To illustrate his point, he uses an example of something that went from being on no one’s radar to becoming a trend and then a disruptive force.
“Uber is the obvious example, but what has been more interesting is what has happened since Uber cemented its foothold in the market,” he explains.
“The sharing economy has become well-known and widely embraced, and yet many industries still fail to see how their own markets can be disrupted. The food industry is a perfect example of this in action. UberEATS have exploded. In the last six months of 2016, the number of on-demand food apps that launched was incredible.
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“We polled the food industry to find out if they expected this development and had planned for it. The opposite was true. It hadn’t even been on their radar – despite the fact that almost everyone uses Uber at least occasionally.”
For Chang, this is a perfect example of the future passing an industry by – even though the signs were there.
Here are five ways to include a future-focus in your 2017 strategic planning:
1. Be positive
According to Chang, one of the reasons business owners shy away from ‘future’ planning is fear. “We fear the unknown, and in a sluggish economy this fear grows. We tend to hold on to what we know. But the future is coming, whether we like it or not. Instead of focusing on the negatives, look for the opportunities. There is always an opportunity in change; make sure you’re benefiting from it, instead of your competitors.”
2. Start transacting digitally
“All business transactions are based on a simple rule,” says Anton Musgrave, a partner at FutureWorld. “Need meets supply and we agree to a transfer of price. That’s a nanosecond and it is what business is about. The rest is just a process to enable that nanosecond to take place. What are you doing to get those processes right? If your business has a digital division, you aren’t accepting where business has moved to. Digital should permeate the whole business; it should be integral to how we transact.”
3. Use tech to pivot
Protect yourself from disruption by pivoting, advises Chang. “You can either fragment your services by offering different things to what you currently do, or pivot slightly. The cost of business has gone down thanks to technology – make use of it. You can sell a service or solution rather than a ‘product’ simply by packaging your offering differently.”
Musgrave holds a similar view. “We are in the fourth industrial revolution,” he says. “Technology has driven down costs in business. We are transacting at profoundly different operating costs, in new markets and new industries. This can be an advantage if you seize it."
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4. Recalibrate your organisation
“Legacy thinking is all about massive overheads and highly trained people doing irrelevant processes for the old world,” says Musgrave.
“What are the new processes? Society, consumers and business have changed exponentially, and how we operate must follow suit. Assets used to be tangible and measurable. This is changing. Can your business think creatively and execute on that? That’s an asset, even if it’s not currently measured on a balance sheet. What are the latent abilities in your organisation?”
5. Be future focused
“We advise businesses to watch the connected industries and subsidiary industries around them,” says Chang. “For example, we’ve been tracking virtual reality (VR). Everyone thought it was gimmicky, but then we noticed the pharmaceutical industry starting to implement VR solutions. Then in the décor furniture industry a chair was designed to calibrate your movements.
We pay attention to how many industries start picking up on the trend. After the hotel, travel agencies and fashion brands picked up on VR, we knew it was no longer a blip on the radar. Once this happens a trend gains momentum quickly. You want to be on the leading edge of these changes, not trailing behind.”
Start trend watching. Put time aside each week to stay up-to-date on new trends and technologies, even if they seem like they are still far from becoming ubiquitous. Once a month consider how these trends could disrupt your industry.