Future Hackers … Leading business with a future mindset, driving agile innovation and faster growth
February 23, 2018
How do you win in a world of relentless change?
Download summary of my keynote: Future Hackers
You know you need to innovate more than ever. You need to think bigger, and different. Not just as an occasional project, but as a continual stream of revolution. You need to think more significantly, how to solve the significant problems of a restless world, to seize the new opportunities to make life better in useful and meaningful ways, and to accelerate profitable growth. Not just the technology, but the smart application of it to the real world, socially and commercially.
Smaller, incremental innovations are quickly swallowed up, or made irrelevant by the next thing. Consumers see through the hype and fragility. Or don’t have time for the frivolity of irrelevance.
Of course, small changes can add to bigger ones, but if they collectively don’t achieve more, and move you forwards in a bigger way, then they are distracting and wasted.
We need bigger ideas. But they are hard to deliver, particularly when the landscape keeps moving. When the future is imperfect or even unpredictable. When the business case is difficult to make. When everything seems to have been already, and most competitors are into marginal gains – discounts and tweaks to almost perfect products and services.
Stop! Think again.
Time to “hack” the future
Switch on your Musk mindset … Unlock your Einstein dreams and Picasso passion … Embrace your Mandela courage and Ghandi spirit.
Is this what will take SpaceX to Mars by 2025? Is this why Zespri reinvented the chinese gooseberry? Is this how Netflix came to be, or NuTonomy, or Nespresso, or Nyx?
Is this what motivates Jeff Bezos to say “every day is day one”? Is this how Anne Wojicki seeks to cure cancer? Is this why Jack Ma ignored everyone to create $500bn in 15 years?
We need to think bigger, but we also need to think actively. The future is malleable, so we need to grab hold of it, to shape it in our own vision. To our advantage. This is what “game changers” do. They take a market, and reinvent it, or even create a new one, on their terms. Don’t just innovate a product, service, or even business model – innovate the market.
Of course, they can’t plan exactly how to get there. That would be ridiculous, like trying to climb Mount Everest without the agility to sense and respond to the changing weather conditions. But they know where they are going. They have a bigger dream. And they are willing to fight and flex to get there.
And then they hack.
You think of it as a nerdy kid sitting in front of a bank of computers, trying to infiltrate the most cybersecure fortresses. But its much more than that. It’s about using your brain, curiosity, intuition, hypothesis, resourcefulness, and experimentation. It’s about sensing your way, being bold yet also adaptive, being flexible but also driven.
Leaders need a “future mindset”
There is no space into today’s business world for a fixed mindset. One which seeks to sit an optimise the current world, in search of ever greater efficiency and ultimate perfection. That is a route of diminishing returns. It’s also what you’ve been doing for decades. Trying to hang on to the old model of success. Instead we need a future mindset. To face the future every day, find new ways forward, to a better world.
A future mindset needs an organisational context in order to be shared and thrive – an agile innovation culture. Business is shifting from a passive to active dynamic – where 80% of activities are active (project-type working focused on innovation, experimentation and customisation) and only 20% passive (ongoing-type working focused on administration, production and standardised delivery), rather than the opposite.
In this active culture, work becomes fast and flexible, innovation becomes the core rather than a occasional luxury, where there are no limiting strategies and fixed ways of working, unhindered by internally-focused structures and process, and where ideas and experiments can thrive. And where the focus is no longer about living off the past, or surviving for today. But inspired by a better future.
How do you see your future?
We live in an incredible time. More change in the next 10 years than in the last 250 years. New technologies transforming the ways in which we live and work. Digital platforms and blockchains, AI and robotics, 3D printing and nanotech .
These are just some of the fantastic new capabilities that enable us to innovate beyond what we can even imagine today. The future isn’t like the future used to be. We cannot just evolve or extrapolate the past. Today’s future is discontinuous, disruptive, different.
It is imagination that will move us forwards … unlocking the technological possibilities, applying them to real problems and opportunities, to drive innovation and growth in every industry, in every part of our lives.
Imagine a world where you press “print” to get the dress of your dreams, the food of your fantasies, or the spare parts for your car. Instantly, personalised and on demand. Think then what does that mean if we don’t need the huge scale of manufacturing plants, warehousing and transportation. Maybe we will even subscribe to the IP catalogues of brands, in the ways we currently subscribe to Netflix.
Growth starts from the “future back”
The best place to start is the future. The best entrepreneurs think “future back” rather than just trying to move forwards with the limitations and distractions of today. Elon Musk grabs headlines with his bold “Humans on Mars by 2025” vision, but then that makes everything else more purposeful, and more possible. Tesla to Hyperloop to SpaceX, all seem more possible, and even stepping stones to a greater destination.
“Future back” thinking also means you are not limited by your own capabilities. Richard Branson had a fantastic vision for a better airline, a consumer bank, a space travel business. But no idea how to make them happen. But then he found partners who could help make them happen. Partners with the expertise on tap, to connect with his ideas, and together innovate further and faster.
Partnerships are key to the future, connecting ideas and capabilities, risks and rewards, to achieve more together.
What might your world look like in 2025?
By jumping to the future, and then working backwards, you develop a bolder, braver ambition. Shaping the future on your terms, exploring the new possibilities for innovation and growth, unlimited by the priorities and prejudices of today. New technologies will be key, but they are more the enablers than answers. How will they make life better? How will they make your business better?
Inspired by the Adidas Speedfactory, what does the future of your manufacturing look like? If Amazon’s Alexa can manage your home, then what could the future workplace look like? What would happen if phones were free like Jio Phone has just disruptively done in India? How could you apply big data like 23&Me in healthcare to predict what people want? Or the new business models like Airbnb and Nespresso to redefine markets? Beyond the hype of Bitcoin, how could blockchain redefine how you engage customers? And what actually will people want most in the future?
Futurists look for emerging patterns – signals of future possibilities, already out there. Emergent behaviours, adaptive usage, new aspirations. You just need to find these signals, and apply them. Maybe on the fringes of your market, or by transferring ideas from other sectors, or other geograhies, or others aspects of life.
Leonardo da Vinci definined innovation as making unusual connections. So how could you connect the most relevant and disruptive ideas together in new ways?
Are you ready to create your better future?
It’s time to jump to the future. And then look back. Then you will see today differently.
Too many of us get locked in to a mindset of today – of incremental, extrapolating, and perfecting the old world. Working backwards from 2025 you will define different milestones, different priorities to be achieved within 3 years, and even next year.
Innovation demands a future mindset, that will deliver bigger ideas to drive innovation and growth, and new perspectives on what matters most today.
Are you ready?
This is future hacking.
We all need to be future hackers today.