At the turn of every year, our inclination is to make a list of top trends to watch. Yet, there are some trends that are undercurrents and reveal over time. They are value-based shifts which yield cultural changes and affect business as we know it. No need to wait for December 2019 — earmark Gen Z values as signals of change.
Here’s an A.T. Kearney report noting that Gen Z is turning away from social media and in fact stepping into brick and mortar stores. According to this study, 81% of Gen Z prefers to shop in stores, and 73% like to discover new products in stores. A Gartner study provides further support suggesting that marketers look for Gen Z in second tier social media networks. They don’t like branded, crowded digital spaces.
Gen Z is picking up the baton from millennials and raising the bar. This is more than a preference for conscientious shopping from green brands. It’s a firm ‘no’ to pushy, canned marketing. Earning Gen Z’s trust and loyalty will take more than banner ads. Marketers will need to rely on the fundamentals: good product/service, positive experiences and a pledge to do the right thing.
The activist movement on climate change continues. Every day, I continue to read articles and posts about Greta and her piercing speeches. But I’d also like to point to a subtlety that’s making a difference here, at least in NY circles. This is the message parents with children in public schools received prior to the school strike. Department of Education, along with public schools, enabled parents and teachers who wanted to teach their children about advocacy. Not only you could be excused from school, but some schools even coordinated transportation and pick up. Yes, there is a lot to be said and admired about the power of ‘one’ in the protest events where Gen Z students walked out following Greta. But support from key institutions is what brings about trues change and catapults movements to new heights.
When discussing futurism with a colleague, he said he didn’t believe in predictions but relied on history. Fair. I also think we do not need to make lofty call outs to see how our future might shape but rather pay attention to the shifts happening now.
Demographic changes constitute a fundamental fray in the way populations will change their purchase , media and voting habits among others. With Gen Z emerging as the most diverse generation with pronounced socially-conscientious values, we will see a diversity in consumer choices as well. Expect a surge in new flavors from different cultures, blended products, willingness to pay a premium for the ‘right’ service (e.g., those who provide equal and fair pay to their employees) and green votes.
The packaged food brands are pedaling to respond to the ever growing self-care, healthy living and eco-consciousness trends by looking for plant-based ingredients and alternatives. Givaudan, a global taste and scent innovation company, partnered with University of Berkeley to develop a framework and evaluate the next set of proteins that are likely to be on shelves. The evaluation considers ingredients for commercial viability, supply, regulatory conditions as well as taste. Oats and mung beans have gotten the most ‘green lights’ out of the six that rose to the top of the evaluation. To read more about this research, click here.
Facebook has developed an algorithm that can work back from a food picture to ingredients. Then it delivers the gourmand photographer the recipe. This technology can elevate ethnographic/food/beverage research to new heights — as researchers gather photos across demographic groups and locations, they can see which ingredients are emerging and establishing themselves as crowd favorites.
One of the first things I remember studying in the US as an international student of sociology was the ‘Protestant Work Ethic.’ This was the work culture of the US, inherited from the Puritans — who associated hard work with redemption. Whether you’re Protestant or not, you emphasize work not time away from work read the subtext. Obviously there are variations to this tune depending on generation, geography, upbringing as well as the office culture among other factors. Nonetheless, I was not surprised to read that more than half of American American workers do not use all their paid vacation days (source: US Travel Association).
In a survey released in May by Discover and cited by the Wall Street Journal in June, 71% said they were planning a summer vacation this year, a notable increase from 58% last year. Now, what people say and do may vary. It will be interesting to look back and see how American workers used their time off in 2019. But if they do take their paid time off, this may signify boosts in
Building on what I had been pontificating and sharing on AI and autism-related research, I came across this break through from Princeton University. According to the report on the study, ” The method sorted among 120,000 mutations to find those that affect the behavior of genes in people with autism. Although the results do not reveal exact causes of cases of autism, they reveal thousands of possible contributors for researchers to study. ”
Here’s why and how AI saved thousands and thousands of dollars of research budget, not to mention precious time to arrive at robust findings:
“Prior to this computational achievement, the conventional way to glean such information would be painstaking laboratory experiments on each sequence and each possible mutation in that sequence. This number of possible functions and mutations is too big to contemplate — an experimental approach would require testing each mutation against more than 2,000 types of protein interactions and repeating those experiments over and over across tissues and cell types, amounting to hundreds of millions of experiments. Other research groups have sought to accelerate this discovery by applying machine learning to targeted sections of DNA, but had not achieved the ability to look at each DNA unit and each possible mutation and the effects on each of more than 2,000 regulatory interactions across the whole genome.
“What our paper really allows you to do is take all those possibilities and rank them,” said Park. “That prioritization itself is very useful, because now you can also go ahead and do the experiments in just the highest priority cases.”
Lastly, the system calibrates its predictions based on known disease-causing mutations and develops a “disease impact score,” an assessment of how likely a given mutation is to have an effect on disease.”
The sample of families who participated in the study was under n=1,800. It’s not too large, but strong enough for analytics. It goes to show us the efficacy of the method as well. The announcement also notes that the same method could be applied to cancer research and heart disease as well. This is an incredible step forward for humanity.
I hate the puzzle. As a mom and a data-driven person, I don’t understand why we cannot solve for the autism puzzle when 1 in 59 children in the US are diagnosed with autism and the diagnoses are increasing exponentially. I hear it’s so variable, so multi-factorial and if you meet one individual on the spectrum, you meet one person on the spectrum. True. But have we ever shied away for solving for multi-faceted problems for brands who were willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a single measurement project? I would argue that we do have the statistical skills and life science knowledge to solve for autism. We lack the data.
We lack the kind of robust datasets that connect the dots between all that our children are exposed to and all that they show and do. When we have these threads of data, we can test for a myriad of variances simultaneously leveraging AI driven data science platforms. While a typical scientific study may be testing 1-5 hypotheses, we can go through 100s of hypotheses with AI in one study and quickly improve upon our knowledge.
My hope is for organizations such as the NJ AutismCenter of Excellence, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Duke University, Epidemic Answers and others (e.g., ABA agencies) who are at the frontiers of this issue to be able to pool the data we need in this field. We need to understand why our children are having sensory motor issues that lead to behaviors. We need to tease out the environment’s impact on autism. And we need to empower our practitioners to optimize on therapies (ABA, speech, OT) and alternative interventions (homeopathy, neuro feedback, acupressure, etc. ) so that our children can have happy, productive lives.
If you needed a bit of help and support, would you be more likely to talk to a robot than a live therapist? WoeBot and Wysa apps are just two apps at the forefront of AI-based therapies providing patients with cognitive behavior therapy on demand.
Wondering how the idea would resonate, I pressure tested this concept among my family and friend circle. Guess what happened: the introverts lit up at the idea! For them, opening up to a person who might layer more judgment and stress to the process (however unintentional it may be) was adding to their emotional burden. Talking to a ‘machine’ to get answers was actually opening up the path to therapy for these individuals. Of course we still need to see data on how effective the bots are vs live therapists— broken across issues and challenges. Then there is the issue of insurance coverage and process. Maybe this is a good way to side step it all!
If AI-based therapy helps people who otherwise would not have sought help, wouldn’t we be closer to finding balance and peace? What do you think?