2012 Outlook: Cloudy but Clearing

Happy New Year!   Thankfully, 2011 is over and we enter a bright new year.  What are the big trends that will affect your business and career prospects?   How can you leverage them to achieve your goals?   Here are the big ones to watch carefully:

Global Economy:   The U.S. Recession is finally come to an end, with manufacturing and hiring picking up and the elections and Olympics usually boosting growth, so the U.S. will probably become the main economic driver in 2012 as China slows and Europe faces a shallow recession.  Social media technologies and marketing/sales are maturing fast so these fields are adding lots of new jobs.   Japan is flat, but its corporations have $10 trillion in cash, which they are investing in M&As (mergers and acquisitions) in faster-growing overseas markets.  Africa, Turkey, Indonesia, Brazil and SE Asia continue their rapid growth, so lots of opportunities are opening up for people who bridge markets.

Silicon Valley:  The valley is enjoying a boom in mobile, cloud, Big Data analytics, automotive IT, some greentech and biotech fields.  Social media will accelerate the shift to bottom-up and horizontal communications and business supply chain integration.   The hot new fields are social media-based e-learning, personal health, consumer and small biz collaboration hubs, mobile commerce, and transmedia production.

Personal Learning:  I think Personal Learning (PL) is the Next New Thing in Silicon Valley due to the huge global need to educate, train and retrain billions of people in preparation for a fast, IT-intensive global economy.  Khan Academy, MIT’s Open University and Piazza are setting the pace for the new generation of e-learning systems, which will enable students, teachers and mentors to easily distribute content and collaborate online.  I expect to see an explosion of sector- and topic-specific e-learning services provided through mobile phones.

Personal Health:   Health 2.0 was about Web-based health information systems.  Health 3.0 is emerging as the next generation of personalized health, well-being and fitness, largely based on smart phones, wearable pedometers and monitors, and sensor devices connected wirelessly to cloud-based health services.

Grassroots Collaboration Hubs:   There is a noticeable pickup in collaboration hubs organized by individuals, investors, activists, small businesses and regions, in part influenced by Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, office sharing and the Arab Spring, which emphasized crowdsourcing and knowledge sharing.  New cloud services and mobile apps will make it easier to create powerful hubs that reach millions of participants in specific sectors, forming a tertiary tier of social networks.

Mobile Commerce:   Mobile users have primarily used their phones for communicating and buying things.  Now they will use them to sell products/services and transact business.  Mobile retailing, auctions, and deal-making will boom as users discover the power of smart phones to generate income fast.

Transmedia:  In Hollywood and San Francisco, the term Transmedia — the convergence of top-down Old Media and bottom-up social media — is a hot buzzword, much like multimedia was during the early 1990s.  But this time, smart phones, social media tools and cloud services will make it possible to create, sell and distribute content faster and more cheaply.  Watch for a boom in new Transmedia startups that become the next Facebooks and Googles.

As you can see, I’m pretty bullish about 2012 because of the plethora of new technologies, markets and business models emerging, which are converging with a huge worldwide demand for new jobs and careers.  If necessity is the mother of invention, the Recession and Occupy groups have demonstrated that there is intense desire for better ways of doing things.  Success will go to those who ride these trends, move fast, partner globally and work hard.

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