Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Adapt or die... how companies (should) deal with digital disruption

There are plenty of articles and studies about how digital disruption is affecting If you only look at Artificial Intelligence and Big Data, the Singularity University recently concluded that Health Care, Banking and Insurance are at the verge of a major shift. But then, one might argue about what exactly is meant by digital disruption.

The report “Building your digital DNA, Digitaltransformation in progress” offers a great overview of the industries that will be most impacted by digital transformation, and the timeframe with which they will so:

You can argue about the exact position of the industries on the chart – I for one would give healthcare and government a place more to the upper left of the spectrum – but the importance of this graphic is the relative positioning of the industries.

The report gives a great number of case studies of companies adapting and preparing to this shift. But more importantly, through these case studies the authors have been able to distill four ‘types’ of digital businesses:

Most companies will recognize themselves in the ‘centralized’ and  ‘champions’ model, though the fully prepared companies will behave like the ‘business as usual’ (BAU) model, where “business is flexible and responsive to change at all levels” and teams “form and disband dynamically according to business needs”.

There are very little certainties in these rapidly evolving times, but certainty is that most (not all) businesses will need to get to this BAU mode in order to survive.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why the traditional corporate organisational structure is broken

The traditional corporate organisational structure is subject to some profound revision. One of the
most striking evidence of this evolution is the emergence of holacracy as an organisational model, where not only every management layer is taken out of the structure, but the whole structure itself is torn down.

Okay, this can take many forms, and the companies currently experimenting with these models might not immediately ring a bell with my reader: Zappos, Medium, Buffer, Basecamp, Blinkist and alike. Oh, you might have heard of Gore-Tex though.

One might quickly conclude that this is only applicable to smaller, leaner organisations. However, one can see signs of things shacking at big companies as well.  Microsoft, and more recently Deloitte and Accenture, have thrown their yearly performance reviews (and subsequent rankings) in the garbage can. It’s only a first step of bigger changes, I’m sure.

But why do companies experiment with new organisational models, or why do they get rid of traditional practices that, for decades, have proven so successful?

There might be plenty, but the main reasons in my eyes, each of them beautifully overlapping, would be:
  • The traditional structures are not the most efficient ways of organising work.

    There’s something troubling with the case study of Blinkist (see list of sources below). Instead of starting from people whom they assigned tasks and functions to, Blinkist starts with a list of things to accomplish. It then lets employees decide which ones they wish to work on. A person with, say, deep knowledge of accounting might hence find himself performing logistic tasks parts of the day, if he wishes. Ultimately, fewer people do more tasks. Efficiency increases.

    I don’t see why this reverse principle would not work with bigger companies.
  • The networked ecosystem needs to be mirrored by the internal structure.

    The way companies work with their ecosystem is profoundly changing. In an open, networked company, suppliers, clients, contributors of any kind, are increasingly becoming part of the organisation. Very often this requires an organic, constantly evolving model to work with the ecosystem, and this cannot work if on the inside are tied to a rigid, hierarchical structure. Both external and internal worlds need to align on the same principles for it to work.
  • Many traditional functions have lost their relevance anyhow.

    With the emergence of trends like open sourcing, crowdsourcing, 3D printing, Cloud,  ‘as a service’ models, Artificial Intelligence, many traditional functions like marketing, sales, IT, logistics and so on have somehow lost their meaning. The skills required in industries and companies where these trends become a major competitive advantage, are not limited to the ones assigned to these job roles anymore. To perform their ‘marketing’ job, marketers need a completely different set of skills compared to what a marketer previously was supposed to have (and probably are still supposed to have). In the new normal you would not be able to match all these skills with a ‘marketing’ function. And this will account for many other functions as well.

Oh, obviously, I omitted the argument that the new generation entering the labor market demands to work in a less rigid organisation. At least according to many surveys that go around about them. Problem is, there are as many surveys that contradict these points. In some of them Generation Y almost seem as conservative than any previous generation. The problem with generalisations… 

But it’s true that the most brilliant young people around will find the prospect of working for a startup with a meaningful project more appealing compared to working in cubicles with multiple reporting lines and endless fruitful meetings. Just guessing. 

Thing is, organisational models are clearly changing, and I’m certainly going to follow that development closely. If you have ideas on this I’d be happy to discuss.

Sources on Holacracy abound. Some of the most relevant ones I referred to in this article are:

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Global Top greenhouse gas emitters

A bit of a frightening view... but at least it becomes clear where the action should come from... The top 10 polluters (responsible for 72% of the global greenhouse gas) could contribute significantly in countering this evolution, though they would need to do so in different ways, since 6 of the major 10 are developing countries and have a proportionally big share of agriculture as an emission source. (click here for more)

Monday, June 22, 2015

How things, businesses and society get smarter

Slides from my keynote speech at Belgian Telecom regulator BIPT. In this speech I discuss a selection of trends that indicate that society (in a broad sense) is getting smarter, not only through the use of technology... But the key message was: "You can not build a smart society without small regulation".

Happy reading!

Monday, June 8, 2015

The use of wearables in Health Care, welcome in the new world!

Nice overview of how current wearables technologies help us to monitor -and act on- our heath... Which ones are you using, or which ones would you never use? Let us know!

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Where will the jobs of the future come from?

Going through the predictions about the ‘jobs of the future’ from a number of sources, I found some interesting conclusions.

I have made a personal selection from all the ideas –especially from the list of Thomas Frey, which contains 162 items, but the list I use is still representative of the line of thinking of these futurists. Additionally, I put them on a graphic with the timeframe at which these jobs could emerge (my own judgment), the likeliness of these jobs to emerge (my own judgment) and the impact they might have in terms of job creation (my own judgment):

Okay, this is not a scientific study. On the other hand I had no preliminary motive or message when starting this exercise, so it has at least a flavor of neutrality. 

But what are the conclusions?

First conclusion: many futurists put forward jobs that can be categorized as ‘developer jobs’ (in red in the chart). Gamification developers, digital architects, avatar designers and managers, one could argue that these jobs in a way exist already. Or at least they are within the scope of what can easily be imagined for the near future. No need for futurists here…

The second set of jobs has to do with drones (in orange in the chart). Each day I am amazed at what drones are used for (beside military applications). If regulation (and security) permit, we could see a vast array of new, innovative applications for drones. Good thing is that (for now) you’d still need humans to pilot them, so the potential job creation factor is substantial.

The third group of jobs is straightforward as well, and is a direct result of the ageing population. I grouped different names into two: end-of-life therapists and elderly well-being consultants in a way exist already, but no doubt this group will grow in the future (and will see new specializations in them).

Where things start to get both interesting and speculative, is with job that have to do with medical developments (blue and light blue), as well as jobs that result from sustainability and climate change challenges (green). ‘Vertical farmer’ is likely to become a very popular job in tomorrow’s megacities, but what about extinction revivalists? Shall we really start dinosaur farms in the future?

Happy to hear your view in order to refine this chart in the future!

(PS the sources to build this list came from,,, University of Kent and futurist Thomas Frey).

Monday, May 25, 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

How to build the future.... Notes on startups (Peter Thiel)

Peter Thiel's book is just the type of business book I admire: crisp (hence: short), highly readable and centered around a single, compelling idea, preferably a controversial one. In this case this is no small feat: if one of the founders of Paypal is speaking, surely he’s got a lot to say. Staying focused and crisp must have been a painful process for Peter Thiel.

The controversial aspect of Peter’s reasoning resides in the fact that any entrepreneur should forget about the fashionable golden rules of entrepreneurship (read: the lean startup principles).

Proof of point, one of Peter’s advise sounds a bit like this: “only start a business if you know how to succeed. Better be an employee of Google with 0,01% of stock rather than having a 100% ownership of a business that’s failing” (this is not a quote from the book, just what I noted from it).

One more? Modern star-up principles say you shouldn’t do long-term planning. Go ahead and learn while you walk. Peter’s advise? Make long-term plans. Yahoo wanted to buy Facebook for $1B at a certain time, but Zuckerberg had bigger plans. Who was right?

Other ‘lean startup’-principles should be shattered, according to Peter. Forget about staying lean & flexible, forget about focusing on product instead of sales, forget about incremental advances.

Instead? Go for x10 times better. And stick to your plan. This explains a bit the title of the book: going from 0 to 1 is the aim, the disruptive change.

So overall, Peter’s message is to create monopolies, which is not at all a bad thing. It’s truly about creating new markets, rather than differentiate yourself with slight alterations in existing markets. Does that ring a bell? Anybody? Surely, this sounds a bit like the Blue Ocean Strategy, no? The only difference is that this book is written by someone who actually created such a blue ocean…

Highly compelling read, and I was particularly struck by one point Peter made about how culture determines the way we, as a community, look at the future, and the possibilities it entails:

Monday, May 18, 2015

Basic income for all: good idea or not?

There’s been lots of discussion on the introduction of an unconditional basic income across European countries lately.  I’m not going to echo the whole discussion here, don’t worry. I’m not even going to take a stance here, since I don’t have any yet.

Of course, I love the idea. Given the challenges our society is facing in the coming decades, we do need some radically different approach to how we get organized.

But first things first: let’s be clear on what we talk about. This idea is not about a minimum wage as such. This is about giving away free money (1500,-$ is about the price most often quoted in my country) to every (adult) citizen, regardless of how wealthy or not they are. Here’s a short introduction to the idea:

The most often used pro’s and con’s of the idea are wonderfully expressed by journalist Rutger Bregman in his TED speech:

Ok, so far about setting the scene.

In Belgium at least the idea has stirred the imagination, both in a positive and negative sense. The detractors of the idea can be found on both sides of the political spectrum. Liberals don’t like the idea since it would mean more government impact on society, which is strange since the basic income would prevent the government of many control and organizational functions (in providing unemployment allocation, for instance).  Another argument is that with a basic income there would be no incentive to innovate, or be productive by all means. But perhaps it would on the contrary free up time for people to work on new ideas, ones they truly care about…

On the left side I’ve heard worries that the basic income would increase inequality. Seems strange at first, but the reasoning is that the basic income would also be granted to rich people, who don’t really need it. Should we not give double the income to poorer people who need it, and none to richer people? I see the point, but then we’re really only subsidizing the poor (for which there is something to say, but it’s a different discussion altogether).

Before making your opinion about this idea, it’s certainly worth scrolling through the vivid discussion  on the TED conversations archive.

As to me, I haven’t made up my mind just yet. But what I do believe is that any new way of how to organize society is worth thinking about…

Friday, May 15, 2015

How to use megatrend assessment in a corporate innovation and strategy exercise

In times where innovation and constant renewal determine the competitiveness of your company, where do you need to look in order to differentiate yourself from the competition? How can you make sure that truly innovative ideas emerge that will ensure you future growth potential? Surely, not by looking in the same direction each of your competitor does.

The megatrend exercise that the Institute for Future Insights has developed is a proven way to make this happen. By confronting views and opinions of people who know your business (employees, partners, sales channels, clients) in the context of broader, long-term trends, your company can benefit from fresh insights and ideas to ensure sustainable growth in the future.

The core two elements to make such an exercise successful are:
  • confrontation and discussions around different viewpoints and opinions;
  • discussing topics that are not obviously related to the environment in which your company operates (thinking out of the box).

The megatrend survey proposed in this document facilitates these key elements. it offers a clear, time-efficient and effective mean to gain new insights and ideas that will sharpen your corporate strategy and ensure it remains relevant against the challenges and opportunities of the longer-term future.

Don't hesitate to as for a quote on how i4fi can help you get the most out of this exercise!

How it works?

1. Select megatrends to include in the assessment
Performed by client, i4fi can offer recommendation and advise
2. Design survey using online tool
This can be done using i4fi preferred tool (Typeform), or through the preferred survey tool of the client. Questionnaire to be provided by i4fi (4 questions per megatrend)
3. Collect responses from participants within or outside of the company (clients, partners, channels, …)
Client sends out invitation with link to the online survey. Client follows-up and sends reminders if needed. The survey closes when an agreed number of respondents have answered to survey.
4. Analyse & report on survey results
Performed and delivered by i4fi typically 3-5 days after completion of the survey by all, or a minimum number of, respondents.

Contact for more information.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

59 Fact Sheets (2015 version), an invaluable input for your innovation and strategy sessions!

Are you looking for refreshing ideas an insights for your planning or innovation session? Get the most out of your session by using i4fi's updated Megatrend Fact Sheets!

These fact sheets can be used as a briefing document prior to your session, or at the start of the session as an eye-opener. Sometimes these fact sheets are hung all across the room of a brainstorm session, to provide the participants with fresh ideas and insights!

But the vital thing for this to be successful is to keep the fact sheets digestible for everyone. After all they are meant to stimulate ideas, not to be academic papers. This is why we've kept the fact sheets simple and light!

Each fact sheet contains:
  • 1-2 revealing charts or tables explaining the trend. In this 2015 version, over 98% of the charts used are from after 2011;
  • 'Key Facts': a short description of the trend en/or its impact;
  • Assessment of the major industries impacted by the trend, in an elegant and impactful word cloud;
  • Notes with access to +300 sources (reports, articles, infographics) saving you hours of research! 95% of the sources date from after 2011!

This document will save you hours of research time, and will help you to:
  • prepare your team for long-term planning sessions;
  • understand the long-term challenges for your business and industry;
  • discover new opportunities and innovative ideas;
  • engage in meaningful discussions with your clients and partners.
List of megatrends covered in the 2015 version:

Major changes of the 2015 version:
  • lighter, more readable 'look & feel' of each sheet;
  • 4 megatrends added in comparison to 2014 version, 1 deleted;
  • Refreshed sources and charts;
  • Neutral (logo-free) sheets and colours. 

Buy the full 2015 updated document now in order to save hours of research and get fresh insights for your planning or innovation session! 
You pay only 299$ for over 80 hours of research!

Price options
Delivery by e-mail within 3 business days! Don't forget to mention your e-mail address in your order.
This document is exclusively for internal use by the acquiring company.

Get some sample fact sheets here:

Friday, May 1, 2015

Using long-term trend assessment in business strategy

Slides from my lecture for post-graduate students in Trendwatching at the University of Ghent, April 2015

1) ways to discover long-term trends
2) why companies need to track these trends
3) how companies can assess these trends in the light of their strategy
4) my advise to young trendwatchers

Thanks to the great audience! I wish you all the success and fun in using trends in your future endeavours.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Some preliminary thoughts on the 3d industrial revolution

My slides for an introduction of a debate tomorrow about the 3d industrial revolution. Wish I had 3 hours for the intro, but I only have 30 minutes... so had to make some tough choices ;-)

Friday, February 27, 2015

My favourite Beta startups for the moment, and the story they tell...

I love monitoring startup initiatives. The collective vision –and, let’s be honest, gut-feel- of all these entrepreneurs is a source of intelligence any trendwatcher should cherish. Sure, many will fail, or struggle for long years before getting any success. Nevertheless, all these initiatives are an answer to certain demands, even if these are often too small to serve successfully. But to me, they tell a story nevertheless.

Here’s my pick of favourites from the companies that appeared on Betalist last couple of weeks, and the story they tell. 

I’m often asked what the ‘future of social media’ will be. There are many answers to that, none of them really easy or trustworthy. But for the immediate future it is rather clear that we will enter a period of extreme fragmentation of the market. Call it the ‘toothpastization’ of social media. Two of the startups on Betalist (in recent times) are a vivid example of this: Dooers , a community that aims at sharing advise on the best items for any activity, and Travelabulous , a social version of the Lonely Planet, so to speak. What strikes me with these initiatives, and many others, is they tend to focus on providing tangible advise to questions or challenges. It’s social media with a plus…

Talking of which, when combined with crowdsourcing and you get Flotsm, my favourite for the moment, despite its name. Flotsm promises to ‘Harness the wisdom of crowds. Make better decisions. Connect with minds, freely’. A promising agenda, and certainly an initiative I’ll follow closely… 

Another favourite of mine, but for personal reasons, if Teachery. In the era of MOOCs, Teachery offers virtually anyone to become an online teacher, and eventually earn a buck with it… this will undoubtedly unleash a wave of creativity to many researchers…

There’s been plenty of initiatives in the area of the ‘sharing economy’. Yerdl, Eggs & Rabbitholes, etc. Anything new? Well yes: Paperclip adds localization to it, so as to find items to trade your unwanted stuff with right in your neighbourhood. Not sure what the revenue model is for these initiatives, but I love them nevertheless (or perhaps because of that).

Follow this space for more to come!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The 3d industrial revolution... what's in a word?

I will give a presentation on the 3d industrial revolution in a couple of days. As a preparation, I naturally had to go through the latest thinking of Jeremy Rifkin (whose book The Third Industrial Revolution somehow launched the idea).  

In his latest book ‘The Zero Marginal Cost Society: The Internet of Things, the Collaborative Commons, and the Eclipse of Capitalism’, Jeremy sees the Internet of Everything as the starting point of a society that produces any kind of value at no additional (marginal) cost, almost free, so to speak. The term (and the logic) is somewhat hard to grasp, but more important are the supporting trends that Jeremy picked to showcase this major shift. I took the liberty to summarize them in the graphic below:

Makes sense, though in my humble opinion there is much more happening. In my eyes the fundamental shift that is currently happening has an impact on why we produce (and consume) things, how we conceive them, how we make, how we market them and, ultimately, the environment in which we do all this:

But is this the “3d industrial revolution” at all? Difficult to say. For sure all these trends, taken together, will change certain aspects of what we came to call our capitalist system. But will it revolutionise it? Not necessarily. It might shake it and it will certainly challenge its logic. But this doesn’t need to be an ‘or-or’ story, all these trends can perfectly develop next to the systems of which they are an alternative…

Welcome in the world of ‘and-and’. Something to reflect on...

Saturday, February 21, 2015

What our economy can learn from nature... 'The blue economy' by Gunter Pauli

When and how did humanity go wrong in our way to conceive things? We only had to look around us to see how things are conceived in an efficient, effective  -sustainable- way… Welcome to the amazing world of biomimicry…

There are a tremendous amount of ways we can learn from nature to (re)use our garbage for other means, to generate energy, or to make buildings ready to face nature’s biggest calamities. ‘The blue economy’ provides a hundred of these examples, and he’s still collecting more.

Just an example: from the coffee bean plant we use approximately 0,5% to produce what we know as coffee.  The remaining 99,5% is burned or laid to waste, producing nothing but toxic gasses either way. How can we do better? It just proves to be that the remains of the plant are extremely fertile ground to grow exotic, yet very nutritious mushrooms – currently grown mostly in China, though using coffee plant waste it could grown in other parts of the world as well. This would require very few changes from the coffee farmers, and as an additional positive side effect it would create additional jobs, generate additional revenue for the poor farmers and it would solve some of the food challenges in poorer regions of the world!

This example shows the power of Gunter Pauli’s central theme: through a better way to use natural processes we can both generate a more sustainable environment and generate more wealth for more people. Both, so Pauli argues, go hand in hand. However, and here comes the real clue, to realise this these initiatives would by nature be local! Gone, globalisation. Gone, profit maximisation for irresponsible multinationals!

Natural ecosystems do not evolve to become monopolies, producing ever more standardised output. Instead they tend to align the efforts of a multitude of smaller initiatives and processes, so Pauli shows.

This does not require a revolution, just a smarter way of doing things. We can heat our buildings in much the same way as termites keep their habitat at equal temperatures.  We can use specific trees to combat erosion and at the same time grow silk worms, whose silk in turn we can use to produce shaving blades (instead of using Titanium) or in cosmetics (instead of using chemicals).  We can make buildings fireproof by using lemon shrill instead of Brome. We can produce energy using temperature differences (like zebra’s do), or through algae (who in turn have the ability to clean water and get CO2 out of the atmosphere).  Examples abound.

So where did we go wrong? Pauli argues that the reason might lie in our inclination to think linearly –instead of in cycles. We are trapped in a certain logic that does not work, at least not optimally. An unreasonable, irrational paradigm. 

Another example: traditional economic thinking (very much embedded in the opinion of each one of us, consciously or not) dictates that productivity gains (and hence economic growth) can only be obtained by using less workforce by production unit. Well, better think twice. As Pauli shows, productivity gains can be realized by using more workforce! How? Just copy nature’s wisdom… After all, it’s been gathering this wisdom for trillions of years…

This book definitely challenges our traditional way(s) of thinking…

A wonderful and exciting read !

PS: continuous research on this subject can be found through Pauli's organisation Zero Emission Research and Initiatives
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