How to thrive in a disruptive new decade
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How to thrive in a disruptive new decade

Are you really ready for the 2020s? Ask yourself three simple questions

Welcome to the new decade, one that promises to be driven by rapid change, rising complexity, mounting uncertainties and lots of surprises. Most likely, disruption will rule.

How can you transform yourself and your business to flourish in the 2020s? Allow me to ask you three simple questions to help you get ready for a game-changing new decade.

Go back in time to December 2009. Did you imagine then that 10 years later, you would have to pay interest to banks for keeping your savings? That you could become a millionaire within a few years if you invested a hundred bucks at the right time in a cryptocurrency?

Did you imagine back in 2009 that you would stay in a private home of a stranger and not in a hotel room (courtesy of Airbnb) or book a private car ride instead of a public taxi (thanks to Uber)? That a reality TV star would be president of the US? That Britain would have decided to leave the EU?

Clearly, the world has been changing very fast and in surprising ways, and will continue to do so. That's why you may want to take some time to ponder these three questions.


"The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything," noted the Czech writer Milan Kundera.

At Thinkergy, we love to ask people questions when we guide them through innovation projects.

These questions help them find out what they don't know, gain novel insights related to their case, and come up with initial ideas on how to possibly resolve their challenge.

To help set yourself and your business up for a successful decade, find the right answers for three simple questions. Here is the first one:

What has changed in the past five years in your industry and business?

While pondering this question, also consider thinking about some related, subordinated questions:

What has become easier in your business? What has become more challenging? On balance, are things more comfortable or more difficult than five years ago? Why? And what does that mean for you?


"When you are running a business, there is a constant need to reinvent oneself. One should have the foresight to stay ahead in times of rapid change and rid ourselves of stickiness in any form in the business," counsels the Indian billionaire industrialist and philanthropist Shiv Nadar.

With this in mind, here is my second question:

What do you foresee will likely change in your industry and business in the coming five years?

Start reflecting on this question by noting what you have learned from what has changed in the past five years. Then, quickly jot down anything that comes to mind about changes you expect to happen in your business in the coming five years.

Finally, research and contemplate more broadly the possible trends and discontinuities that may be relevant for your industry and business.

While looking ahead, bear in mind the following factors and phenomena:

- 2020 will mark the beginning of a new long wave of technological change. Also known as Kondratiev waves (after the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev who discovered them), these waves describe the few technologies that propel economic development forward for a certain number of decades.

In the Sixth Wave, the lead technologies -- artificial intelligence (AI) and digitisation, green and cleantech, and possibly also genomics -- are expected to drive economic growth and prosperity in the next 25 years.

- Historically, periods of globalisation and de-globalisation have alternated every 3-5 decades. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the pendulum began swinging back towards de-globalisation, nationalism, protectionism and authoritarian forms of government in many countries.

- In the next five years, generational shifts in the workplace are also likely to affect your industry. When contemplating relevant trends, distinguish between more short-lived phenomena and fads and genuine trends or even megatrends that will last for several years or maybe even a decade.

Moreover, note that every major trend tends to trigger a countertrend that you can also ride.

A discontinuity is a distinct break from the normal state of affairs in an economy (such as a financial crisis, an armed conflict or a major recession, among others).


"The best way to predict the future is to create it," recommended the management guru Peter Drucker. The third and final question to ask yourself is as simple as it is powerful:

So what?

So what do the changes you witnessed in the past five years and those you foresee unfolding in the coming five years mean for yourself and your business?

What novel insights pop up when looking at the grand picture of your industry and business?

What initial ideas come to mind about how to possibly ride an emerging trend, or realise the upside of a possible threat?

Dr Detlef Reis is the founding director and chief ideator of Thinkergy, the "Know how to Wow" Innovation Company in Asia and beyond. He is also an assistant professor at the Institute for Knowledge & Innovation - Southeast Asia at Bangkok University, and an adjunct associate professor at the Hong Kong Baptist University. Email

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