What Are Your Sure Bets for the Future?

Last Updated Apr 16, 2008 10:09 AM EDT

What Are Your Sure Bets For The Future?Harvard Business Review Editor Thomas A. Stewart has a thought-provoking list for you to contemplate, and its title doesn't lack for confidence: 9 Sure Bets For The Future.
To give you a flavor, here are three of the nine trends Stewart thinks are sure enough for you to start placing business bets on:
  1. Energy will cost a lot. All businesses will have to operate under some form of carbon constraint.
  2. Multiculturalism and multiracialism will reshape cultural identity in both the U.S. and Europe.
  3. Even as intellectual property becomes more valuable, IP rights will erode.
All nine picks, he says, boil down to this: globalization, digitization, decarbonization.

Obvious, you say. Of course the world is heading toward an era of energy constraints. Of course intellectual property rights are under attack by digital technologies. What's the big?

Words Into Action
But obvious doesn't automatically translate into action. In May of 1995, Bill Gates wrote his famous "Internet Tidal Wave" memo, which alerted top Microsoft brass to Gates' opinion that the Internet was the most important single development since the IBM PC and that the company needed to focus its full attention on the competitive opportunities and threats. Remember, this was before Google, before HTML became a standard, before AJAX, and before Amazon.com, which launched later that year.

In other words, Gates was envisioning at just the right time. But you already know the rest of the story: Microsoft lost its competitive stranglehold on the technology sector, thanks in significant part to late and misguided plays on the Internet.

OK, so Tom Stewart has had his opportunity to play swami. Your turn.

What does your crystal ball tell you are can't miss trends, the clear business winners, if you play them right? What themes and platforms are emerging right this minute that are worth a significant business bet? Energy efficiency? Open source innovation? The iPhone? 3G in the US?, User-generated content? Kindle? Atom? Search?

Help us place some smart bets.

(Image by Jam Adams, CC 2.0)

  • Sean Silverthorne

    Sean Silverthorne is the editor of HBS Working Knowledge, which provides a first look at the research and ideas of Harvard Business School faculty. Working Knowledge, which won a Webby award in 2007, currently records 4 million unique visitors a year. He has been with HBS since 2001.

    Silverthorne has 28 years experience in print and online journalism. Before arriving at HBS, he was a senior editor at CNET and executive editor of ZDNET News. While at At Ziff-Davis, Silverthorne also worked on the daily technology TV show The Site, and was a senior editor at PC Week Inside, which chronicled the business of the technology industry. He has held several reporting and editing roles on a variety of newspapers, and was Investor Business Daily's first journalist based in Silicon Valley.