A few months before he passed away, Clayton Christensen said at an interview in November 2019, that we are trained to select data, analyse it and make decisions; however, data belongs to the past. We have no data of the future at all.
Some decades ago, when the velocity of transformation of the environment was reasonably slow, we could make projections taking data from the past. Based upon such data we could start working and designing new products and services with some success. Little by little, the velocity of said transformation increased and in most cases, we didn’t even realise it and therefore did not understand why the success of new launches slowed.
Currently, we find ourselves in a crisis, and as in any crisis, transformation has accelerated around us.
From the sociological and corporate perspective, this time is becoming quite interesting. Permanent and radical alteration of the rules of the game and leaders of many organisations have made decisions which led me to reflections such as:
- When the crisis erupted, a great amount of companies focused on their treasury by applying predictive logic, and still today, they are acting as if this situation has a specific deadline from which everything will return to the way it was before.
- Let’s take as an example the organisers of congresses and conventions which is premised on gathering lots of people in reduced spaces (a lust party for Covid). A particular case is the Mobile World Congress (MWC!), which has been postponed again, to the end of June 2021. Organisers must have foreseen a scenario for the coming year where everything will be overcome and where people not only will be able to travel freely but that they will be willing to do so.
The MWC! is a forum that exhibits the latest state-of-the-art tech and announces future technologies, and bets everything on a XIX century form to run events.
I cannot help but wonder about it. Maybe, it would have not been that shocking if the MWC would have taken advantage of such an exceptional scenario to become the referral of the XXI century congresses, applying and promoting the technology already available.
- (I shall digress now because I don’t know why Singularity University comes to my mind, an entity that used to show us how the future would be, and even warned us about the dangers we could face such as the closeness of the fulfilling wish for immortality … I do not have any clarity on which contributions the SU made to our current circumstances).
- I personally believe that we move closer to augmented and virtual reality as competitors of convention centers and fair grounds resume their belief in the golden times – and the way of how things used to be. They ignore technology, or use it as a supplement only. Technology today is the partner or the competitor, there is no way out.
- Before we can go back to auditoriums shared by hundreds or thousands of people, what I imagine is a reality more like the Jedi masters gatherings where half of attendants are physically present while the other half appear as holograms (just augmented reality), and that in turn, it is broadcasted through the same augmented reality technology, making us feel present at the event, regardless of where we are physically.
While we read this text, our environment keeps transforming – as usual, yet it is now accelerated by the sanitary crisis that will come to an end some day. However, no one knows when and to which extent it will transform us too.
What decisions would I make for my organisation if the future would be as the present?
Imagine us in October 2022, we still undergo mobility restrictions, outbreaks appear everywhere and constrain economic activity, and every country is at a different point of the crisis. We will be in the position where the new way of doing things has been settled, our surroundings have been transformed and we should have been transformed with it too.
In such irreversible transformation, countless scenarios and opportunities will arise. Allow me to forecast some of issues I believe we will be facing going forward:
- Since most of us will be working from home, will vending companies transform into logistics companies for home delivery purposes?
- How will we use those city districts dedicated mostly to office premises in large cities?
- How will we solve the fact that our data networks have been designed to provide internet access to many users in single spaces (office buildings) and now we will require an integrated service for home users (IoT, videoconference, home working)?
- Will architects and city planners design distinct houses and spaces, keeping in mind that family, work, rest and entertainment will be blended in a single space?
- Will we use this opportunity to redesign the educational system?
In the meantime, winners of the crisis that accelerated the transformation showed up. Who remembers Skype today? Who knew Zoom in December 2019? What about the medical video conference and the normalisation of webinars? The acceptance of co-working, co-living, working from home and other variances? Associations, organisations and companies will be compelled to rethink their purpose, their main reason for being. Many of them for sure will not change substantially, but they will transform to a great extent the “how” to meet the “what for” (they will be transformed without even noticing it). A new “how” to explore with a different logic, interactive, based on hypotheses that we will validate on small experiments. As Clayton Christensen said, our traditional predictive logic based on data from the past is not very useful in these times of global transformation.
Finally, according to a recent Digital Transformation survey, executives agree that transformation at their organisations was not led by their leaders, but by Covid-19.