These themes stand out in the current post-COVID environment both for their potential impact and the breadth of opportunity they offer for business building. Business building sounds fundamental—and it is. But many large incumbents struggle to do it with consistent success, creating openings for disrupters to thrive.

Incumbents are keenly aware of the need to act faster and more boldly. What they often lack are rigorous processes to proactively explore what’s coming next, assess value propositions, and rapidly test-and-learn their way to new, scalable business ideas. It’s actually not about chasing the latest trend or shiny object—or reflexively rejecting anything with a whiff of hype. It’s about unlocking practical insights that guide sustained investment in scalable ideas uniquely suited to your company.

The firms getting it right think of business building as an experimentation machine that drives innovation and growth. It starts with identifying game-changing trends and thinking deeply about how they will alter markets, shift customer behavior, and create new profit pools. We see several that are gaining increasing attention, offering strong potential for business building in the years ahead. Circularity

What: The fundamental insight behind circularity is that waste should be treated as an asset. This includes both physical waste, which is generated during production and distribution or at the end of a product’s life, and capacity waste, the great stretches of time that most products go unused (think about the car sitting in your garage). Eliminating both kinds of waste helps companies use resources more sustainably and trim costs. But it can also offer opportunities to create new business models.

Why now: Circularity isn’t new, but it is experiencing fresh tailwinds. Consumer, investor, and government concern over climate change is pushing companies to use resources more sustainably. And geopolitical uncertainty—Ukraine and China being exhibits A and B—threatens raw material supply. Not surprisingly, this is encouraging more start-ups and large corporations to explore ways to use less and tap the potential value in wasted capacity. Companies like IKEA and Bugaboo are designing products to be more easily repairable, serviceable, and reusable. Others are exploring business models such as leasing or resale to create new consumer solutions that are both circular and profitable.

What’s working: While circular models are emerging in sectors ranging from automotive to beverages, fashion is seeing a clear spike of innovation. Catering to luxury brand consumers who buy something, wear it a few times, and move on, secondhand apparel sites like The RealReal have emerged to give fashionistas a place to monetize their overstuffed closets. Fashion houses (which have in the past destroyed unsold products to protect brand scarcity) are responding by finding ways to upcycle returns into new products or resell “preloved” items. That has spawned another site called Archive, which is working with A-list brands like Oscar de la Renta, Cuyana, and The North Face to create online marketplaces for used merchandise. Galeries Lafayette in Paris has also opened a section for high-end secondhand merchandise. Digital assets

What: Trillion-dollar losses in cryptocurrencies? The collapse of so-called stablecoins? Looks like the digital asset fad has hit the wall, right? Don’t count on it. Companies and investors who ignore the emergence of blockchain, or distributed database technology, do so at their peril. There’s no doubt crypto and NFTs are both volatile and rife with hype and speculation. But early blockchain applications are also providing proof of concept for the development of the key foundational infrastructure that will ultimately support broader adoption.

Why now: Blockchain evangelists would have you believe that the old Internet is being replaced wholesale by a new, disintermediated online ecosystem (Web 3.0), where everything from your identity to your mortgage is tokenized and fungible. How it actually evolves, however, is completely up for grabs. What we do know is that (depending on your industry) change can happen very rapidly. Much like the explosive growth of e-commerce or app-based services, what once seemed exotic can transform industries in the blink of an eye. As with prior paradigm shifts in technology, web3 control points are emerging, and early adopters may benefit from first-mover advantages.

What’s working: Already, companies like J.P. Morgan, Visa , Mastercard , and Stripe are investing in various blockchain use cases to fortify their leadership positions in finance. Gaming companies, consumer brands, real estate players—all are exploring how to use programmable tokens to enhance loyalty, improve product functionality, and introduce new products that take advantage of smart contracts. Alfa Romeo, for instance, is using NFTs to create transportable records for […]

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