Referred to as one of the top three business gurus today by The New York Times, Daniel Burrus is considered a world leading futurist when it comes to understanding global trends and innovation related to technology. He is often called upon by Fortune 500 companies to act as strategic advisor and recently shared some of his insights at the GS1 Connects conference in Washington where he kicked off the meeting affirming to attendees that when it comes to the impact of technology in industry, hope is not a strategy.
One of the most probing question Burrus asked that audience was whether their customers see them through the windshield or the rearview? In other words, do they trust you know what lies ahead and dynamically work to prepare for the future, or do they perceive all of your decisions are based on historical performance metrics? He believes that business exists in a near constant state of obsolescence and those who will thrive into the future will need to be constantly paving new roads to travel and capitalizing on technology to build them.
So how does he recommend an organization manage the demands of today while preparing for an unknown future landscape?
The key, according to Burrus, is to focus on certainty. Currently it’s summer, next will be fall, then it will be winter, these are known cycles that support future predictions. Next he suggests, look at everything based on hard and soft trends, hard being based on known facts, such as the age of the population, and soft being based on assumptions such as, in order to manage the aging population there will need to be more assisted living centers. Understanding how many of your decisions are being determined on hard versus soft trends will allow you to create a more strategic plan of action that maximizes the certainty of each outcome.
Burrus went on to remind attendees that the future, much like the present, is always about relationships and recommends that before organizations implement any change they should look at the impact to trust within those relationships. Each business decision that will impact your customers should be reviewed through a “Where is my customers trust now and where will that trust be post change?” lens. If this perspective brings up any concerns that the pending change will lower your customers trust, he recommends you not to proceed with the change. Consumer trust is not easily earned, and is rarely given twice.
Burrus shared that over the next 5 years technology will transform how we market, sell, communicate, collaborate, innovate and make payments industry wide. The fundamental word here is transform. Music has been brought to us in many forms historically; albums, 8 track, tape cassette, CD and MP3. This has transformed the way in which we listen to music but has not impacted the music itself. The key for manufacturers today is to understand how technology will transform the future of their industry. Burrus warned here to be less concerned with legacy systems and more concerned with legacy thinking, reminding the audience once again that the future is best viewed through the windshield, not the rearview mirror. A future he sees full of business convergence and data partnerships that will accelerate data standardization and allow manufacturers to make quality decisions that can both predict and prevent. The audience was encouraged to break free of the paradigm that defending and protecting data will keep their organizations safe in the future and instead suggests that knowledge increases in value when shared, fostering the concept that collaboration through data sharing will pave a new road to success for organizations that wish to travel it.