While technology changes every second, human nature never does. As businesses and organizations, we need to stay abreast of emerging trends while also making sure we aren’t mesmerized by the wrong shiny objects. This is a tricky task especially when most of us are focused on managing the immediate day-to-day needs of our business.
Before getting into the “dessert” of specific emerging trends, I thought it would be helpful to “eat our vegetables” and give you four practical laws for future proofing your organization. These will help you become the disruptor versus the disrupted.
4 Laws for Future Proofing by Erik Qualman
- Technology changes every second, but human nature never does.
- We need to be a year ahead of the competition, but never a year ahead of our market.
- Invest in trends, not tools.
- Fail Fast, fail forward, fail better.
These 4 laws will be helpful as you move forward as the only thing we know for certain is that things will certainly be changing. Below is a list of digital trends for 2019 and beyond. In the near future, we need to invest both time and money toward these while making sure we remain nimble enough to pivot when things change without warning.
Fail Fast, fail forward, fail better.
2019 Top Digital Trends:
1. Artificial Intelligence:
Artificial intelligence (AI) is the use of specifically derived algorithms that enable electronics to bypass the need to be repeatedly programmed with information again and again, but rather can understand and recognize patterns similar to how humans process things.
Some popular examples of AI include Amazon’s Alexa for your home and IBM’s Watson defeating the best Jeopardy champions of all time.
One of the more practical business uses I’ve seen in “the wild” was when I stayed at Caesar’s Palace. I could simply text a digital concierge with questions like what floor is the conference on, when does the gym close and when is breakfast open? This saved me tons of time and hassle. Over time, the system at Caesar’s learned the top questions and refined its answers based on customer feedback to whether it was helpful or not. Moving forward with this system, based on my location, it will start to proactively help me with suggestions.
In another example, programs like IBM’s Watson can scroll through commercial Life Insurance terms and policies to quickly identify boilerplate sections of contracts saving legal associates time. In one case it reduced review time from 2 weeks to 2 hours.
My Take: Bullish. We are already starting to use AI in our day-to-day lives as consumers. As consumers, get used to this in homes as they will demand it from every business. For businesses, AI can be a tremendous cost saver and allow your team more time to focus on strategic matters versus mundane tasks. It’s analogous to what robots were able to do for manufacturing. Can you imagine an autoworker on an assembly line hand painting a car today? Underinvesting in AI at this point would be very unwise.
2. Privacy is Dead
Privacy is dead and reputations are dying. In a fully transparent world integrity and reputation are now one and the same.
Popular examples of companies that have learned this the hard way include Wells Fargo, Facebook, and Volkswagen. Many other companies and individuals have been caught engaging in unscrupulous business practices. Hundreds of instances can be found in my books What Happens in Vegas Stays on YouTube (for business) and What Happens on Campus Stays on YouTube (for teenagers and college students).
My Take: This is a massive societal shift for both individuals and businesses. While lawmakers and regulators around the globe will try and give us back some of our privacy, the privacy genie is out of the bottle and will be tough to put back in. In a world of global competition and “copy-catting”, the winners moving forward will be those that consumers trust. As businesses and leaders, we manage integrity and trust as the number one product that we offer.
3. Quantum Computing
We are entering into an era of quantum computing where the traditional laws of physics no longer apply. We will be able to create processors that are significantly faster—a million or more times—than traditional computers and significantly more energy efficient.
The medical field will benefit significantly by using machine learning to predict deaths and perform better surgeries. Theoretically, quantum computers will be able to help us cure diseases, partake in intergalactic space travel, and understand nature better.
By 2027, the global quantum computing market will be $8B dollars. IBM, Google, Alibaba, and many governments have already ventured into this market with their cloud services.
My Take: This is going to happen, as it has to happen. In less than two decades we will lack the energy needed to power traditional computers and all the data that is constantly being created. However, this isn’t something every organization needs to invest in today. It’s analogous to when we traded in our flip-phones for a smartphone. Everyone’s timetable was different, but once we did it, there was no looking back. When the timing is right, being an early mover with quantum computing in certain industries like fintech or life insurance can give you a competitive headstart and advantage for a few years.
4. Voice Search
For many of us, it’s hard to imagine what life was like before Siri, Bixby, and Alexa.
These assistants are now being systematically revamped. Andrew Ng, a leader in AI, predicted that by 2020, 50% of all search will be done by image or voice. If someone were to ask where is the best and most affordable hair salon near me, search engines will produce suggestions based off of the user’s location, the salon’s price point, its online reviews, etc. These voice assistants will make appointments for you by mimicking a real-life human voice using technology like Google Duplex. Voice is also starting to marry deeper with AI so that these voice assistants will be more proactive with suggestions. In some instances in Asia individuals are developing human emotions and relations with their virtual assistant—in extreme cases, they are indicating that their voice assistant is their best friend.
My Take: You always want to go where attention is cheap to attract new customers. As Google Adwords is currently very expensive, companies that start investing in paid voice search can party like it’s 1999 or at least experience paid search pricing like 1999. The overall adoption curve of paid voice search will be slow and then super, super fast. Start testing paid voice search this year for your business while it’s still cheap. Don’t forget about organic voice search like many overlooked organic searches in 1999.
The state of being protected against the criminal or unauthorized use of electronic data, cybersecurity, gets more complex every day.
Data breaches have impacted Equifax, FedEx, Sony, government agencies, Google, Facebook, honestly, there are too many to name who have incurred costly data breaches.
As we venture into 2019, policymakers are focusing on techniques to avoid these breaches as everything from Facebook profiles to self-driving cars contain a goldmine of personal data that can be tampered with. Every company, no matter how small or large, are susceptible to data breaches. It’s becoming an increasing worry with national breaches; attacks designed to obtain intelligence and affect country objectives. Tough decisions face organizations around things like storing employees’ or customers’ biometric data. One Fortune 500 Chief Security Office stated it would be a cold day in hell before he started storing employee biometric data. Others are embracing it.
My Take: Cybersecurity used to be at the “kiddie table” in the boardroom. Often it was viewed with an afterthought and a nuisance—for example, slowing down the speed of business to update software patches across the organization. Now Cybersecurity as a seat in the C-Suite. If someone wants to hack you, it’s almost impossible to prevent, however, the key is making it so that you aren’t an easy or attractive target. Most breaches are still human-related so the first defense in cybersecurity is still properly and regularly training your employees.
Some Fun Trends to Think About … that are close to being possible today
- Communicate with dead relatives via virtual reality
- Everything on your smartphone will be either on contact lenses or a chip inside your head
- CGI will replace actors entirely
- We’ll vote for presidents and prime ministers on our phone
- Doctor visits will no longer exist — all self-scans and digital prognosis and prescriptions often done by the mirror in your bathroom and by your smart-toilet
- We will fly in all glass planes line Wonder Woman
- Dust sensor will record our every move
- Robotic earthworms will consume our garbage
- Self-driving ships, cars, and planes
While this ever-changing world can at times be overwhelming, winning technologies always have one thing in common. The best technologies always help deepen relationships with customers, employees, and partners.