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Meet the challenges of the future

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Companies face the challenge of unlocking their businesses in the new global economy. Michael Jackson, guest speaker at the Hitachi Innovation Forum, points out that people, every day, generate staggering numbers.
Every 24 hours, we will do $736-billion of business – more than we did in the year of 1950.

“This is intriguing in the face of words like recession and economic downturn,” he says. “The people talking downturn are probably those not embracing change.”

1950 was the year we started the technological age. In addition, we do more research in a day today than we did in a year in 1960. People send more mail today that in a year in 1970 – and this doesn’t even count e-mail. E-commerce last year touched $100-trillion – and everything has to be delivered.

People make more phone calls that we make in the year of 1980 – on landlines alone, not counting cell phones. And they send more e-mails today – 4-million per second – than in the year of 1994; and more SMSes – 16-billion per day – than in the year of 2001.

“No generation other than us has had to deal with anything like these circumstances. Tear up the rulebook because the world is not the same,” Jackson says.

Back in the 1950s, he says, the cutting edge speed of delivery was weeks. By the 1960s, it was down to days, by the 1970s customers were prepared to wait just minutes. By the 1980s, customers wanted delivery “now”.

In the 1990s, customers expected 24/7 delivery. In the new millennium, we entered the instant era and if companies didn’t meet instant gratification customers simply moved away.

“Now the world is changing in three-year cycles,” Jackson says. “And the pressure is constant. It means everything has got to change.”

People are a truly globalised planet, Jackson says. There are no barriers, technology is everywhere, and companies have to operate in a co-operative model. The world has also become idealised, with customers expecting to get everything they wish. This means people are stressed to the maximum, working harder than ever before.

“Things are fundamentally different,” he says. IDC says people can expect to be 44-times busier by 2020 than they are today.
“So how are we going to cope?” Jackson asks. “There’s got to be a new formula.”

Today, people have to take where they are today, think of how it can be different, and that’s probably what the future will do.

“We are not wired for change. We like safety and comfort.”

Traditional companies have to find new ways of doing business in order to find new ways of generating revenue. People and companies are under significant pressure, Jackson adds. Even the last 10 years have seen massive changes in consumer technology. Just 10 years ago the hottest product on the market was the iPod – and it as individualised to each-user.

Between 2006 and 2009, we saw the emergence of reality search, crowdsourcing and the smartphone. Between 2010 and 2013, we have seen the emergence of the tablet computer, big data and cloud computing.

“All this came from the sheer value of data that we are producing.”

The road ahead is scary, Jackson adds. It’s important to find balance and stay in control.

“But conditions are changing so quickly means that we don’t know how to navigate – even though we are busy driving 24/7. We need to embrace the change.”

To achieve this, we need to focus on the destination, not looking into the rear-view mirror.

“Yet how many of us spend our lives looking backwards?”

People should be looking for new road signs, such as simplification, smartening up and simplifying. An important lesson we can learn from Confucius, Jackson adds, is that life is simple and we shouldn’t complicate it.

“Identify what’s important to you, eliminate everything else; with what’s left, if you can’t do it yourself, automate, delegate or get help,” he says. “We’re trying to do too much; we need to simplify our lives. We need to smarten up, and find new ways of doing things.”

To get there, Jackson says, there are several learning steps that we all take.

These begin with unconscious incompetence – you don’t know what you don’t know; when you begin to learn you become conscious of your incompetence – you knew how hard it was; then you moved into the era of conscious competence – where you know what you know; then you become unconsciously competent – you don’t know what you know, and perform tasks unconsciously.

“Unconscious competence creeps into every area of our lives, because we stop learning,” Jackson says. “The ideal tip of the pyramid is conscious excellence – where you are at the top of your game. You have to more conscious of what you are doing.”