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The futurist: More about inventing our next great scarcities

Our ever-evolving information world is enabling us to construct hyper-individualized service offerings to tap into our personal wants, needs and desires like never before.

In his famous “hierarchy of needs,” Abraham Maslow has given us some clues as to the higher order needs that each of us, much like a moth to a light, are uncontrollably drawn towards.

Here are eight far less obvious areas of scarcity that will continue long into the future:

1.) Moments of Inspiration: What’s it worth to finally see the light in a world of darkness, or find a cause in the middle of a directionless career? True inspiration is not just a famous quote on a digital image, or a motivational speech delivered by a gifted keynote speaker. Rather, genuine inspiration is something that touches each of us in a deeply personal way. This unusual form of scarcity could be a golden opportunity waiting to happen.

2.) Chance to Make a Difference: We all know that life is short, and as we get older, we have a growing desire to be part of something far bigger than ourselves. We want our life to have meaning, and more importantly, to make a difference in the lives of others. Solving this equation could enable us to make a difference by helping others make a difference.

3.) Save a Life: The opportunities for someone to rescue a child from a burning building are infinitesimally small. But each of us dreams of being a hero, and people can save lives in many different ways. So how can lives be saved in less obvious ways, and in a manner that let’s others participate?

4.) Finding Hope: Watching the TV news often makes it very difficult for the rays of sunshine we so desperately need to shine through. In fact, our increasing awareness of problems happening all over the world is causing increasingly high levels of “compassion fatigue.” More than ever, we need hope. If you have a unique way of supplying it, the demand is huge.

5.) Personal Safety and Security: We’ve all felt it at one time or another, some nagging fear lurking in the background that something’s not right. This fear is not unfounded. Each of us as heard countless stories of people being attacked or injured at a time they all least expected it. Safety and security is something we all strive for, but it means something entirely different to every individual. Even incremental improvements may be the scarce commodities that people will pay dearly for.

6.) Individual Status and Influence: We often find ourselves mired in din of 10 million voices all struggling to be heard. The likelihood of us being heard is directly proportional to the perceived status and influence we evoke with the people around us. This constant struggle to climb even a few rungs higher on the ladder of success might be the piece of scarcity that your next venture can tap into.

7.) Fulfill a Dream: As we get older our list of unfulfilled dreams becomes even longer than our Santa wish list when we were kids. Over time, our fondest wishes become rusty old memories in a life filled with countless regrets. But some dreams are far easier to achieve than most of us imagine, and any business that can make them happen will be in huge demand.

8.) Forge a Meaningful Relationship: Is it just me, or has the entire world lost its “true north” in the relationship-building arena? We are all social creatures by nature, and we all need social interaction. But finding someone to craft a truly meaningful relationship with is seemingly becoming as elusive as winning the lottery. If you have the solution, the entire world is waiting to hear about it.

The scarcity portion of each of these examples may be both fleeting and transient. Yet each has the opportunity to somehow tap into our inner spirit, locate our personal demand switch and turn it on.

If you can’t see the “unusual competitive advantage” each of these could bring, keep looking. The opportunities are definitely there.

Final Thoughts

The list above is certainly not exhaustive, but it is designed to help inspire thinking about finding opportunities around which businesses can rally in the future. Many of these will be easy to find, but other will come painfully slow.

Businesses built on innate scarcities will thrive, but at the same time, disruptive companies that find ways of turning scarcity into non-scarcity will also flourish.

The scarcity-abundance shift does not ignore the laws of supply and demand – it somehow changes them. Perhaps new laws are in order.


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Thomas Frey

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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