15 Shifts That Happened in 2016: The Year When Business Became Fun Again

Our take on Medium’s Posts From The Near Future series – a bunch of stories, essays, reports, comics or fiction that looks forward into the coming year of 2016

For too long we’ve followed the Business 1.0 rulebook which goes something like this:

  • Spot a gap in the market
  • Find ‘killer idea’
  • Launch product or service to address the opportunity
  • Develop a sales and marketing strategy
  • Market to customers
  • Sales come in
  • You build your team
  • The company grows
  • Decisions are made based on what’s right for ‘the company’ and shareholders
  • Investors sniff around
  • And so it goes

To the edge

However recently we have seen a dramatic shift in the business landscape. In pockets all over the world, a new breed of entrepreneur has been experimenting with new ways of working and building businesses.

One where the new rules no longer apply.

Whilst many from the traditional world still don’t quite get this shift and think it’s a bunch of business hippies who don’t know what they’re doing — creative people and trend forecasters know that innovation happens at the edges – and this is where things are changing, fast.

So don’t look to the ivory towers of big business for your crystal ball, but the places where startups and digital nomads are exploring what’s possible when work becomes effortless and business becomes fun again.

So to help you plan ahead here are 15 shifts that became mainstream in 2016 – the year of the monkey – where business got the monkey off its back.

  1. From Opportunities to Needs
    We hear a lot in business circles about spotting opportunities, but for a new idea to come into the world it should start with the needs of the founder, the holder of the vision. Forget a gap in the market and focus instead on what it is you need to bring into the world, and why.
  2. From Work to Play
    The lines are now firmly blurred between work and play. We’re at our best, most creative selves when work feels like play. Who said business had to be serious? Startups from our community like Funbase, Unknown Epic and Collab&Play are leading the way.
  3. From Profits to Values
    In the age of the Purpose Economy no longer are we just listening to the money men. Millennial are choosing jobs based on ethics not salaries, customers are buying goods based on stories not cost alone. As Umair Haque says “We’re on the cusp of a values-driven revolution.”
  4. From Work-life balance to Wholeness
    In his book Reinventing Organisations, Frederic Laloux talks about the importance of bringing our whole selves to work and not saving the real us for the margins of life. Business has now woken up to this — expect more soulful workplaces where communal meals play a central part, pets and family are welcome and conversations are honest.
  5. From Competition to Collaboration
    Even the best individual efforts will struggle to solve today’s complex and interconnected problems. Find partners and co-creators to make a difference and leave your ego at the door. Collaborate don’t compete. Our growing community is proof of this — start with a helping hand and many more doors open.
  6. From Customers to Fans
    Which people will be so passionate about your business that they’ll be your superfans — coming back regularly and telling their friends? Or another way of thinking about it is who will love you so much that they’ll get a tattoo of your company? Extreme maybe but that’s the depth of feeling you want.
  7. From Audience to Community
    Marketing is dead. Now’s the time time to build a community around your business. A tribe of passionate followers that believe in your mission and love you as much for your story as your product. We’re seeing more and more companies developing loyal followings, where customer lifetime value, not individual sales are the focus.
  8. From Strategy to Culture
    Employees don’t get excited about financial targets. A clear purpose that connects everyone’s needs and a team of fellow crusaders is the foundation to build upon. And as you grow ‘don’t fuck up the culture’.
  9. From Planning to Improvising
    Analytical thinking is just one approach for business. Now more and more leaders are realising that responding to change in a complex world isn’t ‘winging it’, but rather tuning into inner wisdom and gut feeling — underrated skills in this data-driven culture, until now.
  10. From VCs to Crowdfunding
    The likes of Crowdcube and Seedrs (in the UK) are leading the way in new models of investment for companies. And groundbreaking share initiatives like Brewdog’s Equity for Punks are allowing passionate fans to invest in their favourite brands.
  11. From Invincible to Vulnerable
    Showing your human side will endear people to you and build trust. There’s a reason why psychopaths make great CEOs, don’t be one of them. Stop ‘doing business’ and start being human.
  12. From Ruthlessness to Kindness
    Forget the Donald Trump’s and Alan Sugar’s of this world, not only is it important to do the right thing, it makes perfect business sense. Don’t believe us? Watch this.
  13. From Deskbound to Free Range
    Time in the office makes you sick and tired, we are the free range, office not required. Run from the madness release your inner child, join in the movement and get back to the wild.” Jack HubbardOffice not required
  14. From Conferenceszzz to Transformational Experiences
    More and more of us are craving more meaningful experiences and deeper connections than we ever could get in a stuffy, soulless conference centre. Watch as learning retreats become mainstream.
  15. From Short-termism to Going the distance
    No longer are we all focused on quick fixes and IPOs. Now it’s not so strange to build the company you wouldn’t sell and focus on legacy not exit. The new rulebook allows for a much slower pace. It’s ok to grow slow, what’s the rush?

What will you be doing differently in 2016 to push things forward?

Read next: Ditch the rulebook, it's time business got back to basics ››

"F**k unicorns, build the company you wouldn't sell"