What’s in YOUR Future?

April 24, 2017

These days it feels as if there is a story about another new technology on every other page of every other newspaper or magazine, or – more appropriately – every other website or tweet.

We all know how big an impact technology is having on our lives, and it sometimes (all the time?) feels impossible to keep up.

The future is arriving at an ever-more dizzying pace. In most ways, our collective vision of the future holds out the promise of a higher quality of life, though there are also many challenges ahead (like the prospect of widespread unemployment as automation impacts more and more jobs).

I remain an optimist. However, I do worry that we’re not very good at sorting out the consequences – both good and bad – of new technologies.

You should approach every new technology you learn about with a list of questions that force you to consider how it might – or will – impact you and your business.

Let’s consider just one example of a new technology I just became aware of: a credit card with an embedded biometric fingerprint reader. MasterCard is currently testing the technology in South Africa; it may be available in the United States as soon as early 2018.

At first glance this feature sounds appealing; it should reduce opportunities for fraud and make it easier to use the card in retail outlets. So, what does that have to do with your business?

That depends, of course, on what business you are in. Here are just a few possibilities that occur to me right off the bat:

  • If you are a bank, you are going to have to invest in technology for registering and storing your customers’ fingerprints. On the other hand, you should experience fewer losses due to credit care theft.
  • If you are in the fraud detection business, your market might be shrinking as fraud becomes more difficult.
  • If you produce and distribute credit card readers, you will need to upgrade all those readers so they capture and transmit the new biometric data. That’s a new challenge, but also a new business opportunity.
  • If you are a retailer, you will no doubt benefit from reduced fraudulent purchases, but you will also have to train your staff so they can show customers how to use the biometric readers. You will also incur new costs for purchasing or renting the new readers.
  • There may also be a new market opportunity for cleaners and cleansing tissues to wipe off the biometric readers when they get dirty and don’t function properly.

The Future Exit SignClearly, the point of this exercise isn’t to second-guess any of those industries or MasterCard; it is simply to point out how important it is to, first, be aware of new technologies, and, second, be pro-active about identifying their implications for your business and then taking strategic action.

I know that sounds simplistic, but I am struck time and time again by how few organizations pay adequate attention to the future, and how little time most senior leadership teams invest in exploring what’s over the horizon and what it might mean to their business.

Even though it often feels like transformational change arrives at lightning speed out of nowhere, almost every new technology starts small and progresses slowly before it reaches that tipping point that Malcolm Gladwell described so brilliantly in his 20xx book titled, appropriately, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.

You can anticipate the future; you just have to pay attention – and talk about it.

Don’t face the future alone. Jim Ware designs experiences that enable organizational leaders to make sense out of the future and put it to work for their business.

Contact Jim today, or call him right now at +1 510.558.1434 to learn how his workshops, keynote presentations, and expertise in orchestrating powerful conversations can put the future to work for you.

Download "What's in YOUR Future?" as a PDF

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