I attended an interesting address by well-known political analyst and keynote speaker, Daniel Silke last week. His talk was titled “Tracking the Future” and he started by saying “we are cursed to live in interesting times”.
He says dramatic changes are taking place in the world all the time, which makes it a fascinating place to live in, but it is important that we are aware of these macro changes and react to them.
It is critical to stop and take a “helicopter view” so that we are able to understand the trends and adapt. Those businesses that fail to adapt simply won’t make it. We also need to be able to identify the opportunities offered by change.
As an example, he used the future trend relative to reading.
Borders Book Stores, well established throughout Europe, refused to embrace the idea of electronic readers and stuck to being traditional bookstores. Consequently, most of its stores have closed. Barnes & Noble, recognising the trend, launched its own reader, the Nook, and set up attractive download stations in its stores. They, in contrast, have shown exponential growth.
Silke says it is all about looking into the future. Young people today, the Millennials, value speed and efficiency through technology. Silke showed us a picture of a virtual grocery store in Korea. There is no stock on the shelves, just pictures of brands on virtual shelves. If you wish to select a product, you simply hold your cellphone up to it and scan the barcode. You pay for your groceries electronically via your cellphone and they get delivered to your home.
This is the future of grocery shopping and it makes complete sense, if you think about it.
It means shops won’t need to hold stock, which will mean massive savings for retail. There will no longer be losses due to spoiling, redundancy or theft.
Premises in prime locations, where rent is high, will be smaller. Goods will be centrally warehoused and distributed from there.
If we unpack this trend, it is obvious that there are massive opportunities in both technology and logistics.
Another area of opportunity lies in information. Silke says the protection of information and intellectual property will be the new battle ground, as we head towards an era of “information anarchy”.
Access to current news is more important to people than ever before, and the dissemination of news is a key competitive driver in the world. Even the French have deigned to run a 24-hour news channel in English, he quipped. We now have access to news from sources we were never able to access before, such as Al Jazeera and the like.
As people access more and more information, they become more discerning. Regulation and accountability are becoming far more important than ever before, and governments and businesses will be held accountable. Product loyalty is fading fast and brands will be subject to more interrogation. Trust is imperative for the new consumer.
It’s time to take a look at some of these macro issues and how they affect your business into the future.
Silke says one should be pragmatic and smart without holding on to the rigidity of the old way of doing things.