By: Simon Anderson
*editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from an article written for the quarterly management magazine, the “Hernsteiner”, published by the Austrian Hernstein Institut.
On February 4th, Microsoft appointed long-time executive Satya Nadella as their new CEO, only the third in its 39 year history, and he sent out an email to all employees to introduce himself and share his vision for the future of the company. Of the many insights he revealed in that email, I found one to be particularly profound: “Our industry does not respect tradition — it only respects innovation.” That’s certainly true in the software industry where Microsoft is a dominant player, but it’s also becoming increasingly true in all industries now.
The sad truth is that today many companies and other organizations are having so much difficulty simply reacting to new trends and technologies that they have no time to innovate. Expectedly, many of them eventually fall too far behind and become insolvent. Gone are the days when major innovations took place during decade-long cycles. The dangers of not paying attention in todays’ world are significant and examples numerous. Without a solid plan, even the best intentioned executives find their companies becoming yet another example of what happens when you lack foresight. The problem is that staying current even in just your industry is becoming progressively more difficult as technology continues to advance and the rate of advancement itself increases.
While it’s impossible to future-proof your business, what can forward-looking leaders do to stay informed about the latest technology and trends impacting their companies and their industries? How can they move from frantically reacting to changes in the business environment to leading the way into uncharted territory?
The Importance of Unlearning
My esteemed mentor, friend, and fellow global futurist Jack Uldrich has taught me well the concept and importance of unlearning in today’s exponential age, and he’s in great company. Legendary futurist and author Alvin Toffler also believed unlearning to be profoundly important, writing “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” Before we can even consider conquering the future, we must allow ourselves to let go of the past. This is much more difficult than it sounds. “Because that’s how it has always been done” has almost become an unfortunate mantra in many of today’s organizations. Unlearning also requires a large dose of humility. It’s not easy to admit that your years of success and experience may mean precious little when it comes to some new technology or operational process. Our preconceptions are often so ingrained in our decision-making that we don’t even realize that we are discounting new possibilities because of long-held (and now obsolete) assumptions.
It Starts From Within
One of the single most influential ways that a leader can begin to cultivate the attitudes and skills needed for their organization to continue to compete and win in the future is to create a corporate culture conducive to making fast decisions and responding dynamically to an ever changing market. Although many mission statements may claim this as a core tenet of their organization, this too often is not the case. Below are some ways to help foster the kind of culture that embraces change and recognizes opportunity instead of seeing risk. Read More →
Expect these major trends to continue gaining momentum throughout the remainder of this year.
By: Simon Anderson
Defining a list of important trends gets increasingly more difficult each year as the rate of advancement increases. Some things that logically should have happened years ago are frustratingly slow to develop in the real world due to bureaucracy, lobbying, cultural traditions, societal norms, and so on. It’s becoming more important to pay attention to converging, rather than emerging, trends and technologies because the time between “first sightings” and full scale disruptions are steadily approaching zero.
Here are my top trends and technologies for the remainder of this year, but let’s do this a little differently this year. Here’s my number one trend forecast first (the rest are not ranked in a particular order of significance):
#1. Virtual Reality – no, for real this time – Oculus Rift is blazing the trail here and creating an entire industry. Founder Palmer Lucky was fed up with the lack of any decent VR device, so he created one. The impact that this new generation of VR could have on the world by the end of this year is difficult to overestimate, and not just in gaming. Once you’ve used an Oculus Rift, you just “get it”. Trust me. I had incredibly high expectations going in and was still blown away. Taking the Rift off is like getting punched in the face by reality. And that was using the older “developer model” – there are far better versions now. The possibilities are endless, and I’m sure subsequent versions and competitor’s devices will be even more impressive and immersive.
Although not really VR, see also Avegant’s Glyph headset.
Your house gets one step closer to joining the robot uprising – The “Internet of Things” has become a hot topic, with many huge technology and communication companies, such as Cisco, AT&T, and Comcast, envisioning a world where everything in your house “talks” to everything else, can be controlled remotely, and learns your behaviors to optimize your experience at home. IoT devices were a huge hit at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show as well. Why should we believe tweeting toasters and grocery-list-generating refrigerators will start to be a common addition to our homes? Here are a few reasons:
- It’s not just the big companies pushing this. Dozens of startups are also getting in the game here.
- The hardware and software to make all this happen is getting cheaper and better by the day. Literally.
- The majority of Americans have a smart device (phone or tablet).
- The huge success of devices like the Nest thermostat (and recent acquisition by Google).
- Emergence of uniform standards for IoT devices and platforms making it easier for users and developers to get disparate devices and sensors to work together without needing a Master’s degree in engineering
Finally, after years of wishing I could tell my appliances what to do, soon they’ll actually listen!
Flying Autonomous Robots – In the near future, we’ll go from hearing about drones bombing suspected terrorists on TV to seeing them flying around the neighborhood taking video footage for the real estate agent trying to sell the home next door. Delivering our packages maybe, but not this year. The recent ruling by a federal judge that current FAA guidelines can’t restrict commercial drone use should blow the doors wide open, especially since there are already tens of thousands of drones being flown throughout the country that could easily be adapted for commercial uses.
Automation eats employment, has a big appetite – Inefficiency creates jobs. The more workers it takes to produce a unit of product, the more jobs there are. Automation is great at reducing inefficiency. And jobs. We’re nearing the breaking point on this as the distance between the productivity line and the employment line continues to grow on the charts of bewildered economists everywhere. As we continue to produce more with fewer people, a logical conclusion would be to gradually move to a shorter standard workweek; or to rid ourselves of it altogether and move to Results Oriented Work Environments (R.O.W.E.). Read More →