Looking Ahead: 2024 Runway and What You Need to Be Thinking About. 2040’s Ideas and Innovations Newsletter

Kevin Novak
9 min readMay 30, 2024


What You Need to Be Thinking About

Issue 162, May 30, 2024

We know that the second half of 2024 starts in a month, but we want to get a jump on what to pay attention to for the rest of this tumultuous year. As we move into summer mindsets to rest and restore, it’s a good time to process and plan for when fall arrives. Being mindful of what lies ahead ensures an ability to adapt our approaches and solutions, recognizing so many conflicting factors and variables at play.

The markers we have outlined are social and cultural observations that will impact our lives professionally and personally. We are not economists, psychologists, or technologists. But we are business cultural anthropologists with a deep curiosity about human nature and our collective consciousness, or lack thereof.

So, we offer an opinionated take on the mega and microtrends that keep us up at night, much of it based on our observations of too many organizations running business as usual, retrenching to the past, or simply throwing their hands up with the excuse that it’s too hard to move with forward momentum.

The leitmotif in our projections, and what should be a strategic default for any and all organizations, is the necessity for critical thinking in all decision-making, including customer-facing innovation, workplace culture, new product and services development, and future planning.

Disruptive Digital and Economic Markets

Post-pandemic, we operate in a perpetual, asymmetrical, disruptive digital marketplace. If organizations have not yet transformed into digital and data-based infrastructures and operating systems, they will be lost in the wake of more progressive competitors. If leadership does not use data and analytics as a basis for their decision-making, they will be eclipsed by younger, more digitally savvy would-be leaders. If operations are run on the principle that “it worked last year, so let’s stick with it,” there’s a good chance this is a death knell. If innovations are not onboarded with clear, transparent communications on how they will benefit the customer, workforce, and organization (in that order), it will be a pyrrhic victory.

Build or buy? As digital solutions and possibilities have evolved or suddenly come into the market, it has become clear that partnerships and collaborations are more effective than spending money, time and resources attempting to build out proprietary solutions and approaches.

Maintaining competitiveness is critical in a dynamically changing environment but the effort must embrace informed urgency, be smart and realistic. Informed urgency can result in speed to market accelerated by collaboration, and it’s also more fortuitous than years of proprietary development watching others speed by in the fast lane.

The decision to build or buy is a perennial consideration. Too often the decision to build is not aligned to whether an organization has the capacity and capability to build in the first place. Our organizational constructs have changed, i.e., what business are you in and what is the organizational ability to radically and completely change?

An organization that sets its shared purpose and North Star to be a “tech” organization, riding the wave of mantra and hype in the marketplace, may not live up to its desired new classification and will always struggle to really become a “tech” organization. Consider Amazon and Walmart as examples. Amazon was a digital pureplay from the start and continues to experience great success in their swim lane. While Walmart seeks to become digitally competitive with Amazon, it has had to invest heavily in retrofitting their sales model and it continues to lag in online sales. At the core, its culture is inherently tuned to its expertise in physical transportation, supply chain infrastructure and retail stores. A good rule to follow is that if your rebranding, realignment, reorganization or reclassification isn’t in your swim lane, best to forget it.

A more modern attitude is that “going it alone” is just that. Lonely. We need community and networks to excel. Generation Z and Alpha, coming into the workforce are living their firm beliefs that strength comes from collective effort.

Digital transformation is, of course, a journey that offers challenges but also great rewards both personally and professionally. And anticipating the future, not catching up to it, is the preferred route.

Ethics and GenAI

Overhyped? Underhyped? Is this a moment in time that will change our lives forever? You make your own judgment. But one thing for sure is that GenAI will permeate all aspects of our lives. It may write your annual report, marketing messaging, three-year business plan, corporate communications, customer service chat conversations and event programming. Your voice assistant may become your closest companion (think Her), teach children logic and problem-solving, remind you what to do (Valentine’s Day), and run your household. GenAI will also sway elections, feed wars and skirmishes with propaganda, deep fake everyone, rig elections, and has the potential of collapsing financial and infrastructure systems and governments.

As the third law of motion has proven, every action has an equal and opposite reaction. So, according to Newton, as much good that GenAI can create it can also propagate unthinkable evil. And that’s where critical thinking and North Stars come into play. Guardrails (the favorite buzzword of every wannabe tech innovator) are critical. We have raised the guardrail flag ourselves over the past two years to promote consideration of the laws of motion and where motion may not go in the direction we hope or want.

Unbiased prompts and input are essential. The European Union has taken a strict stance on AI and the growing (nearly daily) list of companies seeking to take a piece of the potential GenAI business. Some voices in the tech community suggest the EU is hampering AI innovation. Maybe, but it seems the EU is preemptively raising a few guardrails to protect us from ourselves. The United States? Well at least the US Senate has released an AI blueprint, but it is majorly focused on fostering innovation, not a strategic and tactical plan to enact much-needed guardrails.

The past does not bode well in decision-making when new innovations come along. We can’t use past standards to understand new concepts. For example, the internet was one such innovation. The government at that time, with the intent of fostering not hindering innovation, created Section 230 of the Communications Act of 1934 (enacted as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996). The section protects technology companies from liability for what is posted by individuals to their platforms. The unanticipated result compromises any ability to manage and mitigate the nearly continuous spread of misinformation and downright manipulation. If we, via our government or society cannot establish an ethical basis for the internet, then who is the GenAI moral police going to be? Who’s going to arbitrate and who’s going to bring dubious practices to a screeching halt?

And that’s where you come in. As leaders of organizations and role models for conscious capitalism, a strong sense of right and wrong is called for. We’re not advocating returning to a strict puritanical world order, but we are advocating caution and approaching the use of GenAI holistically, considering any unintended consequences and unanticipated outcomes. We are our guardrails.

Bonus Points: Societal Micro and Macro Bubbles

We are sitting on a series of metaphorical bubbles, and we are headed to an inflection point when something is going to burst.

· Economic anxiety is real. The stock market performance doesn’t match consumers’ and business’s realities. Unceasing price hikes and inflation are crippling small businesses and many households. Wages are rising, resulting in the consumer absorbing the pass-along costs. There is not enough affordable housing and high mortgage rates are preventing younger and first-time homeowners from buying. Gen Z is in debt and the majority of boomers are living on fixed incomes without savings cushions. There is a good chance these economically fueled bubbles are going to burst. Consumer backlash against inflation and the stock market’s infatuation with the six or so go-go tech companies that are keeping the market surging.

· Remote work. Many organizations are demanding that employees return to the roost. Organizations have the upper hand on insisting on workplace requirements. What they risk is resignation from employees who have changed their lives (for the better) to accommodate remote employment. Return to the office also puts more pressure of working mothers, and therefore disintermediates them from the workforce.

· Climate change caused by humans or naturally occurring. Acceleration of climate threats is real. Adverse weather events have become frequent enough to affect both economic and social disruption. The transformation of the transportation industry to EV is going to take patience. The ambitious reach to go electric is further than the industry’s grasp. The holy trinity of deforestation, loss of topsoil and access to water are ongoing evolutionary shifts. From a broad perspective, the discouraging lack of progress in climate change is a poster child for short-term thinking. And the lack of shared purpose among global governments and organizations fractures any international solution. Talk to a Gen Z or Alpha and their prospect of a future healthy planet and clean environment is dismal. This bubble my seem remote to an association, event company or media brand, for example. But it’s not. How we use resources, repurpose, reuse, and lead our communities and stakeholders is a way to think globally and act local. The climate bubble can very well burst, and we will all lose.

· Economics, trade, and your pocketbook. Managing shrinking budgets puts pressure on heads of households, led by individuals of all generations. Companies and even governments are continuously testing the market via price increases or new taxes and fees. In many ways, it seems to be a free-for-all taking more and more out of everyone’s pocketbook. How many times have you tried to book an airfare that changes between the time you select the flight and get to the checkout? How many times have you gone to a checkout line to discover the commodities you need are even more expensive than last week? As new trade tariffs are being considered to reduce the number of imports and drive consumers and organizations to “buy local,” the recognition of the pass-along cost consequences may finally be entering the public consciousness.

· Boundaries. Population shifts are an issue for Saudi Arabia or Africa where the average age in the regions is under 29 years old. And equally in Japan with an aging population and 29% of the country over the age of 65. There are elections this year in 80 countries, and the results may impact human rights, the economy and international relations. The manufacturing disagreements between Apple and China, and China with the rest of the world are not as remote as you may think. The immigration flow into the US is changing social norms and our language base. Political, economic, and cultural wars are cracking the world apart. We cannot afford to be insular or think provincially. What is happening across cultural and geographical borders does come back to any organization. Customers are international in a digital marketplace, and trends or boycotts that start in an obscure city in India can lead to repercussions at home. When planning, connect the dots and factor in global trends and shifts.

What to Do?

Here’s our distilled list of being proactive to build a sustainable plan and pathway to a healthy future, both professionally and personally.

· Be mindful and a critical thinker.

· Be a systems thinker and holistic planner.

· Be empathetic to the needs of a multi-generational workforce.

· Be progressive and modern in thinking.

· Be a proponent of foresight, not hindsight.

· Be meaningful, not transactional.

· Be able to recognize strengths and weaknesses.

· Be graceful under pressure.

· Be a teacher.

· Be brave.

· Be an advocate for the seventh generation to come after you.

The dynamism of today’s society is going to increase. A hyper-connected society reliant on technology brings complexity and constant motion. To keep your organization and yourself on the right track, be aware and understand macro and micro trends and consider and recognize them thoughtfully. Critical thinking is your most important strategic imperative.

Explore this issue and all past issues on 2040’s Website or via our Substack Newsletter.

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Kevin Novak

4X webby winner, CEO and Chief Strategy Officer @2040 Digital (www.2040digital.com), IADAS Member, Speaker, Author, Science Nut