I recently read an excellent piece of futurology,"Labor 2030: The Collision of Demographics, Automation, and Inequality" which is freely available from one of America's premier consultancies, Bain & Company.
"Demographics, automation, and inequality have the potential to dramatically reshape our world in the 2020s and beyond. Our analysis shows that the collision of these forces could trigger economic disruption far greater than we have experienced over the past 60 years. The aim of this report by Bain's Macro Trends Group is to detail how the impact of aging populations, the adoption of new automation technologies and rising inequality will likely combine to give rise to new business risks and opportunities. These gathering forces already pose challenges for businesses and investors. In the next decade, they will combine to create an economic climate of increasing extremes but may also trigger a decade-plus investment boom."
The primary point of publication is not to portend the future, but to serve as a reputation enhancer and sales piece targeted at those executives who are extremely anxious about their own ability to handle the potential harsh realities, difficult situations, and challenges of an unknown future. In short, to future-proof an executive's career against future adverse outcomes. Admittedly, it is far better to point to well-regarded, well-paid counsel than take sole responsibility for presiding over a corporate catastrophe.
CAN YOU TELL YOUR OWN FUTURE?
Historically, original concepts and true innovation are relatively rare and random, often the result of accidental acts or flashes of insight. Something recognized by both Henry Ford and Apple's Steve Jobs.
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” –Henry Ford.
“It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them.” — Steve Jobs
Becoming your own fortune teller.
The most natural, practical, and effective way to think about the future is to think in terms of:
- Product cycles, changing user demographics, and instant gratification.
- Old ideas: looking at old inventions and discoveries with an eye to using modern materials and production methods.
- Extending present offering with new capabilities and characteristics such as being lighter, faster, cheaper, with more features, longer life, or merely offering combinations of independent functions or devices.
- Reducing transactional frictions by overcoming the difficulties in acquiring, maintaining, and using your products or services.
- Reducing inequalities by offering varied price points for different audiences without destroying the brand's reputation.
- Gamification: using addictive gaming technology and small rewards to improve and deepen customer engagement.
The bottom line is to be aware of your environment, read widely (especially science fiction), and to regard complaints as inspirational material.
To view the world with an eye to finding a genuine need and filling it with a legally protectable, high-margin product or service that has the capability of being marketed at an exponential rate in an expanding marketplace.