Battle for the future

To a management consultant and entrepreneur, December is always a busy time. Aside from the usual festivities, December is also a time for looking ahead. Many of my clients are concerned with the question in what ways society will change during the next year. And what their organisation should be like next year. You might think that’s a question one should ask every day of the year, but every year this evolutionary issue arises particularly between the baubles and the fireworks.

That question should consist of at least two parts: what would our products and services ideally be like if we’d reinvent them next year, and how will we take care of marketing and communication?

It’s becoming increasingly common for the answer to that question to have a technological component to it. Marketing and communication depend on the consumers, and they’re glued to their mobile devices more and more. Products that aren’t tied to the internet will soon not count any more. And service providers that don’t live by the ‘atawad’ principle – any time, anywhere, any device – are going to be trumped by competitors who do. The winners of this battle will be the platforms where consumers and providers come together, in the offline world as well as digitally – well integrated with and connected to technology, to continue to be relevant and valuable. It’s a particularly promising opportunity for retailers with many physical stores.

But what would we do if those computer chips that we rely on to power the digital world, don’t continue to keep getting smaller and cheaper like they’re expected to? What if resources run out or electricity becomes too expensive? What if, in the long run, technology turns out to be more expensive than a human cashier? What if consumers will no longer be willing to give up their privacy, or end up mistrusting technology? What if there will be a permanent shortage of technically schooled staff and the education system continues to lag behind in innovation?

What if a few years from now, organisations and citizens will agree en masse that our dependence on technology has gone too far? Maybe we’d be happy that some organisations haven’t been in such a rush to innovate, or at least that the analogue world hasn’t been abolished yet.

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