2021 Trends Leaders Predict Will Upend The Culture Space - Rolling Stone
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12 Trends Leaders Predict Will Upend the Culture Space in 2021

The new year may see even greater upheavals in how we live, work and play.

12 leaders from the Culture Council share 2021 trends.12 leaders from the Culture Council share 2021 trends.

Photos courtesy of the members.

Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.

Few could have predicted the many challenges businesses have faced since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. After a public health crisis and months of social and political unrest, many business leaders have been looking to the new year for a much-needed sigh of relief.

However, January 1st is unlikely to mark a full return to “normal.” So as we approach the final weeks of 2020, we asked members of Rolling Stone Culture Council from a variety of industries about the trends they predict we’ll see more of in 2021, and what leaders can do to prepare for the changes ahead.

The Adoption of a More Global Mindset

The advance of technology is enabling more and more fascinating ways in which we can engage with arts and culture. The pandemic has forced institutions to focus on remote experiences, which means 2021 will be the year that they won’t be constrained to their physical footprint, and are able to adopt a truly global mindset, no matter how large or small. – Jon Meggitt, Arcade

A Greater Focus on Social Impact

Now, more than ever, our society is paying attention to cultural and social issues. As an angel investor, companies with social impact catch my attention. As a founder and leader, my business partners and I consistently encourage our teams to be cognizant of the social impact their work makes. Leaders across various industries must adapt to changing times and encourage social impact and community engagement within their companies. – Lisa Song Sutton, Elite Homes Christie’s International Real Estate

A Shift Toward Personalized Solutions

People are going to be looking for and demanding more personalized, one-to-one solutions. They want to go out, but they will not risk their safety to do so. While these needs may not be seen as disruptive, our current environment will certainly accelerate the need to provide consumers with innovative options around safety, cleanliness and social distancing. The need for personalization will not be focused on the behemoth brands that have taken to the front line, but on marketplaces of individuals and small businesses where consumers can pick and choose their own experiences. – Ed Buckley, Peerfit

A Stronger Commitment to Work-Life Balance

The world will see a dramatic change in the workplace environment. More focus will be on the commitment to a healthy work-life balance as decentralized offices and remote work processes will forever become the normal. This represents significant challenges for corporations and many businesses. Establishing and maintaining a remote work culture that brings excitement and inclusiveness and drives teamwork, while also representing the “culture” of respected organizations, is not going to be easy. It will take time and innovative thought leaders who are focused on embracing the challenges with people-centric solutions. – Ronald Pruitt, Empericus, LLC

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A New Definition of ‘Success’

I think that there will be a significant shift in how we define success. There will be a new emphasis on personal growth and development. People will be encouraged to shift their focus to how to become better and more fulfilled than they are today. This will be driven by the impact of technology and the need for humans to feel needed. The onus will be on leaders to demonstrate that they are investing in their staff and in their personal growth, regardless of how much they contribute to the bottom line. – Andrew Sampson, Rainway

A Redesigned Music and Performance Experience

I predict there will be many performance venues that will have to close their doors. To prepare, existing venues will have to create events that appeal to a diverse group of consumers. I predict shows that have multiple headliners, as well as the creation of more day-long festivals that will bring in a larger audience and spread out the cost of bringing in high-dollar performers. – Benji McPhail, The Colorado Sound

A Desire for Higher-Quality, Cause-Driven Products

If 2020 has taught us something, it’s that we don’t need that much. We don’t need to travel that much. We don’t need to run around all the time. We also don’t need all the stuff we thought we needed. We’ve experienced powerful social uprisings that have taught us that we have a lot more work to do when it comes to inclusivity and equality. We’ve also made leaps of progress in our environmental awareness over the past few years — people are done with polluting the climate and are trying hard to be better. So one trend I predict for 2021 is that consumers will decide that “less is more” and that the few things they buy should matter much more. We will be seeing a consumer outcry for better products, with social and environmental responsibility. How can leaders prepare? Get your inside acts together. Do the work. Hold yourself accountable. Become a B Corp. The future will be better. – Nina Faulhaber, ADAY

A Reversal of Urbanization

A reversal of three centuries of urbanization will revolutionize art, music and culture. Live virtual events will be the great equalizer. No longer do you have to be in New York or Los Angeles to shape culture — you can do it from anywhere in the world. Leaders need to be looking for great talent wherever they are and be more mindful that talent is evenly distributed around the globe even though opportunity historically has not been. – Steven Galanis, Cameo

A Heightened Distrust of Organizations

I believe that as a result of the pandemic and the political situation in the United States, a heightened distrust of organizations has emerged. Now, more than ever, people are second-guessing the motives and intentions of organizations. Trust, which was previously a given, must now be earned. Leaders will have to build relationships with customers and clients based on shared values in order to earn their loyalty. For example, in the fashion world, it’s no longer “do you look good.” It’s about “what do you stand for?” The question of shared values will impact a customer or client’s perception of trust. Sustainability and transparency will become more important in fashion. – Catalina Girald, Naja

New Virtual, AI-Guided Arts Experiences

The future of the arts sector will be more digital, more accessible and more distributed. It has only been two decades since the birth of Google, and we’re not even close to understanding the full power of the internet. Moreover, we haven’t even scratched the surface of where the physical and digital world intersect. It’s only a matter of time before we arrive at distributed, virtual experiences that transcend the four walls. Into the future, we will see AI-curated exhibitions and AI-guided experiences that adapt to the personal tastes and preferences of the viewer. There is untapped potential for public and private collections to fully enter the digital realm, not merely with static images, but with brilliantly interactive, virtual worlds that provide access to the broadest public. – Brendan Ciecko, Cuseum

A Normalization of Cannabis

More people will publicly acknowledge they consume cannabis, thus normalizing weed more and more in 2021 and the years to come. Cannabis sales are up amid the pandemic, and many think this is because more people are looking to weed to help them deal with the anxiety and unknowns presented by the pandemic. When they fully learn how much the plant is helping them in the weeks and months ahead, they will become more vocal about it, and this will have a meaningful impact on the culture space and the workplace alike. Where state law permits, leaders of industries can prepare by ensuring their employment handbooks and drug policies are adjusted properly, removing cannabis from the list of prohibited substances, while also putting in rules to make sure colleagues remain sober during work hours. – Ricardo Baca, Grasslands: A Journalism-Minded Agency

An Altered Return to In-Person Interactions

I think we will shift from a fully virtual world to a partially virtual world. This will lead to people in the office two days a week, companies having safe quarterly or monthly off-sites and structured, short, in-person meetings with customers or clients. All of this will require people to prepare more often because time in person will be so much more valuable. Creating a cadence and process to support that preparation, and a strategy to execute and measure the value of the time, will be a major advantage. – Dan Healy, PickUp

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