The 10 TENsions That Will Define 2010


To anticipate what will shape 2010, we need to understand the TENsions that will define the opening year of the TENsions decade. The TENsions that are most prominent will evolve during the course of the decade. However the accelerating pace of change means that TENsions will inevitably define the decade, in myriad forms.

These are the 10 TENsions for 2010, the opening year of the TENsions.

1. Optimism – Fear

Many companies and workers are now daring to be optimistic as they put 2009 behind them, look forward to opportunities, and worry about getting left behind if things improve rapidly. Yet with the shock of the onset of the financial crisis still fresh, any optimism is subject to being shattered, resulting in wild swings in confidence.

2. Institutional work – Independent work

While many lost their jobs in 2009, sparking a rise in home-based work such as direct selling, many others gave up self-employment to return to the workforce. Over the long term more people are making the shift to work independently, by desire or necessity. However the temptations of self-employment can be replaced by desire for a steady pay packet, pulling people both ways.

3. Hyperconnected – Disconnected

The mobile Internet will explode with Google Phone and Android adding to iPhone’s success. For many work and play will happen wherever they happen to be. Others will reject the always-connected world, while some are being left behind due to the cost. The gulf between the hyperconnected and disconnected will increase.

4. Openness – Privacy

Young and old are getting used to sharing thoughts, photos, videos and more with the world at large – there is an inevitable and powerful trend to more openness and sharing. Yet the backlash is strong, with some choosing to pull out of social networks, pushing for greater privacy legislation, and crying out against pervasive government surveillance.

5. Youth – Experience

In the workplace there will be a premium placed on switched-on young people, who have high expectations of reward for their contribution. Yet many organizations are trying to work out how they will survive the loss through retirement of the massive contingent who have decades of experience. Many companies will not manage the generational tensions well.

6. Death of Media – Birth of Media

Literally hundreds of newspapers around the world have shut their doors in 2009. Broadcast TV is struggling. Advertising has slumped. Yet as traditional media staggers, a new world of mobile media, social media, video everywhere, and new business models are opening a new era in which media is at the center of the economy.

7. Immigration – Borders

Virtually every developed country is facing a natural population decrease with dire implications for fiscal policy and the economy. The tension between immigration, backed by the business community who want to drive growth, and borders, by those fearing social fragmentation and ecological impact, is becoming a key issue in almost every wealthy country.

8. Climate Activists – Climate Doubters

The gulf is widening between those who believe everything we can do to avert disastrous climate change may not be enough, and those who don’t believe or don’t care. The chasm will yawn wider between countries, between companies, and between individuals.

9. Innovation – Copying

In a global economy in which almost everything is a commodity, the only source of real value is innovation. However every innovation is copied almost instantaneously, all content flows outside commercial channels, and it is sometimes hard to distinguish between the original and the copy. The faster the pace of copying, the greater the drive to innovation.

10. Me – Everyone

In 2010 people who were born after the creation of the World Wide Web will first join the workforce. The nub of generational change today is about the tension between personal opportunity and expectations, and acting with the greater good in mind. How well can people focus both on their own well-being and that of society and the planet?

If this is of interest, also see:

The top 10 trends for the 2010s: the most exciting decade in human history

  • s, I like your approach to trends, providing contrasts. It’s amazing to me how fast change and evolution are happening. It will be interesting to see how people choose to deal with these tensions. It’s always a choice.
    My encouragement is for people to collaborate and communicate more, working together to innovate forward. Surround yourself with future focused people of different backgrounds, beliefs and ages. Really listen to each other, coaching and teaching each other along the way.
    Thanks for providing a different perspective for folks to think about.

  • Dear Mr. Dawson, your article is fascinating as it covers many of the worries that are outstanding nowadays.I’m from Spain and I have a blog dedicated to tech and net issues and I would like to mention your post. Would you mind if I translate it and post it with the link to you and your site?Thanks a lot and kind regards

  • Hi Elia, yes of course I’d be delighted if you were to translate it – let me know when it’s up.
    Thanks, Ross

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