Big data analytics is changing every industry. It’s a hard trend, and it’s spread is inevitable – the question is: how are you succeeding or failing at positioning your business to take advantage of it?
Let’s put it in simple terms. Big data refers to the use of very large amounts of raw data by businesses, ideally to create products and services that meet customer needs better than ever before.
Successful innovators are the people who see a demand before it arises and develop the technology required to meet it. Certain demands may seem to arise on a whim, as part of some inscrutable cultural shift. But other demands are inevitable; we can see them coming. They develop as a result of irreversible and linear changes: the shifting landscape, the growing population. These are examples of hard trends—what will happen—as opposed to what might happen (soft trends).
Deadly and infectious viruses, such as Ebola, are an inevitable and unavoidable fact of nature. In other words, they are examples of a Hard Trend. And they demand new innovations in order to combat them.
I cannot overstate that Ebola, which is responsible for ending thousands of lives and devastating many thousands more, is a profound tragedy and a global crisis. But the deadly force of Ebola is the kind of imminent threat that inspires human minds to new heights. It teaches us that Hard Trends come at us fast and provide the catalyst to overcome inertia and bring about technological innovations.
Last week I talked about how people are thinking too small when they think about the Internet of Things. When we truly consider the ramifications of connecting a vast array of data-gathering sensors, devices, and machines together, what’s important to realize is that information will be translated into action at a rate that we have never seen before. We are closing in on a world with infinitesimal reaction times, immediate responses to changing conditions, and unparalleled control in managing assets and resources.
When people talk about “the next big thing,” they’re never thinking big enough. It’s not a lack of imagination; it’s a lack of observation. I’ve maintained that the future is always within sight, and you don’t need to imagine what’s already there.
Case in point: The buzz surrounding the Internet of Things.
What’s the buzz? The Internet of Things revolves around increased machine-to-machine communication; it’s built on cloud computing and networks of data-gathering sensors; it’s mobile, virtual, and instantaneous connection; and they say it’s going to make everything in our lives from streetlights to seaports “smart.”
Many of us work in organizations that have been around for many decades. For example, IBM—a popular employer—is over 100 years old.
Older organizations are great, but they often have a corporate culture that has not changed much over the years. In addition, their traditional products and services continue to sell well, but the margins are much lower and there is much more competition. Some people blame stagnation and lower profits on age—that only new and hip things sell these days.
Over the years I have written about the transition from using credit cards as we know them to using our smart phone as an e-wallet at the checkout counter.
So far in the U.S., this transition has been slow. For example, Google Wallet launched in 2011 with a Sprint Nexus S handset followed by a number of additional handsets, but the results have not resulted in a consumer shift to an e-wallet as of this date.
Have you heard of Ello yet? It’s a new social media network that has been getting a lot of buzz lately because it’s positioning itself as “the anti-Facebook social platform.” What does that mean? As Facebook finds new ways to learn more about its users so that it can sell those insights to advertisers, Ello is betting that a large and growing number of people want to use a social network that is ad-free and designed to preserve its users privacy.
Strategic planning is extremely important, but the way we plan, and the plan we create, do not provide the dynamic roadmap everyone in the organization needs in order to shape the best future possible.
Today’s traditional strategic plan is a static plan. The plan exists as a document, either digital or printed, that is published in some way, shared with key employees, and then put in a file cabinet or digital folder.
How many times have you been sick and tried to get an appointment with your doctor, only to find out that he or she had no openings for the next three days? Or maybe you got sick over a weekend or in the middle of the night, when your doctor’s office was closed, and had to make your way to an emergency room or urgent care clinic, where you then had to wait for hours before a physician could see you. Or perhaps you were traveling, either for work or pleasure, and got sick while in a different city, making seeing your doctor impossible.