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A Futurist Looking Back

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Anyone designing new products, strategy or change will need to consider the future world in which their creations will exist. A little more than ten years ago I was asked this question:

“What will the world look like in 10 years and how might this affect the organisation?”

To answer this I needed to learn how to be a Futurist. It wouldn't be that hard right? I could just make a few wild predictions about a utopian future with robots and sprinkle with buzzwords? No, I'd have to take another route and learn more about the world in the process.

In this talk I will break from the future-gazing and do two things rare for a Futurist; I will look back into the past and I will focus on the predictions I got wrong. What can ten years of perspective teach us and how can we use that for looking again towards the future.

Publicado en: Tecnología
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A Futurist Looking Back

  1. 1. A futurist looking back Jay Whittaker
  2. 2. “If some prophet could predict the future, they would sound so absurd and far-fetched that everyone would laugh” Arthur C Clarke
  3. 3. So, can you make some predictions? In 2006 I was given a challenge: What will the world look like in 10 years and how this might affect the organisation? The context: • I had no reference or guide • There was a team of experts researching the capabilities of emerging technologies • But was there a part of the picture missing?
  4. 4. Becoming a futuristJetpacks and Robot Butlers for everyone!
  5. 5. “The difficult job is never to find the right answer, it is to find the right question” Peter Drucker I set out to find better questions...
  6. 6. It revealed some key skills Understanding how the world is changing is key for anyone creating new value propositions What we design will live in a future context
  7. 7. The world in 2006
  8. 8. Carriers had all the power Our phones looked like this
  9. 9. Netflix looked like this “Hastings has created an amazing system shuffling around plastic discs, but online rivals such as iTunes and MovieLink seem to have momentum as we head into the future” - CNN 2006
  10. 10. Facebook still limited to US students “MySpace is now the Web’s second most popular website…it’s hard to imagine who would pay billions for an also-ran” - CNN 2006 Myspace was king
  11. 11. The forecastsA summary
  12. 12. What I forecast from the 2006 report • Move from hierarchical to networked based markets • The Globalisation Paradox • Polarisation of the markets (Vanishing normal distribution) New economic structures and markets • Mega-cities – strains and opportunities • Extreme environments begin to bite • Tipping point in climate consciousness • Green bonanza – vast opportunities for businesses Effect of environmental pressures
  13. 13. What I forecast from the 2006 report • Multiple dimensions of data • Physical world becomes aware with connected devices, swarms of sensors • Human interaction with the new landscape – new norms, behaviours and fears End of discreet ‘cyberspace’ – Everything is somewhere • Organisations compelled to innovate and collaborate • Avalanche of user-made content • Markets become conversations. A shift is happening from competition to customisation and co-creation Creativity, customisation, collaboration and content
  14. 14. Let’s look at what I got wrong? Risky for a Futurist!
  15. 15. 1.Tipping points are complex places Climate change?
  16. 16. Assumed a global, engineered transition i.e. “Goal directed” problem solving Goal Existing trends Future trends
  17. 17. A problem of systems and system of problems Change happens within complex systems with problems that interact with each other Goal Climate politics Climate economics Almost all of the trends I highlighted are sources of complexity GFC Entrenched interests
  18. 18. Complicated, but not complex Plan, Optimise, Replicate results
  19. 19. These are complex Emergence, Non-equilibrium, Non-linear, Networked, Adaptive... Cities, Economies Society, MarketsClimate, Ecology
  20. 20. 2. The iPhone That’s a glaring miss…? But what if I had forecast it?
  21. 21. Would you have believed me? In a few years time virtually everyone you know will be walking around with a supercomputer in their pocket. It will help trigger revolutions and remake whole every industry It will make a fringe maker of music players into the most successful company of all time. They will sell more than a Billion of them generating a Trillion in revenue... And the carriers who invested billions in the infrastructure will get virtually none of the spoils.
  22. 22. Would you understand its meaning? Focussing on the artefacts can lead to a flawed vision that misses a larger change We overplay the ‘hardware’ (artefacts) and underplay the ‘software’ (context, structures) We tend to fit these artefacts into existing conditions
  23. 23. Mobile? Facetime?
  24. 24. Operator Maid Social changes? He’s seated Fixed speaker
  25. 25. Send a fax from the beach? AT&T 1993
  26. 26. Pay a toll without stopping? AT&T 1993
  27. 27. Video call home from a phonebox? AT&T 1993
  28. 28. The world doesn’t just change in one way The future is a different country, they do things and think differently there - Adapted from a quote about the past by LP Hartley “...realise that the future will not only change technologically, but also in the myths and worldviews we hold” – Roey Tzezana
  29. 29. Ask better questions More interesting what people DO with technology What people talk about More interesting
  30. 30. Patterns of change Sometimes, history rhymes
  31. 31. “…these ages were not initiated by the genesis of some new activity but always by the industrialisation of pre-existing activity that enabled higher order systems to develop” Simon Wardley
  32. 32. Technology driven change See: Alex Danco, Ben Evans, Clayton Christiansen. Scarce resource Abstraction Abundant, scalable New scarce resource Higher order ‘job’, orthogonal Abstraction Scarce resource Constraints, friction, profit Technology Core process of Tech Industry is replacing the scarce resource of other industries
  33. 33. An example Scarce resource Abstraction Wires, Grid New scarce resource Maintenance, equilibrium, capacity, choice Abstraction Scarce resource Energy used at time, location of generation Electricity via Alex Danco Renewables, batteries, IOT = Energy Network Information, trust, participation
  34. 34. Another example Scarce resource Abstraction Ridesharing, smartphone New scarce resource Network, mapping, driving (utilisation, efficiency) Abstraction Scarce resource Ownership, access, trust Vehicles / Transport Autonomous vehicles Traffic optimisation, experience, ???
  35. 35. Tech industry is a machine for paradigm shifts ‘Zero’ marginal cost of production ‘Zero’ friction of distribution ‘Zero’ latency of updating = Radically increased access to scarce resources = Law of accelerating returns Recent technologies have supercharged this
  36. 36. Call to action Some needed skills and behaviors
  37. 37. Sense and adapt Hone your skills for dealing with ambiguity Listen to the system • Look for signals and emergence • Observe patterns of change, contradiction, intersection and leverage Understand that the nature of technology favours pragmatists over purists • Optimise for uncertainty • Complexity rejects rigid ideologies • Have a matrix of mental models
  38. 38. Adaptability, resilience Which means losing some control, and predictability The most effective forecasters are allergic to certainty • Limit your reliance on accurate predictions • Avoid premature optimisation • Seek diversity in people, ideas, innovations, endeavours... • Challenge your logic and biases Diversify your view Don’t just look for the average behaviour • E.g. Don’t engineer a building for the average earthquake
  39. 39. Final thought “Instead of being really good at doing some particular thing, companies must be really good at learning how to do new things” Harvard Business Review
  40. 40. @ jaywhittaker1
  41. 41. Appendix
  42. 42. Wicked Problems Definition We can see a lot of wicked problems in my forecasts • Characterised by ambiguity, complex and tangled roots • The problem and solution depend on perspective. There is no definitive formulation or established technique to follow. • Can turn advantages into disadvantages • Constraints and resources available will change over time • Problems bleed into other problems. Each problem is a symptom of another problem – therefore difficult to measure success in traditional ways. • Problem is never solved definitively. The goal should be to improve your ability to act. • They are socially complex and often marked by discord and disagreement among stakeholders
  43. 43. Pace Layers Changing at different rates
  44. 44. Other concepts Not covered here specifically Things I had to leave out… • Aggregation theory, Attractive profits • Networked society (Effect of technology on culture) • Law of accellerating returns • Identifying Overserved, Underserved customers • Disruption theory • Psychological factors • Why some progress is hard to see • Other reasons the iPhone was different • Other reasons Climate Change was different
  45. 45. From Oil to Tech
  46. 46. “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run while underestimating it in the long run” Roy Amara
  47. 47. “In times of change learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a problem that no longer exists” Eric Hoffer