A close friend always challenges the premise that things are changing more radically than ever before; “Hasn’t every generation believed the same? He asks. Is it really any more dramatic than usual? Maybe as a species we just don’t embrace change all that well.”
Fair questions. As I drove through my old neighborhood in LA this week, I was surprised to see how little has changed: twenty years later the same fabric stores (plural!), restaurants and banks are still there. Look more closely, however, and the Blockbuster is gone and so is the music store. And while the bank building remains on the corner, the brand itself has changed several times; and I wonder if they really need so much space anymore?
We all know progress is a constant. Yet it’s not only faster, but more radical now. Futurist Mary O’Hara Devareaux believes this is the most profound shift since the Middle Ages. Fueled by frustration with current business and industry models, robotics, 3D Printing, wearables, breakthroughs in genomics and solar energy, growth of social platforms and so much more are poised to disrupt many industries. And as we shared this past week, the shifts to digital content and commerce have already upended education, publishing and music, with plenty to come.
And as the cover this month’s Harvard Business Review confirms, the talk of the moment is how increasingly nano-scale and cheap microprocessors will turn every object into something smart. What will the world look like as the 30.1B predicted smart objects (by 2020) start really talking with each other, and the Internet of Everything (IoE) allows “the planet to grow a nervous system” as Steve Brown, futurist at Intel puts it? If you’re curious, here is a provocative look at the “day in the life” written last year by a colleague at The World Future Society.
On Thursday I gave a keynote talk to an elite gathering of movie theater executives and industry leaders. I was prepped by interviews I’d had these past few weeks with ten very high ranking execs on both the distribution and exhibition side, and so talked candidly about key issues facing the industry, the big shifts driving both change and opportunity, and more conceptually:
1. How to discern what is cyclical vs systemic? (e.g., was the slow box office this summer due to the list of titles released or to an escalating shift in preference for home screen and tablet sized entertainment?).
2. What is necessary evolution vs business suicide (e.g., how long does it make sense to ensure a three month lag between big screen debut and personal screen viewing? And how does contribute to piracy? Or interest in film vs TV or gaming?).
3. Most importantly, how can we learn to see and embrace opportunity in the disruption? What new business models and sources of revenue will be available that will allow us to release our grip on the ones slipping away? [note: do not underestimate the value of Data].
Eighty-something slides later (uh, yeah), here are a few of the questions I suggested these leaders to come to grips with in order to look to the future with both confidence and conviction:
• Who are all of our stakeholders? What do they need and want … now?
• What business are we really in? How has the delivery of that changed? How can we commit more fully this? (e.g., Kodak!)
• What underutilized assets and capacities (both tangible and intangible) do we have? What alternate sources of revenue are we overlooking?
• How could/should the business model evolve? How do we disrupt ourselves before someone else does? (check out what Garth Brooks is building with GhostTunes)
• What is our role in an increasingly relationship/human-centric economy? How will we build trust and social capital?
- How do we build cultures within our enterprises able to navigate ambiguity?
It was an honor to be part of an experience that invited such honest, open discussion about what needs to come next–and how we not just brace for it, but intentionally design it.
Oh, and I’m also relieved to share that Children’s Book World–one of my all time favorite stores–seems to have considered all the questions above and is still alive and well on Pico Boulevard!
Wishing you an inspired week! We’re off to start a new project with an amazing team and a well-known global brand eager to be as “good” as possible in order to win our trust and loyalty for the long haul. (I’ll try and resist closing this with all the perky hashtags this quest conjures up!).
Stories we shared this week: