The Times They Are A’Changing




A couple of weeks ago The Oxford Dictionary announced its word of 2016. For the first time ever it wasn’t a word, it was a smiley face so beloved of texters and tweeters around the globe. This one to be precise:


So a sure sign of the times we live in when the English word of the year isn’t a word at all but an emoji – a symbol or image first created in Japan in the late 1990s.

This ‘Face with Tears of Joy’ did seem like a surprising winner only days after the horrific terror attacks in Paris and the daily onslaught of depressing media images from Greece, Turkey, Syria and Iraq. However perhaps it’s a reassuring sign that youngsters across the globe are sending out positive uplifting messages to one another in their thousands despite everything that’s going on in the world around them.
But it got me thinking.

If that’s the ‘word’ of 2016 in the world at large, what’s the word of 2016 in the business world? What are the key words and hence key challenges/opportunities for 2016 and beyond?

The word that sprung to mind was CHANGE.

Not incremental change. Not change as it used to be – a structural re-organisation or a change at the top of the company – but transformational change. This is about turning the business world on its head, switching 180 degrees, viewing things through a totally different lens because the business world is changing faster than we can possibly imagine.

The workplace is changing.

  • Digitisation continues apace meaning globalisation is now the norm.
  • Once upon a time we thought people were our greatest asset. Is that still the case or have information and data overtaken them? Discuss.
  • Forget virtual teams – they’re so noughties – these days virtual businesses are becoming more and more common. Who needs a physical shop or a physical office?
  • Disruptive businesses also grow apace. In my day the word ‘disruptive’ was associated with badly behaved children in the classroom. Nowadays it applies to revolutionary business models such as those used by Airbnb, Uber and Crowdfunder to name but a famous, established few.
  • Companies no longer talk about work/life balance, they talk about work/life integration as technology and 24/7 communication eliminate the historic barriers between these worlds.

Technology continues to amaze.

  • 3D printing will soon be available to the masses. Next up: printers using edible media to print actual food such as custom designs in chocolate or candy.
  • Autonomous cars are becoming more stylish and more affordable – a growing headache for the regulators of the future.
  • Augmented reality is becoming a reality and will dramatically change the world of the marketer and the advertiser.
  • Gadgets are becoming ever smarter and ever more connected – think yoga mat speaking to your phone.

The customer is changing.

  • Customers are ever savvier. They google, search and analyse their own data to come up with their own theories and solutions
  • They give instant, challenging feedback and expect an immediate response
  • They trade personal information for private gain
  • They want to be involved, to co-create, to co-produce, to co-pilot, even to co-fund new ventures
  • They demand to be engaged and to be entertained

Customer relevance is paramount and the customer really is King

Last but not least…

The workforce is changing.

2015/16 will be the first year Gen Z starts work.

If Baby Boomer Bosses struggled with Gen Y, they’ve got a very different challenge on their hands right now.

On the plus side, Gen Z are:

  • Keen to work. According to a study by Sparks and Honey “entrepreneurship is in their DNA.” Interestingly the brand Lucozade called them “self-starters, not selfie-takers
  • The first truly digital generation – they grew up with Smartphones and expect interactivity
  • Socially and environmentally conscious – they want to make a positive impact and make a difference in the world
  • More mature than Gen Y – alcohol use, drug use, smoking and teenage pregnancies are at their lowest level for decades.


  • They have very limited attention spans
  • They are permanently connected so easily distracted
  • They are opinionated and demanding of their employers
  • They can be a little slapdash in their communication (what’s wrong with shortcuts?) hence their favourite forms of communication are instant messaging, pictures, video and of course emoticons.

No wonder ‘Face with tears of joy’ was The Oxford Dictionary word of 2016.


So the business word of 2016 will be CHANGE – radical, revolutionary, transformational CHANGE.

In order to stay in the game, let alone be several steps ahead, businesses will need to review their entire structures, models and processes from the outside in – to be entirely customer-centric.

What that means is to truly digitise – understand their customer base using data, connect and engage with their customers in the digital space, use new technologies to improve productivity, efficiencies and communication and ultimately connect to a wider digital ecosystem – and their new go-getting Gen Z employees can certainly help them in their quest.

Theresa Coligan is the founder of The Coaching Project offering transformational Coaching services to senior leaders in organisations, small to medium-sized business owners and entrepreneurs.

One of her key specialist areas is Leading Through Change from facilitating strategic development workshops though aligning internal and external communication to maximising engagement and buy-in from the team.

Having spent 18 years in the advertising and media industry (10+ at board and executive board level), many of her clients are in the creative industries but she also has extensive experience in many different areas such as retail, FMCG, finance, construction, recruitment, entertainment and gaming.

For more information please visit her website at www.thecoachingproject.co.uk, e-mail her at theresa@thecoachingproject.co.uk or call her on 07740 030677.

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