Project Management

Alerting Organizations to the Future - Mark Stevenson

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"The future is coming faster than you think", Mark said in his workshop at the PMI Global Congress-EMEA. Mark Stevenson (@Optimistontour) is a futurist, as his blog description says, and an expert on global trends and innovation. Also, he is the author of the bestseller ‘An Optimist’s tour of the future’.

Continuing what Isabel Aguilera told us on the first-day keynote, Mark clearly presented various technological and global trends and the influence that these were having on business. The title of the workshop was significant: "Alerting Organizations to the Future".

The title of the workshop is very well chosen because it blends two concepts that invite reflection: Alert and Optimism in the Future. On the one hand, he aims to give a message of alert about changes in the businesses that bring with them technological advances and innovation. On the other hand, all these innovations bring changes with them, but also new opportunities.


"Dinosaurs disappeared because they didn't have a space program."

This is what happened to many companies that did not see what technological advancements supposed for their business and did not design a plan to redefine it and their services. When a company is not sure about what it produces and what consumers really need, it becomes a dinosaur with few expectations to survive over time. There are many examples caused by some disruptive technical advance that suddenly changed the consumer's needs: the almost total disappearance of discs with the emergence of the digital music market; publishers of newspapers and news companies; the industry of photography and film; the sale and rental of videos; and many others.

Mark raises a number of questions about all these dinosaur companies that come to our minds:

  • What INDUSTRY did they believe they operated in?
  • What did they believe they were providing?
  • Did they recognize their COMPETITORS?
  • How did they see their CUSTOMERS?
  • What was their attitude to CHANGE?
  • What was their attitude to new TECHNOLOGY?


Most of these companies in danger of extinction had a wrong conception of the reality where they were operating and the service they were providing: when someone bought a disc, they were not really buying a vinyl or a CD, however, they were buying an experience. Many of the successful companies reach the size of dinosaurs while they are taking care of operations, competitiveness and management of your business. However, they leave the service they are giving users aside: the experience of listening to music, being informed or remembering an image from the past.

It only takes a technological change that enables another way to satisfy these needs and the whole company will disappear if it is not able to see it in time and change. The problem is that not all companies are able to deal with these changes, or in the majority of cases, they do not even want to see them: "It is difficult to convince someone that something is changing when their salary depends on nothing changing".


Disruptive technology

A disruptive technology is an innovation that creates a new market and value network that will eventually disrupt an already existing market and replace an existing product.

Clayton Christensen’s book, "The innovator's dilemma", explains the attitude that companies should have on innovation and the dilemma that arises in the case that they want to change their services to incorporate technological advances.

Christensen's book suggests that successful companies can put too much emphasis on customers' current needs, and fail to adopt new technology or business models that will meet their customers' unstated or future needs. He argues that such companies will eventually fall behind. Christensen calls the anticipation of future needs ‘disruptive innovation’,

As the title states, the innovator's 'dilemma' comes from the idea that businesses or organizations will reject innovations based on the fact that customers cannot currently use them, thus allowing these ideas with a great potential to go to waste. Christensen goes into great detail about the way in which 'successful' companies adhered to customers’ needs, adopted new technologies and took rivals into consideration, but still ended up losing dominance in their market.


"Nearly every social and technical and business infrastructure we have can´t survive"

So this is the future and what to do about it!

Mark, who has returned from the future with an optimistic message, invites us to do a bit of self-criticism and reflect on ourselves and whether our services incorporate the technological advances and innovation that are within our reach. (An anecdote: in the workshop, only two people had a 3D printer).


How it looks to you today?

"Your customers don,t want it".

"Your sales people can´t sell it".

"Even if they could, the margins are too small".


Disruptive innovation also means new business opportunities if we incorporate them. Sectors such as banking, pharmaceutics, education, training, services, energy, etc., show tentative changes produced by technical advances that will bring a paradigm shift.  And social structures will also be inevitably affected as much by all these technological changes. Democracy itself and political institutions have remained immutable for decades while voters have a huge capacity to decide through their phones instantly.

How do we see disruptive technology today and how is it affecting our business?

And tomorrow,

...will we look like dinosaurs?


Posted by Carlos Javier Pampliega García on: May 11, 2016 03:20 PM | Permalink

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