Looking back is as important as looking forward.
Read time: approximately 2mins-36secs-ish.
The birth of the Digital Economy is the dawn of a new era. I am confident that this new era will bring with it more positive change to people and society than any previous transition in the history of humanity.
I hope that I live long enough to see all the amazing developments that are coming.
I am quite sure that my daughters will - which is the driving force behind my passionate interest in this transition. My concern is that I suspect that in parts the journey might be ‘a bit bumpy’. And so, I have an overwhelming sense of purpose to help make more smooth this transition - to minimise the potential for trauma and unrest in these potentially unsettling times.
Having explored in my last post what was unimaginable to me when I was the same age as my daughter - I thought it would be interesting to quickly repeat this exercise with my Dad. With significantly more scope for hindsight than me, my 79 year old father considers the following four things to have been unimaginable when he was nine years old:
- That everyone would have a car.
- That everyone would have a telephone (my father was referring to phones in our houses, not our pockets).
- That we would have heating - and generally be warm.
- That food would be so plentiful.
Interestingly, he didn’t mention “the man on the moon”. What’s also missing is the power of context. It’s worth noting that when my father was nine years old it was 1943.
Thankfully the era in which my children are growing up is a far happier and plentiful time.
Anecdotally, for more than two years now I have heard a resoundingly common belief among entrepreneurs that there has never been more opportunity for entrepreneurialism.
The rate of progress, innovation and technological development has never been more astonishing. And yet the past few years seem to be indelibly marked as ‘the crisis’.
Perhaps economic turbulence is on-par with climatic turbulence. However, while I see loads of people actively interested in, debating and petitioning all the things that they believe contribute to the earth’s environmental challenges (such as global warming) - frustratingly I don’t see the same level of interest, discussion and participation in what’s happening economically.
And yet, individually I think that we each play as much of a contributory role in directly affecting economic outcomes as we do environmental ones.
The world that is changing more significantly and more rapidly than ever before - it’s like the birth of the Industrial Revolution on steroids. If it were possible to travel back through time I’d be keen to go back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution and comfort people that they didn’t need to smash the machines - it will all be alright. In-fact, given our relative prosperity, comfort and well-being, it’s more than alright.
Change brings instability. Insecurity is a natural human reaction to instability, (which is understandable, it is unsettling to not know what’s next). I’d argue that the consequence of insecurity is, doubt. And the consequence of doubt is a lack of conviction. And a lack of conviction is the opposite of the key characteristic required for entrepreneurial success.
The very thing that we are most frightened of is, ironically, more likely to happen as a result of not more positively managing our fear.
I’m not advocating optimism - I think that a strategy based on hope and desire is not robust (and is therefore foolish). I am keen to champion pragmatism - when you look back and see what was, I believe that it is entirely computational to extrapolate our relative good fortune and the predictable and consistent trend that this will continue.
Hindsight is an exact science. By taking a moment to look back we can convert this hindsight into foresight, which is more useful. We can learn from our past success in navigating significant change and apply this to our advantage in order to help realise the fullest extent of the amazing opportunity ahead of us.
Imagine the unimaginable.
Read time: approximately 2mins-55secs-ish.
Lately I’ve been wondering if we’re not collectively a little bit complacent about innovation. That we find it surprisingly easy to forget what life was like before we had the technology that we now take for granted today.
It is so easy to forget that iPhone really is only six and half years old. Before it, phones had big buttons and pretty much they were exclusively used for occassionally speaking to someone.
And yet, unpicking and understanding innovation is fun.
Much of the innovation that we enjoy today was literally unimaginable when I was a child.
My youngest daughter (whose hand is featured with mine in the photo) is nine years old. When I was nine years old I could not have imagined:
- The internet
- Self-serve checkouts in shops
- Self-parking cars
- (Or that there would be such a profession as: dog walking. But that’s a whole other story).
I will never forget when I interviewed a young candidate, I casually commented that: "Of course when I started work, there was no email." When this trivial observation landed, the youthful applicant was almost inconsolable - it had never occurred to him that such an era could have ever even existed. In absolute terror, he exclaimed: “What, you mean there was no email!”. To which I replied: “Indeed, there was a time of ‘no email’. In-fact, when I started work, photocopiers had yet to be invented.”
The birth of the Digital Economy creates more possibilities and opportunities for more invention than at any time in history. I think we are witnessing a global explosion in innovation, inventiveness and entrepreneurialism. The unimaginable is not only being imagined, it’s being materialised. And this makes me feel that this period of time in which we live is not only more significant than the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, but what’s more important is that this is happening right now, under our very noses.
And so I think it’s important to discuss:
- What are the new skills, capabilities and talents that we now need in order to thrive and survive in this new Digital world.
- I want to share thoughts, ideas, observations and insights on where the greatest areas of opportunity might be.
- I want to help imagine the unimaginable, to fuel inspiration to accelerate the arrival of new innovation, and with it thereby enable the new economy to arrive more quickly. (Our old analogue jobs are running out - we need more new digital ones faster).
- I’d like to better define what are the commercial challenges that we now face, with the purpose being that greater clarity of the obstacles will better enable more of us to successfully navigate them.
- In the face of such enormous change, how do we tackle and overcome a natural human reaction to be collectively paralysed by worry and feelings of insecurity.
- To celebrate success more. Who are the pioneers and heroes of this amazing and historic time, and how are we going to capture their momentous achievements.
- I want to provide a glimpse of some the innovation that I see coming; discuss what the impact might be; to better prepare us for these positive changes. And also prepare us for what is about to become extinct.
… and on that last, potentially negative note, I don’t believe extinction is something that humans need fear at this time - in-fact, there are more of us than ever before.
So I’m busy writing about the above topics and will post more on this in the coming weeks. More importantly, I want a discussion about this amazing time and what it all means. I welcome your thoughts and ideas. Please spread the word; Tweet and Retweet.
And perhaps start by sending me a Tweet - what, from your perspective, was: #unimaginablewhenIwasnine?
The future is utterly predictable.
Read time: approximately 5mins-11secs-ish.
You see an old garage. I see a new economy.
In-fact, this old garage, is my old garage. It was built for the very first owner of our house in 1927, apparently a local bank manager, who wanted a home for his Austin 7.
Unfortunately for me, the Austin 7 is an especially small car. Whilst this garage is good for storing an Austin 7, it’s of little use for storing a modern car.
But this little building is a massively disproportionate monument for a revolution that is about to happen, especially in London.
We are witnessing the birth of the Digital Economy. I believe that this is one of the most momentous transitions ever experienced in the history of humanity.
Previously the world has consistently become more prosperous each time society and commerce transitioned from one era to the next. Arguably one of the biggest and most dramatic changes was the birth of the Industrial Revolution.
Pragmatically, I think that the Digital Economy will supersede all earlier ‘revolutions’ in its wealth creation - even more so than the Industrial Revolution.
However, change of this order of magnitude understandably causes uncertainty and insecurity. At the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, people literally smashed the machines.
I believe that the birth of the Digital Economy brings with it more opportunity for entrepreneurialism than ever before.
And yet, paradoxically, the period of the last few years has been iconoclastically named as “The Crisis” - an era now famous for the most intense feeling of insecurity in history.
Happily, things in the last six weeks (in the UK) seem to be picking up in the economy. Confidence is returning. Unemployment is falling. Even new car sales are up.
But I think yet more could be done to tackle the fragility of this confidence issue and better manage insecurity.
My observation is that the primary reason people feel insecure is because the impact and consequence of the Digital Economy is difficult to predict or envisage. It’s not commonly known what this new Digital Economy actually looks like. People can’t see it. They don’t know what it has in-store. For many people, it is understandably hard to imagine how such dramatic developments and new technology may affect them personally.
Traditional institutions and mechanisms that society has historically relied upon to help us deal with such change: schools; politics; religion even - are all struggling to keep-pace with developments.
I am compelled to do something about this issue of insecurity. To bring to life some of the developments that are likely to happen. I am not a futurologist. But my work in digital innovation gives me a tangible glimpse of what’s coming. From this, I don’t just see some developments as a ‘possibility’ of something that ‘might happen’. I see them as literally and utterly inevitable.
It is not as simple as merely being optimistic - my perspective is actually driven more by pragmatism than it is by hope or desire.
If I were a clever mathematician, I think that the sort of developments that I’m alluding to are absolutely computational.
Metaphorically, this is where my little garage, for just one moment, takes centre stage.
I live in a relatively small suburban residential street. In the thirteen years that we have lived here, the majority of the houses, (including ours) have been expanded with a loft conversion. This construction work generated a lot of economic activity.
Soon (eg. over the next thirteen years) the majority of the houses in my street will also convert their garages into a more usable space: either a ‘garden room’ or an office.
I don’t see this prediction as a speculative guess - I think this eventuality could be calculated:
- The rate of house price inflation is relatively predictable (our house has almost trebled in value since we’ve lived here).
- It must also be possible to compute the real-estate value per square metre at which point people no-longer put cars on it.
And even if the current occupants don’t agree with the methodology of my forecast - they may be determined to corrupt my prediction by doggedly clinging on to their dusty old garages - what they don’t realise is that frankly, their view is irrelevant. With the current rate of house price inflation it is also possible to accurately / mathematically predict that the current occupants won’t be there much longer. Eventually the opportunity to liquidate the vastly accumulated wealth trapped in the bricks and mortar of their home will become overwhelming - they will cash-in and be replaced by an even more elite segment of professionals.
And for certain, the new occupants will look at the value per square metre of their garage and instantly remove the car from it to make space for humans. To them, a garage is the equivalent of parking a car in your living room.
And all of this excludes the paradigm-shift of the Digital Economy. For example, new innovation such as driver-less cars, the introduction of which will make absurd the idea of storing a vehicle for the rare occasions that you need one. Instead you’ll just send for a car and it will come to collect you on-demand. The technology for this literally already exists which is why I see the implementation of this innovation as inevitable.
And if driverless cars seem ridiculous and/or unimaginable, then perhaps more believable and more practical is the already established and rampantly growing trend of ‘plural-working’ and people wanting to work from home. Digital technology (eg. things like super-fast broadband) are the growth-engine of the ‘flexible working’ trend. All of which is another tangible proof-point of the Digital Economy.
And as we all know, once one or two houses convert their garages into beautiful new habitable spaces - ‘neighbourly envy’ will build its own contagious momentum.
And so, if I were an entrepreneur, I’d think about setting-up a business to convert garages into wonderful buildings for humans to use. Perhaps I’d call it:
www.DoUpYourGarage.com (Click ‘Read more’ if this spikes your interest)
Basically, I see the wholesale redevelopment of garages on residential homes in London as utterly predictable and totally beneficial:
- We will create spaces that we will enjoy – it will make us happy.
- Happier = healthier.
- Garage conversion will drive-up house prices – we will become more prosperous.
- And most importantly, it will create millions of revenue in the construction industry.
I hope the story of my garage offers practical glimpse of what is likely to come.
Change, especially the extent of it that we are currently experiencing, can be massively unsettling. But we ought not let a sense of insecurity overwhelm us and thereby deny the remarkable opportunity that is the Digital Economy. Much of what is happening can be accurately forecasted. I think that is exciting - which in terms of motivational energy is the opposite of doubt.
One thing that is utterly predictable - the days of my old garage are numbered.
I have always believed in sharing creative ideas for new businesses. Rarely does anyone possess all the capabilities necessary to build a business on their own.
Regarding the ‘DoUpYourGarage' business idea - not surprisingly I've bought the .com URL. Realistically I am not going to set-up this business - but I am passionate about the idea and its potential. I reckon I know a thing or two about business, and so, if anyone out there thinks that this is sufficiently compelling that they want to give it a go, please feel free to send me a proposal. For someone with the right resources, perhaps this is the start of a viable business.
Innovation has overtaken branding as the best way to communicate with customers.
Read time: approximately 3mins-14secs-ish.
Soapbox: SMEs must place much higher priority on being innovative, says Simon Devonshire
Innovation has overtaken branding as the best way to communicate with customers, says the director of O2 Telefonica’s Wayra incubator programme for entrepreneurs.
SMEs must become more innovative in the way they do business or risk being left behind, says Simon Devonshire, director of the Wayra incubator programme for entrepreneurs, which was created by O2 Telefonica to promote innovation in digital technology.
He said: “Innovation has become a really important way of communicating with customers. Sales rarely happen these days as a result of a single moment; they are nearly always dependent on dialogue, conversation and rapport with your customers.”
He added: “Being innovative enables you to have ongoing conversations with customers who aren’t going to be irritated by the intrusion and will instead be curious or even delighted to hear from you, because people want to know what’s new. They like the idea of being thought of as early adopters.”
Devonshire said that SMEs relying on the launch of one product a year to take their business forward should think again, saying that businesses should ideally be creating new products and services, or ways of getting them to customers, twice a quarter. “I would encourage small businesses to innovate their proposition once every six weeks. Six weeks in the life of a customer is a long time. If you are only launching one initiative a year to grow your business you are asking a lot of it.”
Devonshire, who is an advisor to the government’s Department of Business Innovation and Skills, said that innovation can take many forms, from new products to new ways of getting them to customers.
He said: “It is increasingly important for a business to be remarkable, as in literally to be remarked upon. The world’s most notable companies are now in my view becoming famous not just for what they do, but for innovating. Some of them do it overtly and very clearly like Apple, others are more sophisticated such as what Google has done with Google Glass. It is more vital now than it has ever been for businesses to be hard wired into what is happening in that space.”
O2 Telefonica opened the first Wayra incubator in 2011 and there are now 14 such incubators across Latin America and Europe, including sites in London and Dublin. Each team of digital technology entrepreneurs accepted onto the programme is given workspace for six months and seed investment in return for giving O2 Telefonica a 10% stake in their ventures and first refusal on anything that is developed.
So far 268 digital technology entrepreneurs have taken part in the programme and nearly half of the 98 start ups which have graduated from the programme are currently in some form of active trial with 02 Telefonica.
Devonshire said: “My view is that if a big corporate like O2 Telefonica can be innovative, then there is no excuse for smaller companies not to innovate. Telefonica is a long established company and so if we can do it, anybody can do it.”
He added: “Innovation is a mindset. You have got to surround yourself with the right people to give yourself the inspiration necessary to create the insight that is going to enable you to add value to your customers.”
Earlier TallManBusiness blog-posts related to this interview are:
Selling = the transfer of enthusiasm.
This photo captures a Tweet from Liam Black. Liam is not only a proven entrepreneur but also a global pioneer of social-innovation through enterprise.
I am passionate about entrepreneurs connecting, networking and sharing learnings. Twitter is a good medium for this. However, Tweets can be as momentary as birdsong. I didn’t want the wisdom in this Tweet to evaporate as quickly as it was published, and so I’ve decided to expand upon it:
Selling, really is the transferal of enthusiasm.
What follows are some practical suggestions on how this might affect you and your business:
If you are employing sales people:
- Vitally you must make sure that your front-line employees (ie. sales people) have an enormous capacity to be enthusiastic naturally.
- Enthusiasm alone is not enough - your sales people must also possess a demonstrable ability to infect others with their passion.
- More importantly, this transfer must be authentic, sincere and effective.
Let’s bring this idea to life metaphorically. For just one moment, think of selling as the transferal of happiness. And so, from this perspective, when viewing your sales people, please consider:
- That their being happy is not enough.
- That their wanting and helping others to be happy is not enough.
- You need people who can actually make others happy. De-facto.
If you are a sales person:
- Be enthusiastic.
- Make sure that you carefully select the Company that employs you - choose one that offers products and/or services that fire your gift for enthusiasm.
- Actively go and spread the word. Be contagious with your enthusiasm.
If you are not a sales person:
If you are not a front-line sales person, luckily this makes your purpose really clear:
- Whether you are the CEO, the CFO, a coder, a product manager, a markerteer, a secretary, or an intern - your job is to help your salespeople to sell.
If you are able to influence the Company’s strategy:
- Build products and services that ignite the enthusiasm of your sales people.
- Give them the permission to excitedly contact all their existing customers and prospects with the thrilling news of your Company’s new propositions.
- Due this regularly in order to fuel that conversation.
- Help to create a willing audience of ‘paying punters’.
Two related posts on this topic:
Innovation = sales. Increasingly sales depend on building rapport. The launch of new propositions is a fantastic route to give yourself permission to proactively talk to all your potential customers.
Business growth is all about the eights. This post suggests the frequency and pace
Stop avoiding the difficult thing.
It often happens that during a business coaching session there is a revelation that a person’s and/or business’s biggest obstacle is themselves - specifically their determined reluctance to ‘tackle the difficult thing’.
The top three most common types of ‘difficult thing’ are:
- Making a difficult sales call.
- Public speaking.
- Tackling obstinate colleagues or clients.
It is remarkable sometimes the extraordinary lengths, efforts and strategies people invest in, in order to put off doing the ‘difficult thing’ just a little while longer.
Even more remarkable is an inner belief that avoidance will somehow result in the challenge being magically progressed.
I’m sorry to disappoint you. I’ve yet to see such magic.
I know that this advice is especially dull - I know that instead, it’s much more fun to focus on developing:
- the website
- the copy
- the user-journey
- the photo-shoot
I have heard the passionate belief that there is “no-point-what-so-ever” in launching or selling until all these things are executed beautifully. But sales rarely happen by themselves - the quicker start-ups throw themselves at selling, the more likely they are to succeed.
If you are a co-founder / CEO, be sufficiently self-aware to recognise when either you or your team are deliberately putting-off the ‘difficult thing’ - and instead, motivate yourself to get-on and crack it.
And so if you want get ahead in your career or your start-up to succeed: Avoid avoidance.
Focus, Focus, Focus.
I’m often asked by entrepreneurs if there is a magic ingredient to ensure the success of a start-up.
In truth, I don’t think that there is one item alone that will do this - but there are several on which success depends.
In my experience, the most important is: FOCUS.
To quote the legendary Richard Duvall:
“Identify the most powerful action to move your business forward. And then focus on it ruthlessly.”
Unfortunately, and quite inconveniently, there is rarely a silver bullet that will singularly transform a business. Normally there are always at least 38 things that seem vital at any one time.
But it is the Founder’s ability to choose one clear goal and galvernize all the resource at their disposal in passionate pursuit of it, that is the key determinant of whether or not a business succeeds or fails.
Don’t deviate, diminish or dilute your focus until you’ve absolutely nailed the action that you committed to. And do not give yourself permission to be distracted from it.
Controversial to some, it is also my experience that concentrated commercial focus is something that female entrepreneurs are often better at than their male peers.
And if like many start-ups, you are currently looking to secure investment in your business - don’t be surprised if potential investors choose whether or not to discuss this possibility by virtue of how powerfully you answer the simple question: “What’s your focus right now?”.
Is your business on-track? Why Week 34 is the most important week of the year for Companies.
As a kid my life was dominated by athletics. I trained and raced constantly. One of the lessons that stuck with me is that when racing, the best athletes don’t aim for the finishing line – they aim slightly beyond it.
I think that this is a good metaphor for business. I think the financial year-end date for a company is the equivalent of a finishing line. It is equally uncompromising:
- In athletics, the performance-time and position for every athlete is definitive at the finishing line.
- Financial Year-End is an equivalent acid test for business: Year-on-year did the business grow?
It could be argued that not all businesses share a commercial ambition to grow. The challenge is, that if you / your business aims to raise money, the realization of year-on-year growth is likely to have a material impact on your ability to do so.
I am passionate about business success.
Running a business is not only often challenging, also it can be incredibly complex. Complexity, and wrestling with it, can reduce effectiveness and the chances of commercial success. And so, I am a big champion of anything that makes business less complex and therefore more likely to succeed.
To that aim, this post is about three (slightly quirky) observations all centered around Financial Year-End.
The first observation is that:
In my experience, when a Registered Company’s Financial Year-End coincides with the natural calendar year, (ie. Year-End falls on December 31st) the business is significantly easier to manage.
I know this sounds nonsense. Academically / logically, the date of the Year-End ought not to matter. In practice, in my experience, it does.
My second observation is that:
Many CEO’s don’t know (or have forgotten) that they can choose the date of their Company’s Year-End, (in the UK anyway).
According to official stat’s from Companies House, only 15% of Companies have their Year-End on December 31st. Which is why I previously wrote a post to appeal to founders not to simply default to the year-end date falling on the anniversary of the formal registration of their Company.
My third observation is:
If the results at Financial Year-End are a vital business metric – then Week 34 is the most important week of the year in the business calendar.
Two things make Week 34 especially significant:
- The CEO will be able to forecast with significant accuracy whether or not the business is on-track to hit its Year-End targets.
- Equally importantly, there is still a narrow window of opportunity in the time remaining in which to do something about it.
Importantly, if the financial Year-End of your Company is 31st December, Week 34 is this week!
In Week 34 – one of three scenarios will be true. The business is either:
- On-track to deliver against year-end targets and expectations. Congratulations, great job done. (Please don’t drop the ball in the final quarter).
- Or more challengingly, not on-track to hit target, however you have an impressive plan for the final / vital four and a half months in which to exit the year with great momentum - ie. to keep fighting until the very end.
- Or it’s too late. Time has run out. You are evidently going to miss by a mile and have not got a Scooby-do (clue) what to do about the situation and therefore you are royally bazzookered with no-where to hide my friend.
Week 34 is a pivotal date because the CEO (and their Leadership Team) should by now have the financial report of ‘month-end-actuals’ for July, combined with a relatively accurate forecast for the month-end of August. This gives absolute clarity on the performance so far for the majority portion of the year - and a clear indication of what is required in the remaining four months.
Hence my declaration that this week is the most important week in the trading year.
Of course if the Financial Year-End date for your Company is not 31st December then I’d recommend that you work out when your Week 34 will land.
I talk to a lot of businesses – most CEO’s instantly know when their Financial Year-End date is. It’s surprising how few know when their ‘Week 34’ is.
In my experience of running P&L’s, every quarter has a special significance for business. I will write about all four quarters in the future.
Week 34 – a total of 18 weeks remaining in order to end this years trading with great results; great momentum; and a brilliant plan with which to get the next trading year off to a flying start. 18 weeks – or as I prefer, “three-eights” (of a year) – as per my recent post: Business growth is all about the eighths.
We must all take responsibility for building a workforce fit for the Digital Economy.
It adds to the thinking of some of my earlier posts, including my last one: “In the new digital economy mundane work will be made redundant”.
Evidently this thinking is provoking a lot of discussion. For example, I’ve recently heard:
- A repeated view that mundane work is often peoples’ preference.
- Some people genuinely like it.
- That mundanity does not necessarily equate to a lack of significance or purpose.
- That mundane work is a good way to occupy and thereby pacify significant sections of society.
- Scarily, a controversial view that low skilled work should be a basic human right that people should all be unconditionally entitled to.
Idealistically I want to make mundane work redundant because I believe that there must be a better use of peoples’ most valuable commodity: time.
But it’s not about what I want. Or what the workforce wants.
Technology, and innovation, and entrepreneurship are transforming the world; how we learn; how we live; and how we work. I believe that the birth of the Digital Economy creates more commercial opportunities than ever before. And the advances that are being made will enrich our lives, especially benefiting our children and our children’s children.
The changes are happening at an astonishing pace. From my perspective, the only prediction that I am confident about is that, we won’t go back – however affectionately and nostalgically we feel about the past, it will not be possible to sacrifice or separate ourselves from the benefits of the digital age.
But building a workforce fit for the digital economy is a tricky challenge. On the one hand I see that the advances of the Digital Economy have the potential to make mundane work redundant. On the other hand, I am both astonished and horrified that there are reportedly 7.5m unemployed 16 to 24 year olds in Europe – whilst simultaneously some of the best digital start-ups in Europe, currently being accelerated in the Wayra academies, have vacancies that I know they are struggling fill.
This is the discussion that I am keen to fuel. If we can all see the opportunity; if we all agree the need; then to Ronan’s point: who specifically is going to ‘build a workforce fit for the digital age’?
If we believe it is Government, then exactly which Minister is accountable for the digital transformation of the economy? I don’t think we have one. I’m not aware that the Bank of England has anyone focused on understanding the economic impact of the internet, despite the UK’s lead of e-commerce as a percentage of GDP. Universities offer computer science education, but that is only one of the ingredients necessary to realise the digital opportunity.
I believe that it’s down to all of us. We must all take responsibility for:
- Immersing our kids in the digital world (even if it’s something that we barely understand ourselves). Kano.me is a brilliant example of a business specifically designed to help both kids and their struggling parents to achieve this - see Read More
- Inspiring young adults to hungrily attack the pursuit of securing fulfilling employment
- Helping our elders to navigate the impact of digital technology and the benefits of connectivity. I’d love for them to benefit most from the advances in technology, instead of being alienated by them. In Central London, has anyone noticed - where have all the old people gone?
- Remembering the power of our wallets in leading corporate change – and not allowing your own apathy / inconvenience to undermine that power. If you don’t like what a particular corporate does (or how it does it), then don’t buy their products.
- Encouraging politicians to be brave in making bold decisions – and in being uncompromising in our demands of them.
- Being bothered to engage and get actively involved in local debate about the rejuvenation of our local economies and high streets.
- Lobbying regulators to facilitate and lead positive change across the industries that they regulate.
If I may be bold, I have a number of requests:
Don’t assume that schools will give your kids the tools, technology and learning that they need. It’s not just about learning to code, which becomes mandatory in the UK from September 2014. It is about making them hungry for life and hungry to succeed in business. I believe that parents play a massive role in acquiring this appetite. Frankly I see loads of young people applying for intern positions – and disappointingly they rarely have the oooomph necessary to add value to a start-up.
Don’t rely on Governments to generate and drive the policies of a digital age – they are too worried about being elected/re-elected. I don’t believe we have an unemployment crisis, I believe that we are witnessing an ‘employability crisis’. I have spoken to politicians about this and I am disappointed to tell you that they will not do anything to arrest fifth-generational unemployment in the UK because they believe that doing so requires remedies that will not win votes. I see the challenges of both the remedies and the votes differently.
Don’t petition Local Councils to ‘save our high streets’. Consumer buying behaviour has fundamentally and irreversibly changed. High streets don’t need saving, they need reinventing. Decision making in local Councils typically takes too long, especially in a digital world. Councils have neither the experience or the capabilities to create and affect the changes that are now necessary – and doing so in the time that the changes are required is even more impossible.
Don’t expect local tax collectors to collect taxes efficiently from global-digital-corporates. Evidently they don’t know how to.
None of them is to blame. None of them has been through this before. It’s not just the inconvenience of change. It’s that the issues they now face are entirely new.
It’s not all bad news. Apparently UK GDP has just delivered its second consecutive quarter of growth. The new boss of The Bank of England made some reassuringly good points about the management of interest rates yesterday on the national news.
Perhaps we are starting to wake up to the fact that the digital economy will be arriving shortly. Maybe we’re starting to get comfortable with the idea of it. Despite the rash of Armageddon movies from Hollywood, perhaps the world is not about to end.
But I suspect that it is not enough to idly ask “when will retraining commence?”. I believe that we’ve got to take responsibility to actively retrain ourselves, and to get involved in the opportunities that the Digital Economy presents.
Click Read More if you want to know more about Kano.me and how it is an important small step in addressing the creation of a workforce fit for the Digital Economy.
Mundane work will be made redundant.
I am privileged to have first-hand exposure to literally thousands of entrepreneurs who have created a digital start-up, or are thinking about creating one.
This gives me a unique perspective on what businesses of tomorrow might look like, and the potential impact that they could have.
I suspect that the era we are currently living through will probably be remembered most for ‘the crisis’. I wonder to what extent it will also be remembered for the positive developments that are happening right now.
I previously posted that I believe “There has never been a better time to be alive”:
- We are more healthy than ever before
- We live longer
- More of us are educated than ever before
- We have more leisure time than ever before
- We are more prosperous
- I believe we have more opportunity than ever before
As I have commented previously, we are witnessing the birth of the Digital Economy. I believe it is the biggest change / transition ever experienced in humanity. I think it’s impact will be more profound than the Industrial Revolution.
One of the beneficial consequences of both the Industrial Revolution and the Communication Revolution is that in the developed world, unsafe work has largely been made redundant. In London, we no-longer send children up chimneys to clean them.
The good news in the UK is that work related fatalities have halved over the last twenty years. According to official HSE statistics, 148 unfortunate people were killed at work in the last year.
Sadly this progress is not yet global. There are no definitive statistics for occupational deaths in Latin America, but it is estimated that more than the annual UK number die per day across the region. (Expert estimates range from 27,000 to 68,000 per year).
Clearly making unsafe work redundant is a good thing.
What I have recently observed is the growing potential for the Digital Economy to make mundane work redundant.
Perhaps making mundanity redundant is a trend that pre-exists the digital revolution, however, I believe we are seeing the potential for an explosion in this trend.
Technology and innovation will increasingly:
- automate processes;
- empower people;
- predict their requirements;
- enable them to self-serve;
- to find the solutions and answers that they need for themselves.
I’m not simply referring to machines being employed to reproduce repetitive manual tasks; I’m talking about computers being employed to perform complex intelligent processes.
The application of this technology could be as trivial as:
- A boarding pass on your smart-phone that requires no check-in clerk.
As complex as:
- Scanning a vast global database of sophisticated technology patents.
Or as profound as:
- Planes flying with no pilot physically on-board the plane.
One of the things that unites all three of these vocations is a common human belief (especially by the incumbent employees) that ‘humans do it better’. What’s increasingly becoming evident is the possibility that this may not be true.
Initially this caused me considerable concern because of the potential job losses that such innovation could yield.
But focusing on that concern ignores the fact that the work we do; the companies that we work for; indeed, the industries that those companies belong to - have all undergone constant evolution since the dawn of time. Ultimately, the total quantity of people in employment has increased.
Periods of change can be worrying times. Uncertainty can be unsettling. If only we could predict the future. ’Read more’ for a personal account of how unpredictable work-based change can be.
We may not know today what ‘work’ in the future will look like. But accelerators like Wayra give us a valuable glimpse of what it may have in-store.
I’ll write about that in future posts.