The Future of Business.

The big trends that could change your world...

Crystal BallIf Google and Airbnb went into partnership tomorrow, and took over your closest competitor, what game-changing product or service might they launch in 18 months time?

That’s one of the scenarios I’ll be using in a client workshop in a couple of weeks, not because it’s likely to happen, but because the trends those companies represent have the potential to dramatically change the way my client’s industry works.

There’s no point developing things to suit a world that no longer exists, so when you’re revisiting your strategy, you need a pretty clear idea about what the world might look like in a few years’ time. What will have changed and what will remain the same, for your industry and for the customers it serves? It’s one thing to list out the big trends and likely changes, but it’s another thing to anticipate the profound impact they might have on the needs, attitudes and expectations of your customers, suppliers and competitors, and ultimately, the threats and opportunities they will create for you.

That’s where these kinds of scenario can make a huge difference to your thinking. Pick real companies that exemplify the big trends that are relevant to you, and imagine them moving into your industry. Suddenly it feels real – it gives you and your team something tangible to talk about and to work with.

My client provides DNA matching, among other things, to help transplant centres around the world obtain the most suitable tissues and organs for their patients. It takes a wealth of expert knowledge, a huge database of potential donors, and some serious analytics to find the right match.

But there are some big trends going on around data and analytics, expert systems and artificial intelligence; just as there are big trends in crown-sourcing and global community building. So, what would a Google / Airbnb partnership do if it were their business? Maybe they’d use machine intelligence to build a self-service on-line tool, and a peer-to-peer platform to support transactions directly between patient and donor. Maybe there are reasons that can’t happen, and maybe there are other, more likely scenarios, but that’s the point of discussion: what could the future look like?

And that’s when you can start asking the real questions: of all those scenarios, which is the one that’s best for your customers and for you? Because one thing’s for sure, if you can imagine it happening, others can as well, and if you don’t make it happen, someone else probably will.

Have you thought about the scenarios that could unfold if the big trend-setters moved into your industry? And will you lead the revolution, or will you be scrambling for a niche in the aftermath?