“I am blown away by how palpable the feeling of exponential change has become. I’m also certain that 99.999% of humanity doesn’t understand or appreciate the ramifications of what is coming”
On Wednesday January 4th, I participated in a Game Changers radio program focused on predictions for 2017. The program, hosted by Bonnie D. Graham, included 15 other guests in an hour long show made up of four segments. A rebroadcast can be found here.
To prepare for the show, I took a quick look back before looking ahead. My 2016 Predictions focused on categories ranging from an emerging general purpose technology platform to the need for business model innovation. As I indicated last year, I viewed 2016 as a year of shifts – a tipping point towards a radically different future. As I look back on the year that was, it delivered on my expectations; in fact, it may have exceeded them. I point to a recent Article by Peter Diamandis as supporting evidence. Mr. Diamandis shared his review of 52 weeks of science and technology breakthroughs. A look back at this exponential progress lends credence to his assertion that humanity will likely be transformed. Yet, the quote above taken from his article rings all to true.
It is either a lack of understanding or an unwillingness to look the on-coming train in the eye. At this time last year, I was stunned by the status quo mentality that permeated leadership circles. Whether they were overwhelmed by the speed and volume of change, or believed that many of the transformative effects of these advances were years away; it was difficult to drive action. Then something strange happened about the middle of the year; the message began to resonate. Thinking differently moved from cliché to accepting at some level that our belief system is being challenged. I attribute this shift in attitude to the autonomous vehicle. This very visible future scenario kicked into overdrive in the middle of 2016, and the exponential progression messaging that many were espousing became very real. This shift became a leading indicator for my thoughts on 2017 and poses an interesting question: will we see a change in leadership behavior? The signs are there, as in the latter half of 2016 many traditional companies intensified their focus on digital.
On one hand, this is encouraging, as digital may finally be jumping out of Marketing and into the enterprise mainstream. On the other hand, here we are in 2017, and I question why it took so long to intensify digital focus this far on the digital journey. In a recent book titled Digital to the Core, research by its authors discovered an alarming gap between digital leaders and the rest of the pack. They argue that it’s too late for companies to catch up in the digital race. Instead, they see a new focus emerging, one reflected in the title of the book. In essence, it goes much deeper than traditional views of digital. It goes to the heart of what a company makes and serves to its customers. It redefines core competencies and alters the business a company is in; likely altering the industry they do it in, or creating one that never existed. This is no longer a question of digital modernization – but one of Reimagining the Future.
So, with this as a backdrop, my predictions are once again a mixture of leading indicators and hope. I’ll once again view 2017 in several broad categories. Here it goes…
My 2016 predictions focused on the shifting world of customer experience. I have viewed experience through a next generation lens, realizing that our interaction paradigms will change considerably in the next five years (conversational systems, ecosystems, virtual reality, augmented reality, etc.). Rather than expand on that theme this year, I am shifting my lens to purpose. At the end of the day, it’s about human well-being. The experiences that business and government create are in some way linked to our own life experiences – and ultimately our well-being. History tells us that we experienced great improvements in the standard of living of developed countries during a special century between 1870 and 1970 – but there has been little change since.
In 2017, we will see a growing shift towards purpose, exploiting our advances in science and technology to improve the human condition. Whether it is achieving standard of living parity in developing economies, or advances in the current standard of living of developed nations, this shift in focus will gain more traction in the coming year, penetrating the mission statements of many more companies. I explore this prediction in detail in a recent post titled Revolution and the Innovation Wheel.
As the autonomous vehicle displayed in 2016, future scenarios are evolving faster than people think. The implications of these scenarios are therefore felt sooner, leaving us in various states of preparedness. Our Emerging Future is therefore something that leaders must pay critical attention to. In 2017, more leaders will be exposed to the realities of these future scenarios, resulting in an amplified sense of urgency to understand them and evaluate responses. The scenarios that will progress in the coming year are: autonomous vehicles, a maker economy enabled by 3D Printing, healthy life extension, an energy Internet, artificial narrow intelligence, smart homes, smart cities, and connected healthcare. My current view of future scenarios is captured in my emerging-future visual:
A PDF version of the emerging futures visual is available here.
The buzz word in 2017 will be platforms. The networking effects delivered by platform business models represent a large growth opportunity. The largest firms as measured by market capitalization all run these models. The power of the platform – as described in The Platform Revolution lies in the use of technology to connect people, organizations, and resources in an interactive ecosystem in which amazing amounts of value can be created and exchanged. The authors of the book referenced above define a platform as:
“A business based on enabling value-creating interactions between external producers and consumers. The platform provides an open, participative infrastructure for these interactions and sets governance conditions for them. The platform’s overarching purpose: to consummate matches among users and facilitate the exchange of goods, services, or social currency, thereby enabling value creation for all participants.”
In 2017, many companies will move towards platform business models, forcing a shift to platform and ecosystem thinking. Many will be challenged by firm-centric behaviors and the difficult task of creating platform-specific ecosystems that drive value creation and capture.
With rapid advances in AI, Energy, Robotics, and computing power, automation in 2017 will kick into overdrive. Although the dialog on job implications has been limited, expect that dialog to ramp in the coming year. One of the key focal areas during the U.S. election cycle was trade and globalization and their respective roles in killing jobs in developed economies. However, The Long Term Job Killer is not China: It’s automation. I expect some increase in focus on long term measures that can deal with the inevitable job implications – but not nearly enough progress will be made.
As described in this post titled Balancing the Opposing forces of Innovation, we will see an increased focus on ethics in 2017. There are growing concerns that unintended consequences are lurking, and humanity itself is at risk. Futurist Gerd Leonhard explores these concerns in his newly released book titled Technology versus Humanity. The path forward represents a delicate balance between the socially constructive benefits of innovation, and the unintended consequences of science and technology that have no ethics, and an innovation engine that has no governance. With voices like Mr. Leonhard driving the dialog, I expect to hear more about this topic in 2017. I’d like to see a global framework evolve to deal with these emerging issues, but I do not expect that to happen in the coming year(s).
So buckle up – should be a wild ride!