by Claire Bull

Every industry has its own ambitions in terms of what its future state might look look like. Futurists like myself are fantastic at painting really graphic stories around how ecosystems and cities and industries will transform based on consumer shifts, cultural shifts and technology shifts. Whether it is smart cities, or the transformation of the financial services sector or the evolving need of the consumer in the retail space. The challenge I have if I look at the visions that I create, whether it is massive disruption in the media space, the revolution of value exchange in the retail and services sector or the future of banking and payments. All of the technologies required to deliver on these predictions is already available today, we don’t need any new technology. So what we have to think about is actually - if all the technology is available to us now - why are we not capitalizing on its potential?

We still have a very pessimistic mindset when it comes to new technologies, we still have a shortage of skills in the marketplace to embrace these new technologies. But we have to realize that most of the visions that futurists talk about for the next five or more years - often the technology required exists today, such as - artificial intelligence, cloud, mobile, blockchain, devices in the preventative and medical device space, the technologies for the advancement of the payment space and the likes. Technologies for the future of retail, well, they all exist already.

Most of the stories that we tell about the future are entrenched in some degree of reality, so that we at least have data points that we can extrapolate to, to build the foundation of our visions. What we need to figure out is, how do we find incumbents that are more willing and more experimental in trying these new technologies to bring them into their business, not through the constraints, or the controls of the current business but to look at them almost as a blank canvas. We need businesses to change their mindset, change their outlook internally of what technology could do to your business, this is an important step forward.

Many banks and retailers fear an Alibaba or an Amazon or some kind of tech company coming into their space. The biggest thing you should fear is that those companies have a natural experimental approach and curiosity to new technologies.

The technology underpinning Amazon is no better than any other company on the planet, they just take a different mindset, a different approach to bringing that technology to market.

These companies are obsessed around metrics that measure customer value, and they work their way backwards from that to ensure their business prioritizes customer value first. This means that they build more meaningful products, more impactful products, more popular products that will attract the market and grow them over time. When Amazon goes into a new technology, they paint on a blank canvas, they imagine blue sky and look to transform right down the full stack of their business. Conversely, if you look at most traditional companies, they look at new technologies as an attachment or a sexy new user experience on the outside, never transforming the core product. We see this particularly in the financial services sector. In banking and insurance the core product is actually still the same. We still have checking accounts, we still have the same health insurance policies, we just wrap them up in new things. What if we think about it at a deeper level? How could a new product or new service be generated if we had a blank canvas?

This is going to be a challenging space in the coming years because unless we can overcome this mindset we will be under utilizing current technologies. This will mean that most incumbents will fail to compete with those that have a more experimental culture and mindset when it comes to approaching new technologies within the market. So I encourage you find new technologies to play with that exist today - ones that could transform your business.