Wire connections

Trends Series: Navigating Our Connected Society

In the Netflix original series “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, the main character is creating a new life for herself in New York City after having been kidnapped and held underground for 15 years by Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne.

Many of the show’s laughable moments come from both Kimmy’s use of outdated slang and her fumbling way of adapting to recent technological advances. For example, early on in the season Kimmy’s employer doesn’t know her past as one of the “mole women from Indiana”, and she wants to keep it that way. When a coworker asks where she’s from, she says Ohio. When he asks her where in Ohio, she stumbles, “the middle part…you know, the middle of Ohio…Middle-town, Ohio.” The 15 year-old stepdaughter of Kimmy’s boss doesn’t trust this statement and googles it on her smartphone, quickly affirming, to her dismay, that such a city does exist.

“Of course there’s a Middletown, Ohio, and of course your phone has a map of Ohio on it,” Kimmy says. “Those are both things I knew.”

As a viewer, it’s both hilarious and surprising to realize, through the eyes of Kimmy, how much of our daily life has changed in the past 15 years.

In another scene, Kimmy admits that she doesn’t have a cell phone. Kimmy’s boss gives her an old cell phone and tells her to just go to Verizon and get a number to add to their family plan. Kimmy looks at the phone in her hand and says to herself, “OK. Sure. Verizon.”

That American household brand name, Verizon, didn’t exist before April 4, 2000. Neither did Facebook (2004), Twitter (2006), or Instagram (2010). Smartphones weren’t common 15 years ago, and nobody held the jobs “app developer” or “SEO specialist.”

And it’s not just communications and entertainment that have changed. Think about the implications of the relatively quick impact that digitalization has had on our society from the perspective of long-standing brands, organizations and entire industry sectors. It’s immediately apparent that nobody can afford to bury their heads in the ground, continuing with “business as usual”—or they’ll end up like Kimmy, and being outdated isn’t as endearing in the world of business as it is in the world of TV sitcoms.

Technological advancements have increased both accessibility to information and the speed of communication. This has changed not only our behavior, but also the fundamentals of virtually every organization.

A desk covered with items--a smartphone, keyboard, book, notebook, headphones, flashdrive, mouse, and the base of a monitor--demonstrates an individual example of our connected society.

One of the sectors that has seen a major transformation is banking, where both banks and their customers have been fast adopters. Who knew, years ago, that mobile banking would become such a central part of the banking process? Mobile banking tools are so significant to some consumers that financial education website NerdWallet published a list of best banks and credit unions for mobile banking in June of 2015, suggesting it should be one of readers’ decision-making factors before opening a new bank account. Even if they don’t use it, a robust yet easy to use mobile banking system is a convenience that hits high on the priority list for many Americans.

Furthermore, the ease of communication that we currently enjoy has broken down the need for centralized offices. The gig economy is growing, which means independent contractors are increasing in number, and small, dispersed teams are becoming more and more common (Artemis is one example). Many of these folks work from their homes or from coworking spaces across the States and even the globe. Decentralization is par for the course, but it also changes the game. How will financial institutions serve these workers’ and businesses’ needs, from payment systems to lending to retirement savings plans? Checks in employee mailboxes are no longer the norm; neither are department-wide HR updates in the conference room. The success and proliferation of online lenders like Quicken Loans demonstrates a more wholesale shift in the organizations that consumers look to for this fundamental need. Does Goldman Sachs’ upcoming acquisition of digital retirement savings startup Honest Dollar signal a parallel shift in the retirement sector? What other consumer banking needs are susceptible to dramatic changes in how they are met?

Technological tools are becoming more common for banking, but we’re also using them to manage our health and nutrition. There is more information about the steps we should take to stay healthy than ever before—and it can be overwhelming. We’re constantly barraged with the benefits and the downsides of certain diets, spices, beverages and more. And recipes are everywhere. How many Pinterest users have actually cooked every single one of the recipes they’ve pinned? Plus, as people become more aware of the importance of healthy eating and sustainably produced foods, labeling processes continue to become more complex and, often, obtuse. There are apps that help to eliminate the guesswork, but some argue that few are actually effective tools.

Food is an important part of all of our daily lives that’s increasingly intertwined with the way we think about our health. We spend a lot of time thinking about what we’re going to eat for our next meal, and increasingly we’re using new technology tools to help us. Is all of this information useful, or is deciding what to make for dinner now anxiety-inducing, even paralyzing? If so, how can health and healthy eating institutions help alleviate this anxiety?



A series like “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”, created solely for digital distribution, has only become a viable possibility in the past few years. And it came about when Netflix—and others—“blew up all the old paradigms about who, what, when, where, why, and even how we watch.” Netflix’s Reed Hastings called the old cable model “managed dissatisfaction” and, with the release of “House of Cards”, boldly declared that waiting was dead.

And the numbers agreed.

If, like Kimmy, we were to go underground for the next 15 years, what would we find when we re-joined society? How will everyone be watching shows, banking and managing their health? How will organizations keep up with what Americans want and need—or ideally, get ahead of the curve? What powerhouse organizations will be created to fill these voids—and what are the voids?

We likely won’t know the exact answer to these questions for years. However, we make it our business to understand how people are thinking about these issues today. As part of our Motivation Assessment Program we’re renewing our discussions with diverse groups of Americans in order to understand how they are feeling about, and relating to, our complex world.

Our regular research assignments for our clients focus on honing communications, building products and understanding new markets. But with this initiative, our conversations about finance and health are broader, and our goal is to identify trends that we may not have even hypothesized before we began.

Consider this post the launch of a new Trends Series on this blog. As part of this series, we’ll continue to share our thoughts on trends like the connectedness of our society as well as our findings from conversations with Americans.