An Interview with Futurist Thornton May


I thought it would be interesting to get a slightly different perspective on the questions that I posed to Futurist Gerd Leonhard in our recent interview. So I reached out to IT Futurist Thornton May. Thornton and I have interacted on a number of occasions at various events. His bio describes him as a futurist, educator and author. His extensive experience researching and consulting on the role and behaviors of C-level executives in creating value with information technology has won him an unquestioned place on the short list of serious thinkers on this topic. Thornton moderates the nationally recognized CIO Solutions Gallery program, intended for executives and senior leaders in the technology and operations communities.

With that background, I was excited to explore these broad topics with Thornton. His perspective follows.

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Business Evolution


This Presentation tells the full business evolution story articulated below.

Several key drivers have positioned the next two decades to deliver a staggering – perhaps unprecedented – amount of change. The accelerating pace of business, the growing impact of digital, and several other major indicators suggest that a next generation enterprise is on the horizon. The first of these indicators is the level of societal change impacting everything from business to war. In the business world, the implications of this change can be seen in our employees, where for the first time in history, four generations of workers are in our work force. The associated challenges are coming into focus, as some of these workers are digital natives, but the vast majorities are digital immigrants. With customers, the shift of power to the individual has changed their role forever and placed them at the center of the company ecosystem. Other indicators include an intense focus on growth, which increasingly requires collaboration within and outside the four walls of the Enterprise. This growth agenda drives a new type of value ecosystem, enabling growth that in many cases is outside a company’s traditional business.

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Autonomous Vehicles: The Automotive Ecosystem


This post continues the disruption scenario discussion initiated by my earlier Insurance Industry Case Study. I’ve been using the autonomous vehicle (AV) as an example of a disruptive scenario with potential societal, economical, and environmental impact. In this post, the focus shifts to the scenario’s possible effect on the automotive ecosystem.

Autonomous vehicle technology can be viewed using a five-part continuum suggested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), with different benefits realized at different levels of automation:

Driverless Car Continuum

Last month, an IHS Automotive study predicted the world will have nearly 54 million self-driving cars by 2035. The study also predicts that nearly all vehicles in use are likely to be self-driving cars or self-driving commercial vehicles sometime after 2050. Meanwhile, automakers and others are unveiling both their plans for – and introduction of – automated features: 

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A Closer Look at Transformation: Differentiation


Continuing with this closer look at transformation, part three focuses on differentiation; the fourth forcing function. Differentiation is a process that showcases the differences between products and services. It looks to make an offering more attractive by contrasting its unique qualities with other competing offerings. Successful differentiation should create competitive advantage, as customers view these offerings as unique or superior. In his piece on The Future of Enterprise IT, Geoffrey Moore, famous author of “Crossing the Chasm” describes the global business dynamics (Slide 10) that places differentiation at the center of a virtuous (perhaps vicious) cycle. His key message is that globalization and rapid commoditization are placing greater emphasis on differentiation, especially in developed economies.

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A Closer Look at Transformation: Effectiveness & Efficiency


In part two of this closer look at transformation, we will focus on two forcing functions: effectiveness and next generation efficiency. As a reminder, forcing functions are those things that force the enterprise to invest in a future state. In the case of efficiency, the next phase in the search for gains is upon us, as companies have hit the efficiency wall. But something bigger is happening, as the pace of business will increasingly demand that we are not just efficient – but effective. Whereas the past was about re-engineering, the future is about re-imagining.

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