Systems, not products. Global, not American. Empathy, not disruption. The digital trends you cared about in 2019.

The NEXT blog posts from 2019 that caught your attention show a clear roadmap of where digital business is going and paint a fascinating picture of a digital world seeking to learn from its mistakes and reinvent itself.

Last week, we looked at the most popular posts on the NEXT site in 2019 — and only one of them was written in 2019: the theme piece for the conference.

So, it seems useful to look at the top 10 posts which were written in 2019, and having spend a while with my sleeves rolled up, mining data out of Google Analytics, some interesting patterns emerge:

  • People are starting to think more deeply about systems rather than products
  • Digital is globalising — and people are interested in what that means for them.
  • Human values and empathy are seen as key to building the next wave of digital products and businesses.

Here’s how that interest manifested itself:


10. Systems thinking — our guard against unintended consequences

I was pleasantly surprised to see this in the top 10 blog posts of the year. One of the emergent themes of our writing through 2019 was the need for complexity, and this was the first post where I really started to grapple with this issue. It also acts as a nice bridge between a talk from NEXT18 and the theme of NEXT19. It was propelled into the top 10 by a sudden surge of traffic late in the year - from an untraceable referral source. Whomever linked it and sent a bunch of traffic — glad you found it useful!

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9. A bipolar digital world order

And here begins Martin’s domination of the middle of the table. A short, but useful piece, full of links exploring the rise of other countries to challenge the digital hegemony of the US and silicon valley.

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8. The parallel universes of innovation

A good piece from Martin exploring the product management implications of an era where innovation is continuous. How do you keep your existing products relevant, while also allowing for disruptive innovation? He had some useful answers for you — and many people found them helpful.

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7. The future of marketing is closely related to the future of innovation

I’m always impressed when a marketing-centric piece does well for us, as there is so much digital marketing content out there on the web, that getting any attention at all for it seems hard. Yet, Martin managed it — twice. (Look ahead to #4 for the other one.) Here, he makes a persuasive case that it’s OK to waste money on both innovation and marketing — indeed, it’s inevitable.

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6. Don’t fall into the scientism trap

This is interesting - the web is awash with pieces about the dangers of scientism, so I assumed that these pieces would struggle. But Martin’s take on the issue caught the attention of visitors to the NEXT website like never before - and seems to have picked up some dark social sharing then, too. This got pretty much all its traffic in just 10 days. It’s a really good piece, in a crowded search landscape - so let’s hope that linking it here gives it a second life!

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5. Politics as design problems of today

Kristina Bonitz contributed this fabulous guest post, riffing on the implications of SXSW last year - and tapping into many of the themes of the year — systems over products, the globalisation of innovation, and the rise of human empathy as a core value. Please write more for us in 2020, Kristina.

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4. The New Role of the CMO

Martin, back on the digital marketing beat. This really is essential reading, if you’re an open-minded marketeers. It traces where the disconnect between traditional marketing and the sort of value creation that genuinely transforms companies happens. And that makes the difference between a mediocre business, and one that blows the doors off.

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3. James Beacham: what’s outside our universe?

This is a surprise - the liveblog posts from the NEXT conference itself usually sit in the lower reaches of the top 10 - or just outside it. But this year, a couple are right up near the top. James Beacham’s talk on the reality of parallel universes, promised to be mind-bending, but proved to be enlightening. Really well worth your time.

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2. Brian Whipple: Driving Progress with Purpose

My liveblog post from the talk Accenture Interactive CEO Brian Whipple gave at NEXT19. He’s the boss of the parent company of NEXT, and it’s gratifying that his talk caught people’s imaginations enough that it’s come near the top of our posts from 2019 - and is the most trafficked post from the conference itself. The video of his talk was the second most watched video on the site, too. Clearly, people are really interested in the idea of business with greater purpose.

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1. Why We Need Systems Thinking

Another search-driven success on systems thinking, which ends up at the beginning and the end of the list. People are clearly looking for good resources on systems thinking — and this piece by Martin was a useful, thoughtful way of approaching the subject.

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And now, it's time to let 2019 fade into the past, and focus on a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous new decade.

Please join us as we continue to explore it