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Showing posts from September, 2021

Leadership Advice from a Futurist

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Over the years I have conducted many surveys of business and technology professionals, and the one consistent insight across all these surveys is a high level scepticism that leaders will make the necessary decisions and act fast enough to compete effectively.  I understand that.  Most failures can be directly traced back to either bad decisions or a lack of decisions by leaders, but I also have great sympathy for them.   Leading through rapid market evolutions and disruptions is difficult in the best of times, but when you throw in fast changing consumer behaviors, supply chain disruptions, technology advancements and global pandemics it's just unfair.   There are, however, some great insights and wisdom that can be gleaned from all the surveys I have reviewed and research I have participated in.  I put together the following list that I hope you will find useful. Develop and monitor your own digital mindset and that of your organization's: Understand the need to continuously

Winning with Speed and Fridays

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"The size of competitors and the longevity of their brands, are less predictive of future success than the importance they give to data, the speed in which they act upon the data, and their operational tempo."   In 2013 the volume of data created, captured, copied and consumed worldwide totaled approximately 9 zetabytes.  This year the total will be 79 zetabytes.  By 2025 there is projected to be 181 zetabytes of data.  Inside these fast growing masses of data are the answers all businesses need to succeed.  The data tells them what their customers want.  It tells them the prices customers are willing to pay.  It tells them when the products are most in demand.  This data, however,  has a shelf life that rapidly diminishes over time just as consumers change their preferences with the changing seasons.  It is up to every business to be able to exploit the data fast enough to be meaningful. In an always-connected world where consumers and their needs are transient, timing is ev

Robots vs Humans - Are You Prepared?

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Humanity's strongest advantage over the fast approaching robot hordes is our thinking and creativity.  We need to do everything possible to develop these skills. In Cal Newport's book, "Deep Work" he posits that most knowledge workers need concentration and substantial time, that is dedicated and uninterrupted, to produce their best work. He argues that a lot of technologies and working environments inhibit creativity, and it is creativity that delivers creations.  Our minds require "deep work" and "deep thoughts" to produce new products, new businesses, new strategies, new competitive advantages and new improvements.  These are the most highly valued items an organization can develop, yet often we focus very little attention on optimizing the environments to foster them.  They are also the strongest differentiators we have between ourselves and the machines. Newport argues that we must understand and optimize the conditions and environments that h

The Expanding Boundary of Opportunity and Employment

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W. Edward Deming taught that quality is achieved by measuring as much as possible and reducing variations.  Japan widely adopted Deming's philosophies in the 1950s and, largely as a result, became the 2nd biggest economy in the world.  This revolution in manufacturing, that introduced a system of quality improvement and innovation, led directly to jobs and economic expansion. This same kind of revolution is now taking place around decision-making.  Algorithms are now able to expand and codify Deming's philosophies and to take them to the next level.  Algorithms can standardize decision-making and make improvements to them, and for the first time in history uncoupled them from the very human dynamic of unpredictability.  This is a rich area for innovation and job creation. Markets are often like a balloon - when one end is squeezed the other expands. When the market catches up with a competitive advantage and the advantage ceases, competition is squeezed and moves elsewhere.  Em

The Greater Good - Technology on Purpose

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Adam Smith wrote about the concept of rational self-interest, which posits we work together for the greater good when it benefits ourselves.  Is this argument valid in the context of robots, automation and employment? I think so. I believe most of us would agree that replacing large numbers of humans with machines that result in wide scale unemployment and suffering is not in our rational self-interest. Having massive numbers of jobs terminated by the Terminator does not result in a safer, healthier civilization or vibrant economy; therefore, it is not in our best interest. Just because something is possible, does not mean it is good. A powerful ruler that takes all the food, property and means of production away from his people resulting in their suffering, quickly becomes a target of community wrath. Businesses that replace human workers with machines and software, out of self-interest, will over time find it increasingly difficult to sell their products to their unemployed or undere

Convergence, Combinations and Challenges in the Future

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I first read about futurist Frank Diana's concept of combinatorial technologies several years ago. He wrote, " We are seeing exponential convergence across the areas of science, technology, economics, society, ethics, and politics. The  combinatorial nature  of an overwhelming number of building blocks drives an accelerating intersection across these areas.  As an expert Lego player, I can appreciate the concept of building blocks, and the near infinite number of combinations these blocks can be used to form.  The idea that we have now reached a critical mass of digital building blocks, and that we are now experiencing exponential growth through the combinatorial nature of them is compelling. The World Economic Forum described the future in similar ways,  “We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind ha