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Entdecken Sie die Themen der Zukunft. Tauchen Sie ein in die Welt der Megatrends und Lebensstile. Oder beschäftigen Sie sich mit konkreten Entwicklungsaufgaben von Organisationen: Strategie, Vision, Kommunikation und Innovation.

The Megatrends

Avalanches captured in slow motion - Megatrends move slowly but with enormous strength, this describes Megatrends quite fittingly. They influence all spheres of society as well as companies, institutions, and individuals. As a result, Megatrends are not only the core element of the Zukunftsinstitut's research, but also the foundation for decisions in the economy and politics, as well as in individual terms. Welcome to the world of Megatrends!


What are Megatrends?

Megatrends identify and describe extremely complex change dynamics and are a model for the transformation of the world: a method that helps make the highly complex and diverse change dynamics of society in the 21st century understandable and tangible. By reducing complexity to a comprehensible level, Megatrends prove to be valuable navigation aids through the jungle of current and future transformation dynamics.

Today, the term of Megatrends is widely spread and serves as the basis for numerous research and development projects. Megatrends form the foundation for the evolution of entire economic sectors and are often the starting point for far-reaching strategies in companies and other organisations. The Zukunftsinstitut has been working successfully with its model of Megatrends for many years, regularly describing it in its comprehensive Megatrend Documentation, and repeatedly re-mapping it on its Megatrend Map. Because with Megatrends, it is possible to make the global changes in the economy and society tangible.

Megatrends - Definition

There are clear criteria for identifying and defining Megatrends:

  • Duration: Megatrends last for a minimum of several decades.
  • Ubiquity: Megatrends have impacts in all areas of society, in the economy, consumption, value changes, how people live together, media, the political system, etc.
  • Globality: Megatrends are global phenomena. Even if they are not equally pronounced at the same time everywhere, they can eventually be observed everywhere in the world.
  • Complexity: Megatrends are multi-layered and multi-dimensional trends. They generate their dynamics and evolutionary pressure through their interactions.

What distinguishes Megatrends from other trends?

When talking about trends, one should always be aware of the category of trend being discussed. Although many things are often thrown into the same pot, the range is broad. The Zukunftsinstitut therefore works with a tiered system:

  • Natural evolution and climate change
  • Megatrends
  • Sociocultural trends
  • Technological trends
  • Consumer trends
  • Fashion trends
  • Micro trends

The Megatrends play a fundamental role in this, they are the blockbusters of change, so to speak: those trends that have a large, epochal character. But what is crucial about the Megatrends is not so much their duration as their impact. Megatrends do not just change individual segments or areas of social life or the economy, but they reshape entire societies. As a cluster of trends, various change movements come together in them: technological, social and economic.

How do Megatrends emerge?

Megatrends don't „emerge“ as much as they reflect the observation of long-term developments that have great relevance to all areas of the economy and society, which can be reliably extended into the future. Megatrends are therefore not invented or proclaimed; they are the concentrated result of systematic observation, description, and evaluation of new developments in the economy and society. Analysing trends always also means early identification of their impacts - on industries, companies, and markets, and ultimately on each individual.

The systematic identification and evaluation of trends is only possible through various methodological approaches. New developments can initially be identified only in the form of qualitative observations and the interpretation of so-called weak signals: weak signals, whose patterns are to be interpreted sensibly and plausibly. Real trends then emerge when ...

  • ... societal, economic or technical phenomena or innovations move from the fringes of society into the mainstream.
  • ... new phenomena become more relevant and small avant-gardes develop the potential to change the mainstream - in lifestyle or family models, in media consumption, in consumption behavior, in the workplace, in technological applications, or in individual industries.

Where exactly trends come from is often difficult to answer definitively. They often emerge from several similar and simultaneous phenomena that reinforce each other. Megatrends are evident all over the world, with different expressions. However, it would be a fallacy to believe that progress always begins in the western world and economic change primarily in the industrialised countries. For example, when it comes to innovations for mobile phone payment, a look at African countries such as Kenya was already worth it a few years ago. To see what trends are taking place in the area of urbanisation, one must look at the development in Asian megacities. And when it comes to e-mobility, although Tesla is the company with the greatest pioneering spirit and impact, the actual breakthrough of electric mobility is already taking place in China.

  • Megatrend Gender Shift
    The traditional gender roles assigned to men and women in society are losing their social obligations. Gender is losing its fateful significance and has less impact on the course of individual lives. Changing role patterns and breaking down gender stereotypes are leading to a radical change in the economy and society towards a new culture of pluralism.
  • Megatrend Health
    The importance of health as a fundamental value has deeply ingrained itself in our consciousness in recent years and has become synonymous with high quality of life. As a central goal in life, this megatrend shapes all aspects of life.
  • Megatrend Globalisation
    The Megatrend Globalisation refers to the coming together of the world's population. While international economic relationships stand under fluctuating national interests, science and economy, culture, and civil societies worldwide are in increasingly close and free exchange of ideas, talents and goods. These connections are perhaps the most important drivers of human progress.
  • Megatrend Connectivity
    The Megatrend Connectivity describes the dominant basic pattern of social change in the 21st century: the principle of networking based on digital infrastructure. Connected communication technologies are fundamentally changing our lives, work and economies. They reprogram sociocultural codes and bring forth new lifestyles, behavior patterns and business models.
  • Megatrend Individualisation
    The Megatrend Individualisation reflects the central cultural principle of our current times: self-realisation within a uniquely designed individuality. It is driven by the increase of personal freedoms and individual self-determination. This also re-negotiates the relationship between the self and the collective. The significance of new communities is growing, giving a new face to individualisation in the future.
  • Megatrend Mobility
    The Megatrend Mobility describes the creation of a mobile world culture, changes through new products and services, and the future use of transportation.
  • Megatrend Security
    Security is a particularly paradoxical Megatrend: We feel like there are constantly new risks and dangers from different spheres, but in fact we live in the safest of all times. And the safer we actually are, the more intensively we perceive insecurity, especially in times of increasing connectivity and global upheavals. In the 21st century, the question of what security means and who is responsible for it will be fundamentally renegotiated—and the topic of resilience continues to gain relevance.
  • Megatrend New Work
    What does the future of New Work look like, what developments is the Megatrend driving and how does the change impact the future work world?
  • Megatrend Neo-Ecology
    The Megatrend Neo-Ecology describes the new values in all aspects, as sustainability fundamentally realigns society, economy and companies.
  • Megatrend Knowledge Culture
    The world is becoming smarter: global education levels are higher than ever and are continuing to grow almost everywhere. Fueled by the Megatrend Connectivity, our understanding of the world and the way we interact with information is changing. Education is becoming more digital. Cooperative and decentralised structures for knowledge generation are spreading, and our understanding of knowledge, its creation and dissemination, is increasing.
  • Megatrend Silver Society
    The world is getting older, with people staying fit for longer. The Megatrend Silver Society describes the diverse impacts of this demographic change, which poses huge challenges for society but also opens up great opportunities for new socio-cultural vitality. To successfully manage the demographic transformation, new social and economic conditions and a new mindset towards aging are needed.
  • Megatrend Urbanisation
    The Megatrend Urbanisation describes the growing number of people living in cities worldwide, making them the most important living spaces of the future. Cities are more than just places; they are hyper-complex, dynamic systems, important problem-solvers of global challenges, creative centres of pluralistic society, hub of the globalised economy and increasingly powerful political actors.

The Megatrend Map: An overview for better clarity

Work on the future is based on the interaction of reflection and forecasting, aimed at new insights. By observing the present, the patterns of change and their future potential can be analysed. This requires a holistic-systemic understanding of societal change processes. The future institute's Megatrend Map helps to keep track of things: as a visualisation of change processes, it highlights the most important current trend phenomena that are affecting one or more Megatrends.

Thus, the Megatrend Map creates a framework to make the many simultaneous processes in their complexity tangible. By tracing connections, parallels and intersections of trend dynamics, it allows for a better, intuitive understanding of individual phenomena and relationships. Ultimately, the map thus guarantees a 360-degree view against blind spots: not because it claims to fully reflect current developments, but by providing a grid for answering different future questions. This makes the Megatrend Map a central element of Megatrend Documentation – and a powerful tool for future planning.

Understanding society with Megatrends

The Megatrend System of the Zukunftsinstitut is a fundamental pillar of work in trend and future research. It describes and categorises complex, long-term change processes with enormous dimensions and effects. Megatrends do not act unidimensionally, but are diverse and complex. They unfold their dynamics in a cross-sectional manner, across all social and economic sectors. Megatrends also do not act in isolation, but influence each other and mutually reinforce their impact.

For example, the Megatrend Silver Society is not only driven by demographic change, but also by the Megatrend Health. The Megatrend New Work is significantly shaped by the increasing digital connectivity that drives the Megatrend Connectivity, as well as by a new role for women in business and society, as described in the Megatrend Gender Shift. And the Megatrend Urbanisation has a decisive impact on both the Megatrend Mobility and the Megatrend Neo-Ecology, as the most energy on the planet is consumed in growing cities and many environmental problems are most pressing there.

Megatrends are not just surface movements, but deep currents of change. They are multidimensional phenomena that arise from a multitude of individual trends and at the same time always produce countertrends—which in turn create interplay through recursion. This makes Megatrends so multi-layered, complex and powerful for social change. As a result of Megatrends, which unfold long-term in principle, rapid breakthroughs with disruptive developments can also occur.

Early preparation for these upheavals is a central requirement for actively shaping the future. Therefore, knowledge of the megatrends and their different subtrends, as well as their proper categorisation and individual assessment, is essential to recognise and use trend dynamics.

The significance of Megatrends for the economy

As the largest drivers of change, Megatrends create epochal changes that shape the economy not only in the short term but also in the medium to long term. Although they unfold their dynamics over decades, they can also be the basis for relatively rapid breakthroughs in markets and for disruptions. They reshape entire societies over the long term and often force entire industries to realign their structures and business models. Working with Megatrends is therefore an essential tool for management and strategic planning.

One of the most important skills in strategic work with trends is to be able to distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant - for example, in observing avant-gardes, niche phenomena, small innovations or start-ups that do something fundamentally different and successful. Trends do not arise in a vacuum, they do not suddenly appear, but develop gradually. And often they are expressions of a broader societal change.

The challenge accordingly lies in the continuous observation of various social, cultural and economic developments, in the analysis of change processes and in the recognition of social patterns. Here, it is important to sharpen one's focus to address general questions at first:

  • What is substantively new?
  • What is just a short-term hype?
  • What is medium- to long-term relevant?

The Megatrend System provides a comprehensive and diverse overview of the changes that influence our world today and in the future. Companies can use this trend knowledge to translate specific questions into future strategies. Increasingly, highly dynamic changes in the environment force more and more companies to constantly question and realign their strategies, business models, processes, products and offerings, organisational forms, communication structures and much more. Trends and Megatrends serve as a means to an end - as beacons in the dark: their description and analysis provides orientation and security in a world that offers more and more points of reference and potential for change.

Understanding Megatrends, recognising potentials, and taking advantage of opportunities

If you want to be successful tomorrow, it is important to lay the foundation today. Only with a clear understanding of the possibilities of the future can you recognise your individual potentials. Whether you want to align your own company with the future, place yourself and your organisation as visionaries in the forefront, need security for long-term planning and investments, or simply want to know where the world is heading: use the Megatrends of the Zukunftsinstitut!

Visit our shop or contact us directly to develop your Individual Megatrend Map, for example. It quickly and effectively identifies the most important trends for your organisation. Our team would be happy to find out how this effective tool can help you focus on the developments that are really relevant to you.