Follow me into a wild set of random thoughts and let’s see if we can connect the dots. For about eight weeks now retail stores are selling Christmas cookies, so we must be getting closer to the actual holiday. Contrary to urban legend and marketing I think this is probably the busiest time of the year. But often it is also the time to take a moment to think about the past 11 months – maybe to collect content for writing Christmas cards.
Not surprisingly in 2017, we’ve seen a lot of conversations around digitization and transformation. Some key notes are surprisingly minimalistic in their approach. Imagine that instead of linear growth, you could double your winnings with each period. Sounds straightforward? Well, to make it catchier, let’s call it exponential thinking and now we are ready for prime time. And to spice it up let’s ask questions like: “How could Nokia have missed the smart-phone trend?” or “Why did Kodak not monetize on the idea of digital photography?”
So of course, you cannot leave your audience with questions only and the advice to start thinking exponentially. So we will add valuable advice like ensuring that you need to continue to grow revenue and margin, reduce cost and attract the best talent for your enterprise. And then to top it off, trump it with the universal joker: you must develop new business models to ensure growth or survival.
I am exaggerating of course and these basic findings are by no means incorrect – they are just blown out of scale and have been true for I almost want to say centuries. What may be new is potentially the pace of innovation. Most studies that analyze this phenomenon support this theory, some suggest that it will culminate into an artificial super-intelligence. Whether you believe in this singularity theory or not is probably not decisive for how you approach change in the nearer future – because it will most likely affect your business.
Innovation is happening on almost all levels of business and society. In many areas, structural change is inevitable – whether we like it or not. And because this transformational – or maybe revolutionary – changes are impacting us on all levels it is basically impossible to predict the future. We can think of possible scenarios or outcomes – some potentially more likely than others. With this uncertainty to be future-ready the task becomes to build simulations around possible outcomes and test different approaches to be successful in this new environment – keeping in mind that things become increasingly interconnected.
To illustrate this let’s use the example of driver-less electric vehicles. This obviously massively impacts car manufacturers, but it also will change the way we develop transportation concepts of the future. Driver-less concepts will likely significantly reduce the number of accidents – impacting health care providers, insurance companies, repair shops and automotive parts wholesalers. And this is just a first set of immediate impacts – the model can be expanded almost indefinitely. The key to success will be the ability to connect your relevant dots in this vast sea of ripple effects. The need to think exponentially suddenly becomes a different meaning, doesn’t it?
So, to close my wild ramblings here are four suggestions building on this set of thoughts:
- Around New Year’s just for the fun of it put together a set of maybe 10 predictions for 2018. You can do this with friend, family or colleagues. Seal the projections in an envelope and check 12 months from now (36 if you want to be really ambitious) who was most accurate – to ensure comparability you should define the categories for the predictions.
- If you want to get more insights and inspiration around future trends and technologies I can highly recommend the openSAP course: Reimagining the Future: A Journey Through the Looking Glass
- Put together a team in your company – a think tank if you will – that works on possible future states, builds simulations, tests possible approaches and tries to be ready for a range of outcomes. Divide into two groups that can challenge each other, alternating between building models and trying to find loop holes.
- And lastly on a personal level: write real Christmas cards with a personal note, at least to a few people that matter to you. You will not only support the postal service, mail people, card designers and paper wholesalers but – trust me on this one – you will make people much happier than you could with a Tweet, email or text message.
Have a happy season and try to let the stress levels not get out of control!