The Visible Business

The Visible Business

December 1st, 2007 | Posted in Business & Economy

The Canadian paper, The Globe and Mail, did a phone interview with me over the Thanksgiving weekend (they interviewed a number of futurists). They asked great questions, and I won’t steal their thunder by repeating them here, except for one. They wanted to know what the “big business trend” will be in 2018.

I thought about it a lot. Out of all the questions – which I had in advance by an email – this was the toughest one for me.


Well, that’s the big business trend of the now. Just this week, Microsoft and Google announced big support for environmental initiative – Google in the clean energy area, and Microsoft by creating the title “Chief Environmental Strategist” and giving the job to a senior, and probably capable, person. So by 2018, green had better be like business process reengineering – more of a way of life for the successful than a new trend.

But green is going to influence another trend. Think transparency. The green movement is one driver – consumer’s desire to hold businesses accountable is growing. Countries too; look at the reaction to the China lead paint on toys debacle.

And green’s not the only push on transparency. SOX and other regulations almost all push transparency. The information economy shines light in a lot of places, as do the many of us out blogging. And lights that shine on the internet are immediately almost worldwide.

The millennial generation’s tendency to believe that information wants to free and that copyright is, at best, barely worth noticing may extend to trade secrets and business practices.

As we more fully implement web 2.0 and web 3.0 technologies, the relationship between service provider and consumer are graying around the edges, thinning of you will, into a more transparent fog of collaboration between customer and service provider (and means much of the service provider’s process must be exposed).

So what did I say the trend of 2018 would be? I said accountability. Because transparency creates accountability like nothing else. How many of us will steal from the cookie jar while mom is watching?

Because customers are going to care that they get green, organic, non-toxic, light-on-th-earth, made with renewable eneregy or reweble forests products, and all using good business practices, comapnies will be accountable to consumers on those issues, and more.

The word accountability was, however, met with dead silence.

I didn’t have a better one right then, with the phone at my ear and a cold wind howling in off the Washington shoreline.

Transparency? Too David Brin (although I love his book, the Transparent Society, and it did influence my thinking here)

Morality? Too religious right, even if accountability does tend to enforce morality.

Inner light? Too new age.

Open? Sounds like open source, but hey, that’s one of the drivers here. Not quite right. And we won’t get to complete openness anyway – there will always be some protecting of trade secrets – and should be.

So maybe what we’ll have is “The Visible Business.” I kind of like the sound of that one.

About Brenda Cooper

Brenda Cooper has been delivering keynote addresses on the future for over a decade. Her non-fiction has appeared in The Futurist Magazine and on She is also currently writing a non-fiction series called Backing into Eden, which is being re-published on multiple websites. Her talks are upbeat and positive, and generally focus on how we can solve the big problems facing mankind right now.


  1. Vinay Kelkar   |   Jan 11, 2008

    Tata Motors India has launched affordable car around 2500 dollars named Nano. It will mean use of alternate small car for city commuting to work and larger car for long drives or family outings. It will save fuel per person if car driving is necessary due to public transport being inefficient.
    This way also green efforts can be supported.

  2. jon D. Sanford   |   Dec 20, 2007

    Why is it always jam tomorrow and never jam today?

    I am remembering all the announcements of better batteries and super-Capacitors, solar cells… Always up the pipeline. My reaction is no longer anticipation, I am getting too old waiting for the economy of scale to take effect so i can afford these wonders of research.

    The ‘urban myth’ that National Security and energy Status Quo interests sequester technical advances is becoming more seductive.

    The task of reviewing the only the popular science & tech publications to establish the ratio of promises to useful product is daunting to say the least. Nevertheless Futurists need this ratio to establish perspective.
    Is there a pattern? Who owns the patent now? What has completely vanished?

    Perhaps the money for research is so culturally divorced from money for development we have a sociology problem rather than a conspiracy.

  3. Brenda Cooper   |   Dec 5, 2007

    Thanks, Vinay. You make a good point about affordability – the early adopters seem willing to pay a premium, but not everyone can or will do that. If “green” becomes the most cost effective, it will be much more easily adopted.

  4. Vinay Kelkar   |   Dec 5, 2007

    Going green is the need of the hour. It is catching up with people but main problem remains of affordable green products. The more organizations develop affordable green products, the more will be people taking to it in droves. Ultimately decision to purchase green products for daily use or long term use is also decided based on economic viability. Vinay Kelkar Satguru Consultants, Pune, India