Patrick Dixon is one of the world’s leading Futurists. Check out his latest book - The Future of Almost Everything - is published on August 27th by Amazon. Patrick Dixon has been ranked 1 of 20 most influential business thinkers.
You wrote “Building a Better Business: The Key to Future Marketing, Management and Motivation” back in 2005 & your new book is called “The Future Of Almost Everything”. What are the most important trends for us to think about right now?
P.D.: Every trend connects to every other trend, and the greatest mistake is to focus on only one area, while the rest of the world spins ahead. Here are a few really big ones that will dominate our global future:
1 billion children are alive today, all of whom will be adults soon, wanting a middle class lifestyle, and 85% of the entire world will be living in emerging markets in 10 year’s time. 1 billion people will move over the next 30 years from rural areas in the poorest nations to cities in their own nations, or will migrate to cities in wealthy nations. At least 800 million people with no bank accounts will gain access to payments, savings and insurance using a smartphone, over the next 5-8 years.
So, how does one become good at spotting future business trends?
P.D.:I have been forecasting trends for corporations for almost 20 years. The method I use to read is very widely, learn from every person I meet about their own changing world, travel extensively, spend time with innovators in the world’s greatest companies, and always ask radical questions about what could happen in future.
Focus on the hundreds of longer term trends which have been changing relatively slowly over the last three decades, and which will drive huge business opportunities over the next two decades. Things like continuous fall of technology costs, massive improvements in health care with longer life expectancy, rapid growth of emerging markets, growth of green energy, growth of mobile, and wireless devices.
Do employees who use their own smartphones, tablets and computers at work really pose a potential threat to companies they work for? How serious is the BYOD problem?
P.D.:A lot of fuss is made by some CIOs about security threats from people who bring their own devices to work, but this is often based on a lot of nonsense. The latest security software for iPhone for example is as robust as for older business devices like Blackberry. The fact is that people insist on using their own devices and if you don’t let them do so officially, they end up doing so unofficially which is an even larger problem. Companies should be much more worried about large scale cyber-attacks, which are increasing very rapidly every month.
In your experience, what is the biggest obstacle that prevents business owners from developing systems and business strategies in their companies?
P.D.: Many business owners are too busy to think – even about basic things like IT disaster recovery, which is often unreliable or incomplete and is usually the greatest IT risk for any smaller business. One of the most valuable services for most family-owned businesses is to outsource IT support to a local company, including backup, keeping software patches updated, helping with basic networking support and so on.
What resources would you recommend to our readers who want to stay on top of their mobile game?
P.D.: Most online purchases in nations as diverse as the UK and Vietnam are now taking place on mobile devices. The most important single fact for marketing is to know where the customer is right now, to help predict how they are feeling and what they are likely to want to do next.
So mobile really, really matters. Google is now penalizing all websites that lack a mobile-friendly version, so as a matter of urgency, get your website fixed. Loads of online tools are available to help you, including Google webmaster Apps which tell you what needs to be done.
The key is to keep on exploring the mobile world yourself because it is changing very fast: download new Apps that your customers may be using, and think about developing one of your own. For example, register with things like Apple Pay and start using them.
Oh – and one other thing. Positively encourage your team to bring their own devices to work – each may be using a separate platform, a separate model, in a different mobile ecosystem. Just as you should also allow access to Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and so on, at work. Your teams should be allowed to remain in their normal online world when they are at work, to remain close to customers, more sensitized to the velocity of digital change.