Tomorrow’s Thinking

October 17, 2007

It’s time to rethink thinking.

As we speed our way through the 21st century reeling at every new idea, concept, possible cure and new adventure we have to ask if our current model of thinking is serving us or hindering us.

In the 1960’s through 1980’s we accepted that change would be generational and that every ten years or so a great event, idea or product – man on the moon, VCR, personal computer, the crumbling of the Berlin Wall – would come along and change our paradigm and force us to rethink our world.

We coped with that innovation and its ramifications using an “industrial mindset” a way of thinking that allowed us to predict the future based on past knowledge or experiences.

This was acceptable and useful then, but with the rate of change exponentially increasing to where we have experienced the equivalent of ten years of change in the last two years and will experience the equivalent of 100 years of change in the next ten years we are going to have to lift our thinking game if we are going to keep up.

If we are to cope and thrive in this new environment we will have to upgrade our thinking to a digital mindset.

We will have to give up trying to use past experiences and knowledge as a way of gauging future success. Ten years ago who would have thought that search engines like Google would have such an impact on every aspect of our world.

Looking at all of the innovations of the last five years and moving forward they have all been created in a synthetic virtual world. We model, build and test new cars inside computers before they are ever built. We do the same with buildings. Many designers use 3D modelling and programs to design tomorrow’s fashion.

It is now possible to take a blood sample from you and to model the impact that various sophisticated medical cures will have on your body before ever injecting or submitting you to it physically.

Tomorrow’s reality is that nearly everything that is created or dreamt of will in some way be created, tested, modelled and even trialled in a virtual, or synthetic, world.

This new thinking may sound foreign to the baby boomers and builders of our society, but all our X’s, Y’s, and Z’s have grown up with computers and technology as a constant and steady partner – they don’t remember slide rulers and graph paper and the only thing constant in their lives is change – they expect it, they want it and they embrace it.

Their world now requires us to make sense of a far bigger frame of reference, inputs and stimuli and often to leap to solutions or probabilities that are not at first to an industrial mindset considered systemic or logical.

Our current industrial mindset and problem solving methodologies have also evolved from the notion that there was always one right answer, through to today’s growing understanding that there are many ways to solve an issue, and sometimes the best solution is far beyond our current scope or capabilities in which case we may need to invent or innovate.

The way we use our memory has also altered. We no longer value rote learning and our schools have all but given up using it as teaching method. How many of us can recall our parents or friends phone numbers?

This sense that we no longer need to remember trivial details that devices can store and retrieve for us, has altered one of the primary functions of our short and long term memory.

Our belief in experts has also altered. In a world where information was historically narrow and relied on television, radio, magazines and reference books we believed there was one expert who held the most knowledge about any given topic or issue and we would defer to them as the final arbitrator.

We now defer to a multitude of known and unknown people each offering some piece of specialist information in their own particular niche world and often these are not traditionally learned or schooled experts, but someone we came across by happenstance in a chat room, or searched on-line to find –, an on line collaborative encyclopaedia, is great example of this.

The most fascinating change in our thinking patterns is our shift to the increasing use of mental imagery with which to see possible solutions. Historically our knowledge was derived from a linear static format such as radio, television or newspaper and cross referenced with perhaps one or two other pieces of research or opinion to justify our final thinking.

In contrast, today we are bombarded by a plethora of multimedia multi-sensory inputs that constantly feed us information, much of which we hadn’t started off to discover, didn’t necessarily want to know, but nevertheless must now decide what to do with.

We now tend to amass all of these disparate pieces of knowledge and try and form them into a cohesive mental image by finding the pattern, linkages, uses and possibilities that join all of these items together and then seek a physical real world solution to manifesting our audacious dreams.

The world of tomorrow is not being built on new technology, but rather on a radical change to a digital mindset that allows us to envision possibilities, assertively ask “why not” and with almost god like surety, create something from nothing.

Are you ready for the year 2020?

October 3, 2007

Whenever I tell a client, or an audience, that we have experienced 10 years of changes in the last two years and that in the next 10 years we will see the equivalent of 100 years of change I am met by dumfounded and often worried looks.

As we speed to the close of the first decade of this century, we have exponentially picked up the pace of technological advances across all sectors of our lives, businesses and recreation and equally interesting is that we now expect and champion change.

To me change is incremental not overwhelming. We have all lived successfully through previous change revolutions. We have seen computers become mainstream and pervade all areas of our lives. We now have ready and constant access to communication tools and information, and we are thankfully watching the list of fatal and crippling diseases diminish.

But what might lie ahead?

Let’s have a look at some broad business and consumer predictions that we might experience between now and 2020.

Between now and 2012 we can expect advertising to be increasingly personalised to the consumer, the use of virtual companies and virtual co-operatives will increase and we will see the introduction of VR (virtual reality) shopping booths.

Between 2012 and 2017 we can expect to see most of our paper money replaced by smart media, RFID (radio frequency identification) will replace bar codes, and consumers will be able to get nearby shops to bid on their shopping lists in electronic reverse auctions.

Between 2017 and 2020 more people will use telework centres (work spaces shared by a number of companies, but not directly controlled by any one of them) rather than work at home; autonomous production plants will produce all our manufacturing needs and unemployment in Asia will increase.

Whether these changes eventuate exactly as predicted is unimportant. What is important is the underlying implications of what these sorts of changes may herald and the implications they may have on the future well being of your retail business.

You can choose to respond by embracing these changes and becoming an innovator (a road taken by only by a few brave souls) or choose to be a follower (a road more often taken, where you allow others to trial and implement and then innovate based on their experiences), both are acceptable and perfectly normal business practices.

What is not an acceptable choice is to be a doomsayer and insist that things will not change, or that change will not affect you, because the only thing that is certain is that change is now our constant business companion and we flourish or flounder on how we choose to accept or reject it.