I'm a big fan of the New York Times Magazine annual Year in Ideas issue. It uncovers both magical oddities and major shifts in consumer wants and needs (aka: trends). Here are my five favorites from their A>Z index of how our world is changing.
- Good Enough Is the New Great. An idea I've been looking for words for - basically, "Companies that had focused mainly on improving the technical quality of their products have started to notice that, for many consumers, 'ease of use, continuous availability and low price" are more important'." Think Flickr, YouTube, iPods (vs. photo books, high def and stereos.) Today, it's often more about what's easy than what's the very best. That's a game changer.
- An Advertisement that Watches You. Maybe an oddity for now or maybe where our world is going. Using a camera and face-tracking software, a poster in a Berlin bus shelter changed its content this year based on whether or not people were paying attention to it. Look away and the graphics change in your peripheral. The technology is improving all the time. Now it can even identify the sex of a passerby and dynamically change the graphics to match.
- Random Promotions. You've heard, of course, of The Peter Principle - people are promoted to their level of incompetence. If you're good at doing, you get promoted to managing; good at managing, you get promoted to leading. Despite the fact that those three functions require entirely different skills. And, then you're stuck in that role until you use up all the equity that got you there. A new study found that promoting people entirely random improves the overall efficiency of a firm. So much for merit.
- Printable Batteries. You probably remember Entertainment Weekly running the first video ad in a print publication this year. The technology to print those video ads is surprising accessible. The challenge has been how to power them. The solution is to print batteries too. This year, a research team at the Fraunhofer Research Institution for Electronic Nano Systems revealed a 0.6-millimeter-thick battery.
- Subscription Artists. I love it when social gets all practical. You've probably heard of productive crowdsourced business models, like Edison Nation, iStock and Innocentive and do-good ones like Kiva and Microplace. A relatively new player in the field offers the best of both - it's Kickstarter. It offers artists a chance to put together business plans and engage subscribers or funders to pay for it. For perhaps the first time, an artist can quickly answer a nagging question: Does anyone actually want my art badly enough to pay for it?