By Grant McCracken
A client recently asked me to comment crisply on the future. I came up with these observations.
See if you can spot my error.
1. The world is speeding up. In 1989, Alan Kay said it takes at least 10 years for an innovation to get from the lab into everyday life. Twitter did it in 4.
2. Faster change means more turbulence. Assumptions are now less reliable. Best guesses are often shots in the dark. Planning sounds like an act of courage, strategy like a flight of imagination. When Alvin Toffler warned us of this in 1970, we scoffed. Now we’re living it.
3. Every individual and organization lives in a state of surprise, as Peter Schwartz puts it. Just a couple of years ago, professional planners at a big ad agency informed me that Twitter was a passing fancy. So I was interested to note that the first thing LL Cool J did as host of the Emmy’s this year was announce the hashtags for the show. Boy, was that agency surprised.
4. There is a considerable advantage to seeing the world in motion, picking up “noise” well before it becomes an intelligible “signal.” We have to extract more intelligence from less data. We will need “big data” and good ethnography to spot and track the world in the works. For instance, this would have meant grasping the fact (and some of the implications) of Twitter in, say, 1998.
5. And what we really need is a more responsive organization, one that can reinvent itself in real time, on the fly. This will take potent, new powers of adaptation, but it’s our only hope.
Spot the error?
I carried my assumptions into the future. I continued to think about the corporation as I normally do… and resolved merely to retrofit it with new parts in order to make it more sensing and more responsive in the future.