For the most part, when the future becomes the present, it bears little resemblance to how we had imagined it. Yet it is often similar enough to resonate, if only just a bit, with the expectations of the past. For example, flying cars, which have been anticipated in science fiction for years, still don’t exist. But some autos drive themselves and run entirely on non-polluting hydrogen. Clothing made of aluminium with embedded radios and telephones may never see the light of day. But wearable technology has given us shirts woven with sensors that detect movement, heart rate, breathing pattern, and GPS location. And although the movie Back to the Future most likely erred in predicting that the Chicago Cubs would win the World Series in 2015 (in a sweep of a nine-game set), the Boston Red Sox, the other paradigm of a perennial loser, has won the title three times.

This notion of a future that hasn’t quite conformed to prior expectations is perhaps the most striking facet of Strategy&’s recent series on industry trends, an in-depth analysis of the prospects for 16 of the world’s bellwether sectors. A single surprising conclusion is common to all of them: To profit — indeed, to survive — in 2015 and beyond, companies must not just adopt new, unanticipated, and more decentralised forms of digitisation and technological innovation, but must use them to reshape their business models. These advances are rapidly changing the commercial environment, inside and outside companies, but many business leaders are still unprepared for them. Companies in every industry are confronting an imagination gap between the established and safe — but rapidly aging — way of doing business and the opportunities and challenges of the technologies emerging today.

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