Use If-Then Thinking To Make Innovation a Habit

 3rd April 2018 by gihan

How do you find time for innovation in a busy world, when you hardly have enough time to meet your normal day-to-day goals, let alone think of innovation and change? Use the powerful “if/then thinking” process to make innovation a habit.

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Think Sharper

 29th March 2018 by gihan

Why do so many change and innovation programs fail? Even with management buy-in, a willing culture, and good ideas, too many innovation programs just don’t get traction anymore. In this fast-changing world, there’s one element missing from many of these programs, and it can doom them to failure.

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The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

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Why You Shouldn’t be Optimistic – or Pessimistic – About Bitcoin and Blockchain

 22nd March 2018 by gihan

As a futurist, I see a lot of news about Bitcoin and blockchain (the technology underlying Bitcoin), and many people ask me for my opinion about them. Are they a bubble? Do they have a future? Will blockchain transform the banking / healthcare / baby food industry?

Some people are disappointed with my answer: “Sorry, it’s too early to say”. They think that, as a futurist, I should be able to make some sort of prediction, or at least have an informed opinion about it.

The truth is, I do have an informed opinion about it, and it’s this: It’s too early to say.

I’ll explain why, and in the process I’ll share a really valuable tool that futurists use to make judgements about the future.

Remember the dot-com boom?

Way back at the end of the last century, when the Web was new, a whole bunch of “dot-com” companies were launched with few assets and almost no revenue, but with some vague potential for future expansion. Many people invested in them on this potential, and they had huge valuations … until they crashed. It turned out they were full of hype and nothing else, and eventually the market realised it as well.

At the time, I was running a small Web design company (one of the first in Australia), and I remember people asking me about the future of the Web:

  • “Should I get a Web site?”
  • “Is it all going to come crashing down?”
  • “Is this Internet thing just a passing fad?”

At the time, I could put my hand on my heart and say that Yes, the Internet did have a future, and Yes, it was worth building a Web site. Sure, I had a vested interest in saying that, but I also had something else: plenty of examples of highly profitable Web sites. Some of my first Web site clients who invested $5,000 with us were getting 5x, 10x, even 100x returns on their investment. And in cash, not in future potential.

Find the evidence!

Those examples gave me confidence that the Web was here to stay. Despite the flawed business models of those other dot-com companies that eventually crashed, there were plenty of examples of solid Web sites that were making money – for regular business owners, with real businesses, offering real products and services.

Of course, a few positive examples don’t guarantee success, but they do give you more confidence. And if you can’t find any positive examples, that should definitely be a red flag!

So what does this have to do with Bitcoin and blockchain?

Simple: I can’t find these positive examples.

There’s a lot of hype about Bitcoin, but it’s been around for almost 10 years now (yes, since 2008!), and still hasn’t had much impact on the world. Not in a real sense, anyway. Sure, some people are making money on it, but that’s based on the speculation about its future potential (like buying shares in a dot-com company based on future potential, and then selling them to somebody else who has a higher opinion of their future potential). But Bitcoin as a currency hasn’t exactly set the world on fire.

Blockchain is even worse. You can read countless articles about blockchain transforming law enforcement, ride hailing, healthcare, banking, voting, education, music, real estate, insurance, supply chain management, and pretty much any other industry. But look closer and you’ll find most of these articles use words like “possible”, “potential”, and “could”. There’s nothing wrong with talking about future potential (I do it all the time!), but if that’s all you see, be sceptical.

And don’t be fooled when you see people claiming they are already using blockchain technology. They’re probably not. This one is a bit harder to debunk, but pretty much every example I’ve seen is just a different name for existing database technology. I know, because it’s the same database technology I learned as an undergraduate Computer Science student in the 1990s. You think I’m joking, but I’m not. It’s just that it’s easier to get the attention of the C-suite if you say “permissioned blockchain” than “1990s database”.

This might sound like I’m highly critical of Bitcoin and blockchain, but that’s not true. Don’t get me wrong. I think the Bitcoin/blockchain technology is pure genius, and has huge potential. But potential alone is not enough.

So am I optimistic or pessimistic?

Neither! It’s easy to have an opinion, but there’s just not enough evidence to make an informed opinion.

Think about it this way …

Suppose I gave you a bag with 99 black balls and 1 white ball, and asked you to pick one at random. Would you be optimistic about picking a black? Yep.

What if it was 99 white balls and 1 black ball? Now you would be pessimistic about picking black, right?

But what if I didn’t tell you anything about what’s in the bag? Would you be optimistic or pessimistic about picking a black ball? Well … neither. It would be dumb to speculate, because you just don’t have enough information. If you bet money on it, that would just be a pure gamble.

That’s where I think we are now with Bitcoin and blockchain. Lots of potential, but that’s all right now.

I’m not giving you financial advice here. Some people invest in potential alone, some don’t. That’s up to you, and if you want to invest, talk to a qualified financial adviser and make your decision based on that advice.

Because this isn’t about Bitcoin or blockchain.

I’ve used Bitcoin and blockchain as examples, but I don’t want you to miss the more general principle.

Futurists don’t don’t make judgements on potential alone. We consider a number of other factors, and one of the first is to find real, practical examples of something in practice.

If you want to think like a futurist, I suggest you do the same.

Watch My Webinar Recording: Bitcoin – What’s the Big Deal?

Despite what I’ve said about Bitcoin and blockchain, I’m not saying you should remain ignorant about them! They are big news right now, so it’s worth understanding the basics about them. I covered this in my recent webinar “Bitcoin – What’s the Big Deal?”, which you can watch here:

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Are You an Apple or Google When Dealing With Customers?

 20th March 2018 by gihan

Apple and Google are both customer-obsessed, but they have different approaches and attitudes to their customers. Which approach is more likely to make you future-proof?

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The #1 Thing That Breaks Your Innovation Programs

 13th March 2018 by gihan

The #1 Thing That Breaks Your Innovation Programs

One of the most commonly-quoted stories around disruption is about Kodak, which was the market leader in film photography, but failed because it couldn’t adapt to digital photography. There are many variations of this story, giving various reasons for Kodak’s demise: It had too much invested in film, it had grown so big it had stopped innovating, the organisational structure couldn’t cope with a digital world, and so on. There’s even one dramatic story that the Kodak employee who invented the first digital camera was told by senior management to hide his invention because it would destroy Kodak’s existing market.

The problem with these stories is that they aren’t true. What’s worse, they hide the real reason behind Kodak’s demise.

So why did Kodak fail?

To answer this, let’s first look at one of the most common reasons many change programs fail.

And just to be clear, when we’re talking about “change” here, I’m not talking about the random, senseless change programs that many businesses go through from time to time. Let’s focus on razor-sharp innovation programs that are intended to keep your business current – or even ahead of the game.

Ideas are not enough.

First, of course, some businesses only pay lip service to change. They might run a one-day innovation workshop, a fancy innovation off-site, or something else that’s designed to generate a lot of ideas – with the promise of transforming the business and disrupting their industry.

And you know what? Sometimes it works … at least as far as generating ideas. People come back with butcher’s paper, flip charts, and sticky notes full of ideas – some good, some bad, some practical, some impractical, some crazy, and some surprisingly sane.

But ideas alone are not enough. Far too often, those ideas never get implemented, because the leaders don’t make time and space for action. Change needs ideas and action. Indeed, a common definition of innovation is “applied creativity” – in other words, taking your ideas and putting them into action.

Of course, ideas in action are better than no action at all (or, as General George S. Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”). But even that alone is not enough. The problem is that many of the ideas just don’t have any practical value. It’s all very well to implement ideas, but if those ideas aren’t really moving your business forward in any meaningful way, they are worthless.

And that’s the problem with so many change and innovation programs today. You might be constantly evolving and changing, but still find yourself disrupted and blindsided by some smart, savvy start-up that does something radically different. Or the world changes in unexpected ways, and your wonderful ideas are instantly obsolete.

That’s what happened to Kodak. They weren’t afraid that digital cameras would cannibalise their existing products; they just didn’t anticipate it. They didn’t deliberately try to kill off a threat; they just didn’t see it as a threat.

The first digital camera – built by a Kodak engineer – was as big as a toaster, took 20 seconds to take a picture, and the resolution was much lower than a print. Kodak’s management assessed it, but ignored it because they thought it would never be good enough to compete with film cameras. They didn’t account for exponential growth, which meant the improvements happened much faster than they expected.

It’s easy to look back now and criticise Kodak for its lack of foresight. But many, many businesses – especially established businesses – are doing exactly the same thing now. And they are doing it for exactly that reason: a lack of foresight.

That’s the missing element: foresight.

To be truly successful, innovation needs all three elements: ideas, action, and foresight.

Foresight is the ability to look into the future. It’s not about predicting the future like a fortune teller or a lucky gambler. Rather, it’s about using the tools that futurists use to direct and drive change.

For example, you might:

  • Identify trends in the way customers interact with businesses in your industry.
  • Understand how new technology will change your business.
  • Examine global megatrends to identify potential threats and new opportunities.
  • Learn how personal choices are driving professional decisions.

The simplest version of this is to just ask the question: What problem are we solving for our customers?

That’s a good start, but even that question starts from the present, not the future. You’re talking about your current customers, their current problems, and your current solutions.

It doesn’t look further into the future, which means you’re still vulnerable to competitors who look further than you do.

Pull from the future, don’t push from the past.

The key difference when you start with foresight is that you start with a future focus. Instead of pushing change from the past, you pull it from the future.

When you think like a futurist, you can then act like an innovator. If you really want to create compelling change, first learn how to see into the future so you can design a path to success.

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What Customers Really Want Now

 8th March 2018 by gihan

In the past, business was easy: Find out your customers’ problems and figure out how you can help solve them – better than anybody else. But that has changed, because customers have changed. Customers today expect far more from you than just solving their problems! To be fit for the future, understand the different kinds of things customers expect now, and innovate so you can meet these needs and build a future-proof business.

You can watch the recording here:

After the webinar, I asked participants “What was the most useful thing you learned today?” Here are some of their answers:

“To know what the purpose of my business is, as opposed to my mission and vision”

“Purpose is one way to be future-proof”

“I reflected on and want to work further on how to shift clients from problem to purpose. For me it is about mindset. “

“keep learning”

“6 key areas of what matters to customers “

“Nice refresher, and reminder to articulate the “shared journey” with prospects and clients”

“Framework for feedback and involvement with visible comments “

“Several new approaches to business operation”

“Mission education Goal”

“How precise and thought provoking the presentation is,Excellent”

The Future Proof Webinar Series

The Future Proof webinar series will keep you in touch with our future – what’s ahead, what it means for us, and how to stay ahead of the game.

In each webinar, I’ll cover an important topic about the future – for example, the shift of power to Asia, the changing workplace, healthcare technology, the shift to customer-centric business, big data, and more. This is not just theory; I’ll also give you practical examples and ideas for you to future-proof your organisation, teams, and career.

Register here

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The Buzz About Bitcoin

 1st March 2018 by gihan

The Buzz About Bitcoin

Bitcoin is currently valued at $17,057, but it’s volatile and filled with hype. What IS it, and should you invest $15,662 of your hard-earned cash in buying it? Even if you don’t have a spare $16,902 sitting around, take the time to understand the basics of Bitcoin and blockchain technology and know what it means for you and your business.

Listen To the Episode

Watch the slides

Watch the slides from the webinar recording for this episode:

Download the slide deck

More Resources

The Fit for the Future Podcast brings you regular ideas, interviews and insights about how you, your teams and your organisation can become fit for the future.

More ways to engage with me:

It’s Not a Bug, It’s a Feature

 27th February 2018 by gihan

If a team member doesn’t fit in, do you treat them as a troublemaker or one of your most valuable assets? In this extract from my keynote presentation to the Queensland Law Society, I talk about the concept “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature”.

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