This is the tenth essay in our series of 10 Lessons From 10 Years Of The World’s Most Innovative Companies.
It’s never been good form to talk about politics among friends, but today it just can’t be helped. The Trump Administration is approaching governing in a radically different way, and the uncertainty that it breeds can have a paralyzing effect. But let’s be clear: We have already lived through a wave of uncertainty over the past decade, as new technological and economic forces have remade not only our marketplaces (“Macy’s, I’d like to introduce you to Amazon Prime”) but our cultural expectations. So how did we navigate through yesterday’s ambiguity, and what can that teach us about today and tomorrow?
One method—which we try to apply here at Fast Company when we’re calibrating our coverage—is to ask: What are the things that we can count on? What are the things that we feel confident will be true, regardless of other forces? Over the past 10 years, those trends have included the rise of social media (we didn’t know Facebook would be the big winner, but we believed the format was unstoppable), the spread of mobile smartphones and the app economy (to which we have all become addicted), the breakdown of traditional TV viewing habits (hello, Netflix), the deepening gospels of resource-sharing (Airbnb, Uber), the inexorable march of cloud computing (Amazon Web Services).
So what are the things we believe will be true over the next decade? How about this: Voice-based interfaces, as ushered in by Apple’s Siri and now deepened by Amazon’s Alexa and Google Assistant, will become more pervasive; AI and the sensor economy will improve efficiency and change expectations; consumer genomics will blossom as the cost of DNA testing drops and scientific studies advance; autonomous driving features will become more and more sophisticated in every new car, even if fully autonomous vehicles have a tough time gaining mass acceptance; the leadership of business will become more diverse, as America’s non-white population becomes its largest segment and as more women graduate from four-year colleges than men; global access to information, spurred by smartphone penetration, will invite new constituencies in far-flung global locales into the innovation economy.
Prognostication is always murky territory (though some of the demographic trends referenced above are firmly in place). Still, you need to have some foundational beliefs to build from—and to test and adjust, over time, as conditions warrant. Agility will remain the ultimate imperative. Because if there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that things will change. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
This article is part of our coverage of the World’s Most Innovative Companies of 2017.