We have all learned this past year that trying to predict the future is a highly risky endeavor. But that doesn’t stop us from trying.

Every January, the Executives’ Club of Chicago invites a panel of experts to help business leaders and investors navigate the coming year by predicting the major economic trends. Last January, for the most part, they didn’t do so great. But they were at it again recently.

My best take-aways came from one of the panelists, author and former Wall Streeter “Dr. Bob” Froehlich. Here is his summation of the four key trends to watch in the next twelve months:

  1. Work from Home: What was supposed to be a brief recess has turned into a way of life. While many people are feeling very frustrated and trapped at home, at the same time, many are also enjoying some aspects of this integrated lifestyle. Dr. Bob predicts that many people will choose to continue working from home, at least part-time.
    Takeaway: Employers who want to retain their top talent will need to offer flexible scheduling.
  2. Woke-Up Time: The word “woke” has become politically charged, but it’s definition — “awareness of injustice” — shouldn’t be. In Dr. Bob’s opinion, it is becoming a corporate necessity.
    Takeaway: Employees, customers, and investors are making decisions based on whether they see a company acting in a socially aware and responsible manner.
  3. Digging from China: After years of turning to China as “the world’s factory,” many companies found their supply chains were highly disrupted because of over-reliance on Chinese production.    
    Takeaway: While companies will continue to use Chinese manufacturing, they will move to diversify their suppliers, turning especially to other Asian countries.
  4. FOGO:  … Or “Fear of Going Out.” It is the opposite of the popular term of the past few years, FOMO, or  Fear of Missing Out. People used to be afraid of staying home because they would miss what’s going on in the world. Now they’re afraid of going out because they’ll get sick. In this, the 2020 predictions were correct — even if the reason changed. Last year’s panel predicted that JOMO, or the Joy of Missing Out, would be the phrase of 2020.
    Takeaway: Consumers will spend their money on comfortable pajamas and lounge attire.

So, there it is. It will be interesting to look back from the vantage point of January 2022 and see whether these predictions proved to be accurate.  

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