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Guest speaker Helen Webb, Lady Val Corbett, workshop facilitator Andy Lopata

Today’s speaker at Lady Val Corbett’s Network Lunch in London was Helen Webb and she gave us a great deal of food for thought with her explanation about the far reaching power of the Megatrend .. that’s something a bit more stealthy and world-changing than a simple trend or fashion fad.

Power of Storytelling

Lady Val manages to book some really excellent speakers for her lunches and it’s always fascinating as a speaker myself to see how they approach a presentation. Helen started hers with a story which is both a successful and engaging technique for winning over an audience and also gave her the opportunity to draw our attention to the power of Storytelling as a key trend in communication today. How much do you use this in your own business? Could you use it more? Helen recounted how Lady Val had approached her by email asking her to be a speaker but how her initial response was to think the email was a scam and she resisted opening the attachment. She invited Lady Val to call her .. if she was a real person .. which indeed she is as Helen found out the next day when Val made the call!

Another key trend Helen says is loss of trust!  Gone are the days when we simply trusted people with, and in, power. Lies and half-truths have been relentlessly exposed so now we are much more cautious. That’s why building up your contacts and connections inside a trusted community like Val’s network is really useful. And yes .. it is wise NOT to open attachments unless you are CERTAIN you know the sender .. and even then, maybe not!!  🙂  

Using your Superpower

We all have our superpowers and it is immensely helpful when you are fully aware of what that they are for you. Clearly, Helen’s superpowers include Strategy, Problem-Solving and Vision in her own consultancy and as a non-exec director.  She was the UK MD of lastminute.com, a hugely disrupting influence in the travel industry that everyone must be aware of. It was a real game-changing business. Among the interesting things she has done, she has written a photography book with the beautiful title, Shoot The Baby, and as part of her passion for history and old buildings, has renovated a Tudor house and now sits on the board of the Landmark Trust. If you want to explore travelling to REALLY interesting places that are usually well off the popular map .. then check out their website.

Preparing a 20th century business into the 21st century

It seems that again we have an example of something that is not “too big to fail”. The veteran British travel company, originator of that oh-so-familiar package holiday, and dating back to the 1840s,  went bankrupt a few days before. Reflecting on that we can see that it was very much a success in the last century but the leaders in that organisation failed to see, or adapt to, the fast-changing conditions of this new millennium. Here is a new word for you .. disintermediation .. which basically means taking out the middleman and of course if this is happening to you, like Thomas Cook, then you are going to have to find a new role in the marketplace. Today, thanks to the leaps of ecommerce and digital technology, we can book virtually anything direct or via a platform that is not a physical shop with an agent.

Defining a Megatrend

Helen called this a “pattern of activity which has a major impact on people, business, the broader economy and our society over the long term”. When it is a MEGA trend, its effect is far-reaching, and relentless and stealthy in its growth over time. Think of the ageing time bomb we have known about for several decades as our society has got much older while we are all able to live longer. Fads can gain popularity quickly and while a trend lasts longer, the megatrends grow and develop over many years and are extremely hard, or impossible, to reverse.

Video is a big Megatrend

We have all witnessed the growth of Youtube .. but did you quite realise that it is the second most visited website in the world now with over 5 billion videos watched every single day?!  Do you have a presence on Youtube? Are you publishing something as written copy that could alternatively, or in addition, be broadcast as a video?  It’s the millennials who are driving this visual culture and I find it is helpful in a room full of older folks planning something, to get a ‘younger perspective’ .. and they will often say .. “why don’t you do that as a video?”!  We don’t always see the possibilities and can have a video blindspot.  Helen recommends checking out Fiverr, a platform for creative work that is done by suppliers, based all over the world … another example of industry-changing globalisation and tech enabling us to access talent anywhere!

The Sharing economy will continue to grow

I just about got my head round this when I put my London home on to the newly discovered  Airbnb website back in 2014. I was not sure what it was at the time but it felt like an interesting idea to join. Since then there has been an explosion of opportunities for us to leverage our unused resources .. be they bedrooms, cars, private planes .. anything that can be added to an online ecommerce resource platform.  All this provides opportunities for the Gig economy where people can work with relative freedom and create their own jobs. One of the best known is Uber where you use your own car as a taxi and are linked to potential riders via the massively expanding cloud technology. 

The shock waves have a long reach with a Megatrend

Uber is also part of the quest to bring driverless cars to the market. We have been reading about this for a while but now the possibility of it become a norm is literally round the corner. Helen says, according to Forbes, the estimate is that 10 million self-driving cars will be on the road by 2020 (that’s next year!) with one in 4 cars being self-driving by 2030. We all tend to think about how that will affect us but Helen’s says that when a megatrend like that hits, it has a very long reach affecting, for example:

  • car manufacturers
  • car insurance
  • car repair and accident & emergency departments with potentially less repairs
  • employment of truck drivers and HGVs
  • tyre manufacturers
  • taxi companies
  • parcel delivery
  • public transport
  • car parks and parking revenue
  • disabled and senior mobility
  • alcohol sales
  • the military
  • ..  it’s an endless list of potential challenges and opportunities and goes to prove that the knock-on effect of change may catch us unawares if we are not vigilant.

Climate Change is one of the biggest game-changers

The latest IPCC report published this week asserts that global warming is happening faster than was previously forecast. Helen drew our attention to the fact that as much as 1% of global GDP could be spent on climate change consequences by mid century 2050. So many smaller trends sit under this big one and we are all familiar with the shift to a greener economy, the need to be more sustainable, and the rise in more conscious and ethical consumerism. How will that affect your business? Perhaps you, like the recent LinkedIn adverts on the London underground, will highlight the social purpose behind your business or work. The simple drive for growth and profit is losing its appeal, especially with the younger generation. Purpose in business has power.

When Kodak lost their moment

Helen said that this was a company which had very visionary thinking. They could see the future was digital for photography way back in the 1970s.. and yet …. they lacked the courage to act. They buried their new idea and then as the technological decades moved forward, they got overtaken by faster and more agile companies, sadly going out of business in 2012.

In the Q&A Helen was asked “Where do I start?”

Her advice: “Bring fresh thinking into your organisation to help you spot new opportunities. If you don’t want to go as far as a consultant, then talk to the youngest person in your organisation and listen to their ideas of how you might prepare for the future.

Keeping up to date

Gina at Lady Val's Lunch with speaker

Gina Lazenby discussing the speaker Helen Webb’s recommended book choices 🙂

I think one clear message that came from listening to Helen is that we need to do our research and keep informed. Buy the books on trends, keep reading and asking questions about where the future is moving (the Financial Times Weekend is a great read for this) and determine what role is there for you and your business. You need to stay ahead of the game to maintain your agility and resilience. 

Thinking back to Kodak, even with their insights to the future, you have to have the courage to act. And indeed it can take immense courage to make adjustments with perhaps short term inconveniences and losses, in order to better ride a wave that is gathering huge momentum. Taking advice from those who are adept at reading the signs is often a wise move.  Helen Webb has a strategy consulting business and can be reached via her website or Linkedin profile.


Let My People Go Surfing
Helen’s recommendations on books to read

It’s always good to note what a trend watcher is an advocate for. Two books she mentioned:

“Let my people go surfing” – Key insights from the book


One minute book review of this book on Youtube

Screenshot 2019-10-02 at 12.48.03Lord Robin Corbett of Castle Vale: A Life Well Lived

The Robin Corbett Award

A wonderful story of living by purpose, contribution, making an impact and leaving a legacy.

For more info on future events hosted by Lady Val Corbett