2024: Adapting to Change with Integrity

Fortune cookie message reads: A plan you have been working on for a long time is beginning to take shape
Photo by Elena Koycheva / Unsplash

It's too late, according to the Curb Your Enthusiasm meme, to wish you a happy new year, and in any event, that feels just a little presumptuous, doesn't it?

But it's not too late to speculate about what 2024 is going to be like, right?

It's an election year. Something like 40 countries will hold legislative, presidential or general elections this year. About 4 billion people are eligible to vote in 2024's many, many elections. It's a year that augurs change – but in many countries, voters may be coming to the polls to preserve their version of their nation's way of life.

It's a year of crisis. Social, cultural and marketing trends are focused on health & wellness, sustainability, generative AI, and experiences. While these are generally positioned in the most optimistic lights, they tend to speak to people's deep and justifiable anxieties about:

And then ... well, what should I say about experiences? When brands start talking about how much consumers value experiences over things, what they're typically reflecting is economic anxiety appearing in the market research. And while, in the United States, all signs point to a soft landing after the pandemic recession, the vibes are off. If trend reports are still highlighting "experiences", then you know marketers, especially luxury brands, believe the things aren't enough to get people to part with their money, and the brand has to do things.

It's the year social media as we knew it dies. Everyone we talk to complains about social media – it's harder to find relevant information, to connect with the people you know, to connect with people you don't know, to get the word out about your new venture or book or podcast or whatever. The platforms that promised to bring the world together actually broke us apart, and now they, too are breaking apart. It's not just about Twitter/X, it's the whole experience. Regulators know it, and those who are extremely online are being forced to cope with it.

It's the year regulators take center stage (if they can). For years, tech companies believed that regulators were too stupid to regulate tech, or that the existing regulations did not apply to them. But neither of those things are true. Regulators have woken up to the risks of data brokers, the entire field of machine learning and AI, social media platforms, and fintech companies. But it's also the year that the US Supreme Court may undermine the entire system of regulation by overturning something called Chevron deference – an idea in the law that regulators are often best positioned to interpret and implement the laws passed by Congress. Without Chevron, either Congress will be forced to write the regulations (something they won't do, even if they wanted to or could), or what the law means will be up to the courts and not, say, the FTC (seriously, look at that link, the FTC is having a good time). So, look out for federal regulators being stymied in their efforts to protect consumers, safeguard personal data, limit risky transactions, or control the spread of generative AI.

It's the year of stand-offs between tradition and the future. From the return to office conflict, to the mass adoption of online education, to the backlash against purity culture and the rise of tradwives, to the sense that time is running out for democracy and the climate, to the turn towards nostalgia in culture and fashion, to the fear of current and future wars, it feels like everything is coming to a head.

What's that mean for you?

How will you navigate these changes, crises, and inflection points? How do you even begin to cope with a landscape that is shifting right beneath your feet? How can you possibly make good decisions when everything seems up in the air?

I can't make predictions about anything – nothing is certain except that there will always be uncertainty. The job now for business leaders, elected officials, non-profits, brand managers, artists, and ordinary people is not merely to adapt, but to adapt with integrity. What does that even mean?

  • It means getting real about what you want. What is the future you are trying to create for yourself or your business or your organization?
  • It means touching grass. How will you get – and stay – grounded in the reality of your business and in your customers' or stakeholders' realities?
  • It means scenario planning. How will you map the range of possible outcomes and craft a plan for how you will sensibly respond to what happens next?

I hope it goes without saying that we're here to help you adapt with integrity in uncertain times, focusing on making good decisions over and over again. But if you want to talk about the ways this uncertainty is affecting your organization, please do send me a note. If I can help, I will. If I can't help, I'll either try to connect you with someone who can, or commisserate.

Three little requests:

  • Please consider sharing this newsletter with others that you think would enjoy it. We have a lot of exciting plans for online and IRL events this year, as well as a series of "trend warning labels" we're going to publish starting in Q2.
  • Please check out my podcast with Adam Pierno, In the Demo. If you like what you hear, please subscribe to it, rate it on iTunes and tell a friend. We'd love to see this project – trying to understand, deconstruct and shed new light on the stories we tell about generations – grow.
  • And if you can't get enough podcasts, I've just launched a new election year project (a newsletter and podcast) called Cross Tabs, in which I will provide no punditry and no predictions – but with the help of Paul Soldera and others, will explain the polls and how to make sense of them.

Thanks for reading. And happy new year.