Undoubtedly, keeping up-to-date with the advancements of the ever-changing world of technology has become increasingly essential to the ways in which we do business. Accelerating innovations enable optimal user interactions: driving higher expectations for the customer experience. These innovations impact every industry – changing the way we live and the way we do business.

Despite the many benefits, our striving to remain informed on the rapid changes in technological advancements can often leave us feeling completely overwhelmed. The incredibly fast pace and far reach of technology’s changes can feel impossible to keep up with! Nonetheless, it’s crucial for business leaders to carve out time from their day-to-day operations and think about the long-term future.

For business leaders, monitoring technology trends and their societal impacts can help to imagine new possibilities for the future, while making better decisions today. However, with numerous sources of information and innovations springing up all around us, where do you start?

First, identify which technologies and trends are most interesting to you right now. Then observe, look, and listen for these trends.  This does not require the commitment of a significant amount of time; it’s more efficient to form the habit of making trend-spotting part of your day-to-day life. For example: try keeping an eye out for these trends during your daily reading time or while attending business events, or, reserve a few minutes from your team meeting’s agenda for a quick discussion regarding the trends everyone has observed that are of interest to your company.

While monitoring trends is easy, the key to gaining value from this information is to occasionally reflect on and evaluate what you are seeing.

Here’s a simple four-step framework that you and/or your team can follow to help step out of today’s thinking and into the “TomorrowZone™”:

1. Understand the difference between Exponential vs. Linear Progress

Imagine taking thirty linear steps; each stride about one yard in length. By the time you get to the 30th step, you’ll have traveled thirty yards – approximately the length of a small parking lot. 

Now, imagine taking thirty exponential steps; with the length of each step doubling the step before. By the time you get to the 30th doubling, you’ll have traveled over 1 billion yards: enough to take you around the earth over 26 times, or to the moon and back (and halfway to the moon again).

We tend to think in terms of linear, or incremental progress, however, technology progresses exponentially. This is one of the reasons why we are sometimes surprised by disruptive technology innovations. Understanding this concept helps to better grasp just how quickly technologies will likely progress.

2. Recognize forces of change

Think about the trends that could impact your industry over the next 5-10 years. As you do this, look for trends across a variety of dimensions: societal, technological, economic, environmental/regulatory, and political. For each of the trends you are watching, ask yourself the following questions:

  • How certain are you that this trend will continue?
  • If it continues, what will be the level of impact on your industry?
  • What might be the impact on clients and collaborators?
  • For your business, what are the indirect impacts and opportunities?

3. Exponential technologies to watch

While there are many technologies available to watch, you’ll gain the most benefit by focusing on just the technology innovations you are the most interested in. You don’t need to become a technologist, but you do need to understand the potential implications of disruptive technologies that are advancing exponentially: artificial intelligence, internet connectivity, cloud computing, blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), autonomous mobility, robotics, and virtual or augmented reality.

For example: in financial services, artificial intelligence, blockchain, and cloud computing could have tremendous impacts on how we’ll conduct business and interact with customers in the future.  Consider the potential opportunities and impacts of these technologies, as well as what might be possible at the intersection of multiple technology categories.

4. Imagine the future and ask new questions.

Imagine multiple future scenarios, while asking questions to assess your readiness for the future. The most powerful part of this framework is imagination and reflection.

Here is a thought experiment you can complete in 30 minutes or less, to help you imagine future scenarios and reflect on what you learn:

  1. Select a handful of trends likely to impact your industry over the next 5-10 years. For each trend, asses the level of certainty that the trend will continue and the degree of impact it would have if it did.
  2. Select a future business scenario to focus on and imagine a character in that future. Imagine a “day in the life” for this character in that business scenario. Describe that character’s experience in words or doodles.
  3. Jot down your answers to the following questions: What do you see? What new ideas, questions, or actions does this inspire for today? How prepared are you for this future? What will you do next?

Each of us possesses the wonderful ability to time travel in our minds via our imagination.

  • When you traveled to the future and imagined what a person might experience, what did you see?
  • What new ideas were sparked by the exercise?
  • How ready are you for your imagined future scenario?
  • Based on what you learned from your imagined future, what trends will you track more closely?

You’re not required to become a technologist in order to stay on top of technology trends, expand your thinking about the future, and understand the potential impacts/opportunities of technology. As you continue to practice trend watching, imagination, and reflection, try using the TomorrowZone™ framework to think differently about the future to influence the decisions you make today.

While this framework is insightful when practiced individually, it’s even more effective when diverse perspectives come together in a facilitated TomorrowZone™ Workshop experience! To learn more, click here.