By John Marshall, Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer at Lippincott, a creative consultancy.
Today, now, at this very moment, is the slowest pace of change you will experience in the rest of your life.
Reading the headlines, it’s clear an unsettlingly different world is emerging. Amazon is working on a version of its Alexa assistant that can understand emotions. A machine is predicted to join a corporate board of directors within 10 years. Children born today will very probably not learn to drive, nor visit a physician for a checkup when they are 20.
In 10 years, 7 billion people will be seamlessly connected to each other and the entire knowledge of humanity. We’ll be surrounded by a cloud of data that can know our every preference, habit and behavior. Distributed ledger software, or blockchain, will enable trusted transactions or contracts without any intermediary. Virtual and augmented reality will enable digital experiences that the brain can’t distinguish from real ones, for the price of an iPhone. Genomics, biosensing and bioinformatics will yield near-perfect information about our health. Looking beyond the typical three- to five-year planning horizon, the world starts to look very different.
There are two ways to view this impending change. From one lens, it’s time to play defense. Automation is expected to rapidly erode job security for entire categories of workers, take nearly 50 percent of jobs and wreak havoc on value chains. Retail businesses will see their physical models disrupted by even greater seismic shifts of digital and virtual technologies, completely changing what it means to shop. Increasing transparency will melt away the ties that bind together vertically integrated businesses. Virtually no traditional business will be spared by exponentially accelerating change.
But there’s another lens — a wholly optimistic one. Just as there has never been this degree of change, there has never been this degree of possibility for innovation with tremendous opportunities for new solutions. Drones may raise vexing questions about privacy, but they can deliver a life jacket to a drowning flood victim in a fraction of the time it might take for a lifeguard to respond. If we allow insurers and automakers to access data about our every acceleration, turn and tap of the brakes on the road, we’ll see a more transparent, efficiently priced market for auto insurance and fewer traffic fatalities. Thanks to blockchain applications, the goods we own will manage themselves to our budgets and preferences, ordering their own upgrades and repairs in advance. And just imagine when we can predict our future well-being, monitoring and intervening to improve it by the minute.
What will it take to win customers in this new world of extreme connectivity and automation? Defining tomorrow’s strategy and innovation agenda is no longer the province of typical left-brained business analysis. It requires strategic imagination and relentless curiosity - design thinking on a big scale, mobilizing diverse perspectives and disciplines to invent new models. Strategic imagination means thinking more deeply about the customer of the future, committing to an innovation agenda that solves for unrecognized needs, and configuring culture and decision-making styles in new ways. For the organizations that can accomplish this, the opportunities far outweigh the threats.