hope. We’ve witnessed – and been part of – great changes in our society. These trends are a blueprint for how we think and what we do next — what we take with us and what we leave behind. We can do better and people deserve better.”

With 2021 set to redefine the 21st century, according to the report, the researchers recommends that businesses need to be innovators, developing new strategies and “life hacks” to deal with the strange and unbidden circumstances. .

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