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Forget the sourdough: The future is about individuality, not domesticity.

There are a lot of things going on right now. The world is shaking itself up and we all have to catch our balance and work out what to do next. Whilst we are doing that, we have become obsessed with anything connected to staying home, staying ‘safe’, staying cosy and anything that’s remotely focused on ‘family’. It’s an easy trap to fall into. And I say trap not in error, but because I mean trap. It might makes us feel safe and warm because we can cover our eyes and ears and pretend everything is just fine, but it’s a trick! Fooling you into thinking this is the future.

So if this is your strategy (for life or business), I have bad news for you. The future is not about family and domesticity. It’s about individuality and exploration. Grumble at me if you want, but here is why.

Most of us have enormous freedom and active choice in how we live our lives, thanks to the mega trend that is individuality. It is a beast of a machine and nothing can shift its path. Too many social, technological and economic shifts have fed into it to derail it. It may have slowed its momentum out of respect for a global pandemic, but its speedy return is inevitable. There is nothing like having something taken away from you to make you realise how much you want it. And that is exactly what is going on right now.

How's your sourdough looking? Anything like this?! (Credit: Zesty South Indian Kitchen)

For the people around the world with a fairly stable home life, days spent in lockdown have driven an obsession with domestic activities such as baking sourdough (or if you are my husband, crackers, oat cakes, scones on demand, pizza… basically, flour is his friend) and upgrading the places we live, since we’ve spent a lot more time in them. There are endless jokes, memes and articles about this because human folly is of course hilarious, but the error would be to assume we will continue along this path once life ‘normalises’ (yes, that word…).

Many well known trend forecasters have said they believe this is a time for ‘pressing pause…’, that ‘we will reset our lives and gather our thoughts and go forward valuing the things that are truly important to us… we will cherish the small things much more etc…’ Trend forecasters love to say this stuff. Anytime there is a global crisis, we are encouraged to dive into soft, cosy, warming and floaty things. We are pushed towards doing muted colours and embracing anything symbolic of freedom. (Scandinavia loves muted colours and cosy things. They are having a field day right now.). But I would proceed with caution from these forecasts. They are too idyllic to be real, written by people who no longer have much contact with reality.

I like metaphors and analogies, so here I would like to defer to Joey from Friends, who explains it best (Season 1, Episode 24 - ‘The one where they always know what Joey means'). Referring to the end of a science experiment he's been taking part in which temporarily limited his sexual capacity, Joey says; "When a blind man gets his sight back, does he walk around like this… ?!" (Joey waves his arms around whilst his eyes are closed). No. Of course he doesn’t. He will remember what it was like not to have his sight, and he will always know how lucky he is to have it now, but he’ll go out and make the most of his new found visual liberation, feeding his eyes with as much as he can - almost to make up for lost time - but always staying grateful for the gift he has been given.

"When a blind man gets his sight back, does he walk around like this?..." Friends, S1 E24.

Our global freedom situation is likely to follow a similar path. We want our freedom back. We want so much to be able to move and enjoy what we became used to before this, but we’ll always be acutely aware of what life was like without it, and that’s going to impact our decision making for a long time.

Our individuality is too hard earned, too over promised, too connected to the economy and too ingrained into the generations growing up now. Anyone born after 1970’s has never had to want for anything! Want a the latest new widescreen TV with flashy backlight? But got no cash? No problem, Sir… you can buy it on credit. Want to go on holiday to Spain? Well of course M’am, you shall! You deserve that sun lounger in Marbella! Here we have a payment plan for a cheap package deal… knock yourself out.

"Spain, M'am? You deserve it!" (credit: Martin Parr)

We’ve been raised to believe that we can and should have everything we want - no question. It’s up to you whether that is right or wrong in your book, but the facts is that it’s a core driver of everyone’s behaviour. 72% of Europeans say that they are more selfish than selfless - meaning they will cancel plans with others to focus on themselves, according to a study by The Akin.

So, don’t get sidetracked by the sourdough. Individuality is here to stay. It’s driving every decision that we make, and it’s altering enormous aspects of our lives: our careers, our product purchases, service choices, the lifestyles we choose and the relationships we have. The impact is stratospheric, and my concern is that businesses are not paying real attention to it; not in terms of how they communicate with their customers, never mind understanding their own teams. By putting domesticity at the top of the agenda, it’s short term vision and it’s completely missing the point that freedom and independence are the things people really want.

The role and impact of individuality is big topic of research for me. I give presentations on the subject and also use it as a foundation for the training I do with clients. Get in touch if it's something you'd like to explore more, either for yourself or your business.

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