Innovative Thinking A-Z | Cultural shifts 2011

20 Jan

WGSN presents an A-Z of terms that will continue to be key in innovative thinking in 2011. These words have been used in Think Tank reports, conferences, websites and media to highlight important shifts in thinking and illustrate new ideas.


In its broad sense this term refers to any innovative movement, commonly artistic or socially orientated. Moving into a brave new world where there is greater acceptance of creative and surreal ideas, it will become increasingly important to remain experimental and original, in contrast to more conventional or established ideas.

BRIC follow-on

The BRICs illustrate the fastest-growing and largest emerging market economies, with these countries generating enormous potential for growth in the coming years. The next countries to watch however as emerging economies after the BRICs will be: Colombia, Indonesia, Turkey, Egypt and South Africa – yet without an official acronym.


For collective project funding, crowdfunding websites seem to be accelerating in appeal, and with this, confidence in creative ideas and innovative thinking is also strengthening. Communities will become a very important tool in running a successful crowdfunding campaign as we experience a renewed belief in the advantages of community and networked collaboration.


It seems unlikely now that we will see a double-dip recession, however it is interesting to note that austerity hasn’t really been practised to its fullest degree. It’s now that a real sense of cutting back is starting to take shape, with confirmation given recently by executive editor of The Economist, Daniel Franklin: “Austerity is taking hold around the rich world”.

Emerging, emerging

There is a genuine sense of opportunity and a growing positive attitude towards economic development in Africa – which is starting to be considered the “continent of new consumers” – with Ghana placed as the fastest-growing economy within the continent and second-fastest in the world. As China threatens to overtake America as the largest manufacturer, relationships are forming elsewhere, namely between China and Africa, and we’re paying particular attention to the development of this friendship.


Commentators are also turning their attention to a new list of countries to watch, and calling them “Frontier Markets” – Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria and Kenya.

Africa is also set to be the next frontier for internet users hoping to expand their reach, with Zambia placed as a major focus as demand for internet usage in this chiefly rural country expands.


The fusion of local knowledge and global perspective is increasing in importance for international brand success. We are returning to the idea that a global concept is real and appropriate, combined with consumers in search of personalisation and the desire to be treated as individually as possible (rather than as part of a region or place). So with technology accommodating this goal we are drawing closer and closer to giving the consumer exactly what they want.

Human potential

Human progress relies on the advancement of good ideas, believes The Economist, with broad discussion featured at last year’s human potential conference, where creativity and innovation were placed as the capital of human development. When we talk innovation however, it’s implying fresh thinking that connects us with something valuable, and not simply inventions.

Capturing human potential involves improving education and healthcare and embracing diversity, as well as encouraging new skills in children and harnessing old skills in people. We believe that the new conversation involves humanity and the potential to advance more than ever before.


Consumers are being lured into a world of high-speed consumption, where downloading, transferring and sharing information can be done faster than ever before, as 4G makes its mark. 4G is demonstrating speed as well as wide reach, where Wi-Fi-enabled devices are concerned and consumers are proving eager to move with this latest development in technology.

Recent reports have asked whether or not consumers in certain demographics are ready for such advanced communication technology, questioning how well consumers understand 4G and its benefits, but this will certainly be a hot topic.


This WGSN macro trend really identified how the multiple ways of using the internet have nurtured today’s culture. It centralises the reality of consumer acceptance of the absurd and unexpected, matched with the ability to absorb content extremely fast and still be open to further advancements.

Killer apps

As apps gradually run all our lives, increasing reliance is placed upon ‘killer’ apps that dramatically enhance lifestyles – adding carefully targeted tools for convenience, entertainment, and generally broadening capabilities.

Consumers seem ready to enter the next level of app-ability and a lot of development work is going on across the digital industry in resonse to this. We will see apps turn from wants to needs.


Global eagerness and the ability to instantly access information and mobile communication is evident in certain areas of the world, where people are leapfrogging the process of mobile and smart phone acceptance and take-up: Africans are buying mobile phones at a world-record rate, with take-up soaring by 550% in five years according to a UN report.

As the pace of technological advancements opens up greater possibilities, attitudes of not wanting to miss out are developing, seeing mobile alternatives broaden exceptionally, even in rural areas.


This group of consumers represents new languages and behaviours. They are direct influencers and are proving an extremely important group to understand and keep up with. With their confidence, connectedness and acceptance to change, Millennials truly are embracing opportunity and can also be generators of it themselves. Watch as Millenial attitudes start to change the way things are traditionally done such corporations, education and politics.


We have wired our worlds to share – with people we’re familiar with and people we’re not. We’re sharing information faster than ever before as technology continues to alter our actions.

Social networking however is becoming more about building networks of people with equal integrity, and people who inspire and motivate, and connecting with others simply based on shared values is becoming the norm. Through this connected age we’re living in, the future of privacy seems to involve more willingness to share and collaborate.


Greater accessibility to legally replicate, develop and reuse original workings, shows the extent to which we’re willing to share ideas and co-work. Community and collaboration (co-creation), become merged as an effective means of creating something valuable and valued, where the idea of value is placed as a core intention associated with co-creation.


As mindful consumption starts to unfold, and technology broadens expectations, far more personalised consumer desires emerge.

With such an abundance of choice, consumers will continue to be drawn towards options that demonstrate a true sense of understanding such needs, while also still searching for value.


Technology and sharing go hand-in-hand, and as a means of inspiration, entertainment and wrapping up complex ideas, quotes and slogans are really finding their seat.

Quotables capture people’s excitement and attention, and quickly communicate innovative and creative ideas as they forming. So as people find, save, and blog quotes, they continue to be used as a platform to spark imagination, and this will be big in 2011.


China’s next frontier is its own rising cities, as lower-tier cities and rural areas acquire greater buying power stemming from satisfactory economic growth. Rural areas in India and Africa are also sparking interest, as expectations for growth set in based on greater consumer spending power, a rising demand for technology and a shift in consumer confidence.


We are moving closer towards smart-everything environments, as the ability to effectively Wi-Fi-enable many products secures this emergence. As our homes, offices and cars become connected, the aim of advancements in technology seems clear – to get to a better place and enhance lifestyles. Consumers will become overwhelmed by such levels of connectedness, but are showing signs of being able to adapt accordingly.


Also heard at the Human Potential conference last year, ‘tribeconomy’ is used to label the facts that define a community economy. We will start to hear this word, and other words that break down and re-evaluate economics, more in 2011.

Urgency economy

As consumers remain conscious of spending, there are still remnants of the must-have attitude, where fear of missing out on a good deals arrives. The urgency economy reflects this consumer mindset, and with the internet providing a wealth of choice, consumers are becoming professionals at spotting good value for their money.

Consumers will however become more strict at letting their guards down and will invest more time to ensure the right spending decisions are made.


We are dealing with a frustrated and angry consumer and emotions are really starting to seep through the cracks into public life. Protest and dissatisfaction used to be blogged about and commented on online, but now we’re seeing violence – the expression of opinion becoming physical, such as the recent student protests in the UK.


Questions of what does money mean and what constitutes rich or poor will abound over the next 18 months. Millennials are already questioning the future of money as this social shift we’re experiencing, in itself, provides a sense of richness.

There is a re-examination of wealth and value happening now and a direct link to the social habits we’re learning online that is changing notions of wealth.


2011 will be home to a number of extraordinarily smart products – ovens for instance that can download a recipe, be turned on via a remote control app, and warn you when food is cooked. The future will seem incredible to many, opening up questions such as “to what extent will consumers allow technology to take over?”

Young collaboration

Internet activity such as searching products and health information is age-universal, but there are still vast differences of internet consumption between younger and older age groups.

Millennials are without a doubt more inclined to experiment online than older generations, but this is stimulating discussion that older consumers should be encouraged to increase their online presence and brands and businesses should collaborate with younger groups to increase their knowledge and reach. We remain watchful to see the extent to which this grows.


Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is on a quest of “trying to make the world a more open place”. Tying into this is the idea of privacy we’ve highlighted and the openness we’re seeing towards it. With the internet gearing us more towards sharing and connectedness, questions arise concerning to what extent Zuckerberg will adapt.


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