Reality: There Will Be Winners.

Travel at the speed of light.  That’s the superpower my amazing 9 year old daughter said recently she would love to have. Why?  She wants to be able to see things being made everywhere in the world whenever she wants. She wants to hang out in Denmark at Lego, Florida at NASA, Antartica at one of the science stations, bouncing between and among many places.

The way she sees it, the only really cool places to be are where new things are being made or the blocks for making things are being created, in other words, where change is alive and thriving.   She gets a thrill out of change and discovery and realization, which is actually what a lot of human “discovery” is.  That is to say bacteria exists and North America existed before people identified either.  Change is jet fuel for the process.  We change what we do, what we think, how we think, how we do what we do based on the every, flowing nugget of identification and realization.

While it can be scary or great fun depending on your perspective, it is inevitable.  Technology is a tremendous symbol of constant evolution, sometimes small and then often every once in a while, huge.  We are at a HUGE moment right now.   New threads, related threads and entirely new lines of inquiry are exploding around digital transformation.  There are potential applications for every single part of our personal and work lives. The rate at which we embrace this in the marketplace depends on our ability to travel not at the speed of light per se, but across disciplines and functions, to assign focus and resources on the potential roads to adoption that either optimize our business or create new products and services.

I have this conversation almost daily with executives across industries from healthcare to entertainment to industrial manufacturing.  They are often surprised when I say, don’t spend all your time or all your money on what’s coming, but a small percentage of both and do it consistently.  They say they expect me to push harder for more money spent on virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, artificial intelligence and son on.  No.  Development takes time and there are too many pieces right now to even have a cohesive plan in most businesses as to what the application is, who to hire, how to engage consumer/enterprise base and so on.  But there are guardrails, because there will be winners.

“What are some of the ingredients to getting on that practice path to winning?

1) Pay Attention and Be Curious

Take time to stay close to what’s happening on the ground and assign this task to a person who knows your business so they can assess and understand the applications to your core business. It’s shocking how many people I’ve talked to legacy companies who have absolutely no idea, and haven’t even tried any VR/AR experiences, blockchain is something they’ve heard of but aren’t sure what it is, and AI they think is being “worked” on internally. Don’t be that company.

2) Allocate Enough Resources

There is so much to research, experiment on/with and perfect for these technologies to be used in new ways.  It requires significant R&D resources and the risk that comes along with that. The cold, hard fact is a lot of things might not work at all, but that’s critical intelligence. And the other side of the coin is that something eventually will work. This is not to say quit the elements of your day job, but some minimal amount of time needs to be spent because, given your expertise, you might actually help accelerate what that winning, home-run unicorn company, product, or service might actually look like.  And lest you forget, your competition, somewhere out there might be taking that extra step that will catapult them ahead no matter how far your lead today might be.

3) Weigh the Risk and Rewards

There’s been a steady stream of analysis and reports on emerging technology, some free others for pay.  Deloitte Insights covers a lot of ground, McKinsey&Company just released a paper on AI, and Goldman Sach’s 2016 VR/AR report reveals wide agreement among technologists, practitioners, and key market players that the next generation of computing is here, and in short order it will grow to become a trillion-dollar global market within the next decade across enterprise and consumer products. They don’t say that in a vacuum.  If you’re paying attention, you’ve already seen the evolving products and the promise behind them. (See suggestion #1, above.)

That’s a good start. It’s not so much as suspending belief; it’s more about getting past the inability to see all the possibilities that lay ahead. I remember those days in the not-so-distant past when people would actually argue about why anyone would want a personal computer in their home. It sounds crazy today, but it wasn’t then. While most seem to accept AI is the new way of life, current VR/AR conversation often veers into crazy territory.  And those arguments are likely to sound crazy ten years from now. Believe that. Something new is coming.  Remember above all else, there will be winners.

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