The Future Looks a Damn Sight Better Than We’re Being Told.


Earlier this month I was in Melbourne and lucky enough to see probably the best presentation I have ever seen, period. And that’s saying something, given I’ve seen a LOT of business presentations. It helped that the guys presenting were my kinda guys – intelligent and future-focused optimists.

The presentation was by FutureCrunch. In a nutshell, Future Crunch are scientists, artists, researchers, and entrepreneurs who believe that science and technology are creating a more abundant, connected, and peaceful future. They’re on a mission to help people think differently and to share intelligent, optimistic, and unexpected perspectives on the state of the world. (They are freakin’ cool – go check them out!)

Suffice to say, their talk was a breath of fresh air amidst the prevailing ‘doom and gloom’ commentary that tends to be bandied about by the traditional media. Which got me thinking about the real story as we enter 2020 – a decade we once thought of as some far-off future. Now that we’re here, what’s really going on? And where are the opportunities?

First, the real news…

Think about your typical news headlines – they’re filled with disaster, corruption, and tales of incompetence. News organisations would tell you this shit sells; sudden disaster is more compelling than slow improvements. And they’re not wrong. A study by psychologists at McGill University in Canada found that we’re drawn to depressing stories without even realising it.

However, a look past the headlines and the news isn’t actually that bad. Across the globe, rates of poverty are going down, average incomes are going up, and our longevity is increasing. The world is actually pretty awesome, and getting more awesome, but the media’s not really telling us that. After all, fear drives our behaviour; we’re more likely to buy something to solve a problem than we are simply to meet a desire.

The difference, with this rhetoric, is that we’re living in abundant times – not scarce ones.

Technology and disruption

There is technology coming online now (little babel-fish-like earbuds that fit in our ears and instantly translate anything from and to any language) that means that everyone on the planet is now a potential customer. We’re more connected than ever and the vast network of international freight and shipping means not only can your customers be everywhere, your competitors are also virtually everyone on the planet too.

I’ve talked before about the accelerating rate of disruption and often reference Moore’s Law. In 1975, Intel CEO, Gordon Moore released a paper that predicted that computers would double in speed and halve in price every two years. Fast-forward to now and they’ve been doing this every 18 months.

Similarly, futurist Ray Kurzwell predicted that by 2020, a $1000 computer – your average laptop – would have more processing power than the human brain. That’s where we are now, and again the prediction rings true (as do 86% of every prediction he’s ever made!). This doesn’t mean that a computer can think like a human – there’s not the same programming ability yet – but the processors in a computer equate in power to the number of neurons in the human brain. By 2029, he believes a $1000 computer will have 1000 times more processing power than the human brain.

My basic point is that not only are things changing, the rate of that change is accelerating. As we enter a new decade, this is going to be simply huge! There will be more change in the next decade than there has been in the history of civilisation until now. That’s mind-blowing. And while it might seem scary, it also means that we are opened up to an epic amount of possibility.

The opportunity for businesses

I mentioned before that we’re living in abundant times. The opportunities are there for the taking. So, how do we go about taking them? For starters, you have to think differently to compete in this highly connected world. You have to plan and execute a strategy that enables you to win. And you have to pull your head up out of the sand and look over the horizon line to see what’s coming.

A recent article summed it up beautifully with the idea that each new disruption opens another door to opportunity. They made the point that disruption is accelerating, so the organisations that will win are those that continue to monitor trends and look for ways to leverage them for their strategic advantage.

This is why we are so passionate about our quarterly strategic planning cycle. I advise all business owners, every 90 days, to look to their three year horizon and iterate their plan. As my good friend John Spence says, “If the rate of internal innovation in your business doesn’t meet or exceed the rate of innovation happening in your marketplace, you’re going out of business.”

In this current rate of change we see very few (if any!) businesses that end the year with the same plan that they had at the beginning; they continuously pivot and iterate. And that’s what a plan should do – it’s not static.

The Forbes article mirrors these thoughts well: “One essential tool [for managing disruption] is the strategic planning process. This process itself looks different now than it did in the past. It provides a necessary structure for leaders to use as they consider current and potential disruptions. The planning process allows leaders to envision the future and develop a business strategy to turn disruption into business advantage.”

The technologies that appear over the next one, two, or ten years might not be yours, but as they impact consumer behaviour, you can capitalise on, and utilise, them too. Amazon Prime will change the consumer landscape and I maintain that someday, our Uber Eats will show up via a drone. From self-driving cars to chatbots, some of the changes are obvious and already happening – but you don’t have to think big. Just keep watching and consider what small things can you can use for an edge? As new conveniences abound, are you going to be the company that capitalises and leads the change?

As we enter a new decade, it will be your responsiveness that makes or breaks your business. As Charles Darwin famously said, “It’s not the strongest who survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.”

Smart man; I would have to agree.

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