The future is utterly fascinating, but at the same time also complex and even scary. The more we know, the better prepared we are to tackle challenges and embrace the change. By using futures thinking businesses can recognize new opportunities for transformation and innovation. You, too, can become future smart and put your concerns aside by reflecting on the below five facts.
Data is the new oil
Big Data has in many ways changed the way businesses and organisations work. Data enables businesses to take customer service and customer experience to the next level. In the education industry, for example, we are swamped with large amounts of data related to students, staff, courses, plans, results and so on.. Big data can help us in personalisation of studies, by creating customised learning paths for every student and giving them a chance to pick the course modules that benefit them the most, make their own schedule and take tests when it is most convenient for them.
We have to become cyber savvy, though. We might just have to accept the fact that we need to give personal information to companies and governments to get benefits like better health care and to help track the spread of pandemics that may become rampant in the years to come.
Tech enables transformations
We have all noticed how the role of technology has steadily grown in our society. Augmented and virtual reality, chatbots and 3D printing are already becoming mainstream. Among the most fun augmented reality (AR) apps is IKEA Place, which allows the user to place virtual IKEA items such as furniture into their own homes and see how they might fit. Similarly, potential customers can try vehicle demos, shoes and other products with the help of AR. Businesses use chatbots for quick and creative customer service. One of the most recent developments includes the WHO Health Alert, which helps and supports people in protecting them from the coronavirus.
3D printing has also impacted many industries. Affordable 3D printers combined with the opportunity for anyone to design and print parts has caused prosthetics to become cheaper and more accessible to people all over the world. Adidas was among the first to produce a unique 3D-printed running shoe midsole which can be tailored to individual needs. In Switzerland, chocolate maker Berry Callebaut announced plans to start producing 3D printed chocolate at scale, selling the chocolate experiences to hotels, coffee chains and restaurants. These technologies are developing fast, so food printing might be reality sooner than we dare to dream. No need to wait for a drone delivery of a take-away meal when your very own 3D printer can prepare a culinary experience right at home.
Smart cities are smooth experience playgrounds
The concept of smart cities is also evolving across many industries. A smart city uses information and communication technology, sensors and IoT (Internet of Things) to collect and analyse data, which helps to automate a wide range of services. With the onset of IoT, cities turn into hubs of connectivity and urban innovations make the lives of city dwellers a lot easier. With real-time data, traffic flows smoothly, the hyperloop and autonomous cars start moving us places. Waste, water and energy management of our houses works seamlessly as smart trash bins are equipped with sensors that monitor and inform the waste collection services when the bin is filling up. Cities get more of their food needs from urban farms where automation replaces the need for human labour. In vertical farming, layers of plants are placed vertically instead of horizontally to produce food and medicine in urban environments, such as rooftops and shipping containers. This not only reduces land use and transportation, but also gives urbanites access to local and fresh produce. Clean tech and circular solutions make our living also more sustainable. Our wellbeing will increase.
The learning evolution values agile adapters
Our globally hyper-connected world values agile adapters who are willing to keep learning throughout their lives. People will have to remain agile and able to change careers several times during their lifetime. Lifelong learning, reskilling and job transitions are the name of the game. The future skills gap – the difference between what education provides and what businesses need – must be closed. According to the World Economic Forum, human skills, the so-called 21st century skills, communication, complex problem-solving, creativity, collaboration and critical thinking are much valued by future employers who will get the automated excellence from AI-powered robots and other smart machines, but still need human soft skills to balance the equation. Future job titles can be Smart Machine Manager, Nano-food Developer or Digital Personality Designer.
Being agile is crucial for business owners, too. In our ever-changing world, the need for quick decision-making based on a multitude of information sources as well as the readiness to adopt new strategies along the way is at the core of business thinking. Combined with futures thinking skills, this is not only a competitive advantage but also a fundamental consideration on how businesses should be run in the future.
The future needs us
Some people are more future-oriented than others. We can all get inspiration from the renaissance people of today, the disruptors, the enthusiastic and energetic entrepreneurs Elon Musk and Richard Branson, or their Finnish equivalents Henri Alen and Peter Vesterbacka. We all need a dose of entrepreneurship and innovation to thrive in the future. Philanthropists like Bill Gates, historians like Yuval Noah Harari and scientists like the late Hans Rosling inspire us with facts that prove the world is getting a better place all the time. Their spirit and mentality is exactly what we need to get excited about the future. There are too many pessimists around, too much negativity in the world. We can all be part of making the future the kind of place we would like to live in. We can all be part of the global change. We can all be game-changers and change agents.
This autumn we will launch a course about the future: Futures Thinking, Trends and Transformations. The idea is that students will boost their futures thinking skills and learn about technologies and ideas that are shaping the future.