From just about right now, until 2030 (and well beyond), the world will see an age of innovation that dwarfs efforts and innovations the previous 30 years. The reasons why are laid out in this document.
In fact, the decade that follows this most tumultuous of years will make the 1920s seem like a mere blip. And the 20’s was an era of the motor car, widespread electricity, telephones, mass-production, advertising, credit, adoption of radio, talking movies, and much more. In fact, western society changed a great deal in that period. Yet the next 10 years will surpass even these feats, and innovations will only accelerate as the decade goes on.
While the previous thirty years have seen amazing leaps in computer technology, the next ten years will see life-changing innovations take place in several areas:
- 3D printing improvements (speed will transform in 10 years)
- Automotive technology
- Data (how we are able to manipulate and predict)
- Energy (wind, solar, others)
- Battery Power (storage)
- Connectivity (2020 connectivity standards will be laughable)
- Food (eg meat free)
- Graphene(-like) products
- Internet will truly become instant
- Smart Technology (home appliances, cities, health, brain interfaces)
- Space Travel (commercialisation and private transport to space)
- Ground Transport (eg Boring Company)
I would like to acknowledge that several of these list items may seem frivolous, as we currently know and view them. 3D printing being a good example. Currently, 3D printing is a hobbyist play toy of those with an income to afford such ‘luxuries’. Yet, in ten years time, 3D printers are likely to be integral to the running of a young family’s home, and most businesses.
This list is by no means exhaustive, and I am likely to have missed out at least a few things that will dramatically change the lives of millions of people.
Another very important aspect of this list is that many of the innovations can and will crossover, leading to numerous more innovations and widespread changes within industries. AI and automotive technology being just one. But then add solar energy and battery storage. What about AI and data…so many combinations are possible, and will crossover to great effect.
Why do I think the future is better than what has gone by?
I believe that over the next decade that there will be a thirst for innovation like nothing that the planet has seen before. The technologies that I mention are all in the open, which means that so many millions more people know about them than could have possibly done in the past. Access to data is very easy for people or businesses to procure, due to the internet and transactional opportunities. Because we know, we will want – and even expect – to see our ideas come to fruition – because we know so much more than ever before that they are possible now.
Every business – not just some large businesses, and the odd forward-thinking small business as there are now – will demand an innovative workplace. They will demand it because their clients and staff will demand it. The future has very few spots for businesses that do not innovate.
Working in a business environment in 2030 that doesn’t utilise automation, AI, and some use of clean energy will be the equivalent of using a typewriter at a web design agency right now.
Too far fetched?
You may be reading this and thinking that “people always say this”, and it may, to some, seem a bit over the top. But mark my words – the thirst for innovation will be like something none of us has ever seen or experienced. This is the difference now…the thirst for knowledge is of the many. Not just the few.
What is currently cutting edge in Silicon Valley will soon be expected by even the smallest businesses in Burnley, Bury, Burslem, and various other small towns that begin with the letter ‘B’.
Still too far fetched?
I do understand the sentiment. I watched the now-laughable ideas from BBC’s Tomorrow’s World in the 80s, and had my hopes and dreams turn into something much, much more watered-down, if they ever came to be at all.
But this time it is different.
We have just spent the past 30 years understanding so much more about every network on the planet – and become masters of ‘network science’. From data collection of the human race – in varying degrees of subtlety and legality – to the best example of a network that we can study in great detail, ‘the internet’, the pace at which we are learning is like nothing ever seen in the history of the world. It is many hundreds, probably thousands times faster than anything that has gone by. The factor of learning is increasing in speed daily, too.
EVERYTHING that you see with your eyes belongs to some kind of network. From the internet, to air travel, to your local shops, to your colleagues at work, and even your family. The past 30 years of being able to harness data, because of the improvement of computer technology has meant that we now better understand these networks. NOT just the component parts of networks – that we took thousands of years to comprehend. Think about that for a moment.
Here’s just one of billions of examples of how our knowledge has improved our thinking and decision making in recent times. Fifty years ago, a stereotypical housewife would probably look at an ant – and see an ant. Now, a typical working woman is aware that an ant is part of a colony, and she understands many aspects about the colony, rather than thinking of just an ant. We make decisions about ants now based on their network, not a particular part. This is just one infinitesimal example of how our understanding of almost everything that we see is so much more improved. Now…just think what the real geniuses of the world see, as they look at networks
Musk, Tesla, et al
It was inevitable that I would bring up Elon Musk. But with great reason. Musk hasn’t invented anything from ‘scratch’ in regards to Tesla and his other offerings of the past 10 years or so. He has observed an abundance of information that the world now possesses, and formed brilliant ideas from this surge in understanding of myriad networks. His brain works in a way that cross-pollinates information from various networks that culminates in seemingly outlandish things that become more plausible by the HOUR! He wouldn’t have been able to come up with the very same ideas he has if he was born 30 years prior. His ideas would still have been great, but he would have seen a fraction of one percent of the data that has allowed him to become the man he is today. Musk’s skill is being able to knit networks together (at the speed of light) in ways that normal brains cannot even comprehend. His genius, however, is to combine this innate skill with effort levels that are beyond the grasp of almost the entire world population. Many people simply cannot believe that it is possible to put in the hours he does.
So, combine abnormal levels of effort, with the ability to see how networks can be used together to create amazing solutions, and you have the result of an Elon Musk. There will be many more Elon Musk’s coming this way very shortly, too.
At the time of writing, the Tesla stock price is around $1500, growing significantly since 2018. Some very well known stock pickers that have been in the game for 30+ years have said for well over a year that the price is inflated, and will come down dramatically. Some investment leaders (but only a small percentage) think that it will continue to rise.
My own prediction is that Tesla stocks will reach levels of $7,000, maybe even $10,000, as time goes on. This is for myriad reasons, but it’s largely because of a few factors that include the level of growth that will be seen in electric car usage, as well as the huge growth in battery purchasing/usage (as well as their impending improvements), and the use of clean energy products (solar tiles and panels) – all areas that Tesla leads the way in. I am not even scratching the surface of the various ways that Tesla will continue to lead the way – and not only lead the way, but also acting as a service provider to those that have not created technology anywhere near the same level as Tesla.
And I’ve not even mentioned Tesla as taxis yet…Something that will take the car industry, and the world, by storm.
There are something like 1.5 million taxi drivers in the western world. They each drive a car. Taxi drivers are savvy when it comes to car selection. They tend to drive cars that will last a long time and have good cost per lifetime mile. Now, what about introducing them to a car that costs much less in the long term than the cars that they have been using so far. That would be the Tesla Model 3. And it’s getting cheaper by the day. Not just the running costs, but the ticket price of the car.
The inevitable decrease in battery costs over the next few years make Tesla pretty much the safest, most viable option for taxi drivers in the future. Also, there are very little service requirements, so taxis can stay on the road longer. There is virtually no loss of energy compared to when a taxi is idling, waiting for their next pickup. Then there is the tesla charging network – something that will help to stave off competition for rival EVs. And first mover advantage. Tesla will become a taxi staple before other manufacturers have even started to sell EVs in great numbers.
Did I even mention that Tesla Model 3 is the safest car that has ever been engineered – and Taxi drivers are usually just outside the top 10 of most dangerous jobs. So on top of all of this, taxi drivers are less likely to die in their job, too.
A few years ago, I went to an event in Amsterdam. On exiting the airport, I got in a taxi, which happened to be a Tesla. I remembered that it was a Tesla. I simply cannot remember the make or model of any other taxi that I have taken since. You see, a Tesla taxi is also something that passengers will tend to enjoy – and for the taxi drivers, even tips to Tesla drivers are around 20% higher than those who don’t have a Tesla taxi.
And Tesla’s excellent role as a taxi is just one teeny, tiny reason why Tesla’s stock price is so high, and will continue to rise. Those comparing Tesla to other car manufacturers are so, so way off the mark.
Various stock pickers say things like “Toyota and VW are catching up, and taking a lead in electric vehicle technology”. Let’s just say they were (they aren’t by the way).
Do you think VW dealers across the western world, that make a huge part of their money from vehicle maintenance and repair, will easily transform into vehicle sales-only businesses, selling vehicles (for less ticket value) that have a tiny amount of servicing needs compared to petrol/diesel vehicles? The whole network infrastructure of traditional vehicle sales is extremely ‘goopy’ and weighed down with inefficiencies, and the chances of such networks of car manufacturers and chains of dealers moving at even 10% of Tesla’s speed to change them, is only a remote possibility.
This is another example of network science in action. The current, varied, interconnected networks of traditional automotive companies are so fused together, that the fear of making a drastic change, and the fallout that would perceivably occur, is freezing such company’s leadership teams to the spot. Tesla is simply not hampered by such networks. It has no rent to pay on thousands of dealership locations – and that’s just the start of the goopiness.
Do not think that traditional automotive manufacturers don’t now have the same data as Tesla. They know what is happening…but why rock the boat while you’re earning an easy £500,000-£1m (plus bonuses) salary as a board member for the next eight years until you retire. Let the hard work be the next guy’s job.
You only have to see how WV CEO, Herbert Diess was replaced just a few months ago, because he saw what changes were needed, and wanted to move the whole of VW to electric vehicles. And publicly said so. The shareholders got very scared, and the result was him out of the job in a very swift move. There will be many more Deiss’ to come, at many large soon-to-be fallen giants, in various sectors around the world – for wanting to take on the challenge and do the right thing.
What’s the opposite of ‘scared of change’?
We are about to take a huge leap into a 30-year-long, gushing river of innovation and changes to our lives, that when things in our daily lives DON’T improve, it will seem very odd indeed.
The culmination of huge advances in technology has led us to be able to greatly understand more about things that are not just based on technology. We now understand animal kingdoms much more, because computer technology has enabled us to collect better information. I use this as a random example. Almost every conceivable thing that you can think of is now understood magnitudes better than even 10 years ago because of the bedrock that is computer technology, leading us to be able to collect, observe, and play with better information.
All of this has left us at a great tipping point in history. Everything has culminated in a swell of understanding that allows those with innovative natures to be able to produce what would have been deemed as magic not even 30 years ago.
If Elon Musk said that he would create electric cars, with autopilot features, he would harness the sun’s energy, and store it in a battery on your property – from TILES replacing the slate tiles on your roof…let alone create reusable rockets that can land by themselves. Oh, and also bore tunnels ten times faster than anything that has gone before, with just a few years of work…and then let electric cars travel through them at over 120mph (and then some)…you would have thought him a mad man.
But now, we believe him. We see it with our own eyes. Things have changed. It is a different world. One that is about to transform our lives, and the planet. And society. And business.
The dumpster fire that is 2020 is typical of a negative event that preceded a time of humongous change, where the world transformed like nothing ever seen before.
The Great Shuffle
I am calling 2020, ‘the great shuffle’. Unlike us humans having pretty similar ‘two-card’ poker hands for the past 10 years or so – commute to work, buy expensive sandwiches and coffee, have little money left for much else, bring up the kids, spend any money left on presents, maybe a holiday, maybe change the garden every five years…Covid-19 has effectively thrown the whole pack of cards 10 miles up in the air, and the cards have landed all over the place – shuffled with a randomness that we haven’t seen since perhaps WWII.
So…on top of all of the great advances in technology, and more importantly, the advances in understanding the networks that exist all around us, we now have billions of people with truly fresh ideas for the first time in their adult lives. We are all doing and saying things that we have never said before. We live life differently, drastically so in many cases.
These two things coming together (‘the great shuffle’, and the great leap in knowledge of networks) is the ripest of situations for seismic change.
Billions of people now have different ideas about how to live, what to care about, who to love, who and what to appreciate and so on…and importantly doing things they have never done before, in different ways, in different locations…we collectively realise that we didn’t have to have been doing the same thing for all those years. As one example, just think of all those ‘crabby’ bosses that thought to work from home meant their staff were doing nothing, so simply never allowed it – that now would have you believe that it had always been part of ‘their long term plans for the team’.
Atop of many years of technology advances, the collective human thought is somewhat still up in the air about so many things. We simply haven’t made our minds up about so much – and on a scale that we have not seen in our lifetimes! What a potent mixture for a future of innovation!
There has never been a time like we have now. We needed 2020 so, so much. It is the catalyst for possibly the greatest, most interesting time in human history. I really do believe that it is around the corner. Not 10 years away, not five years away. From now.
So, down to business. The future for B2B companies. Others, too.
How B2B businesses run and operate has already changed. It is not going to be how it was before. Ideas are rampant. Putting the phone down on someone trying to introduce you to a new way of doing things is now less of an option, being just one example. What if you miss out on a software that is transforming how other businesses reach clients right now?
I sincerely hate the term, ‘new norm’, but for businesses – and I am particularly talking about small B2B businesses here – to be strong in their sector, they must have these three things to perform well.
The are: Effort, Innovation, and (at least some employees with) Talent.
You may be thinking that this mixture has always been the case. The best performing companies for some time have most probably had a natural mix of these attributes, in most cases because of driven leadership, and some hiring luck, too. But I feel that now, there is more of a formula to be understood and take note of to be successful in business. Especially in the period that we are now in.
If I take the company that I am a director of, Embryo Digital, I can honestly say that we have a really strong mixture of effort and innovation. We have several team members that are very talented, too. But not all staff members are industry experts with lots of industry experience. Sheer hard work is more than enough for several staff, with direction given from other teammates about what to do. I would say that this is one of the reasons for our strong growth over the past two years. While not true for all in our sector, we have seen several agencies go by the wayside in that time (especially during Covid-19), and many companies in our sector performing badly, losing many clients and staff numbers along the way.
Like all things, luck plays a part too, and while we have made several errors in recruitment, by and large we have employed people that either have amazing levels of effort, are extremely innovative, or indeed have lots of industry experience and knowledge.
But now, there is a formula (effort, innovation, with some talent) that we can build our future around. Innovation would never have been something that we would have thought of before in our hiring process, nor was it a strategy that we would have tried to build the business on. But that has all changed by the information written previously in this article.
Failure to use innovation as part of a business strategy from now on is letting things to chance at best, and business suicide at worst. Especially with the knowledge that innovation will be a (if not the) leading topic of discussion over the next 10 years of business.
The Effort/Innovation Matrix
I have created this matrix to show how I believe each of these comes into practice.
While it would have been preferable to have created a matrix with just two main axes, I found this to be unworkable. There is an extra degree in levels of both effort and innovation that needs to be shown, as how you would treat and work with this type of person is very different to others.
An example of why there is a need to add two further x-axis lines can be seen by the two top-right boxes. A person in the very top right box is typical of someone that builds upon the great work of the engine room, and uses innovation to consistently beat the competition, winning more custom. Someone in the box directly below this, while perhaps very talented, can cause all manner of problems, usually due to a lack of focus and/or energy at times. We all know the people that talk a good game, and can sometimes deliver amazing results, but also cause issues around a business, personally and commercially.
Missing from the previous example, but shown in the next, is the circle size for each person, which denotes their industry knowledge and skill. It is important to say that not everyone needs to have abundances of this. Some of my favourite colleagues, past and present, have had very little industry experience and skill, but work so hard that they drive the company forward as sheer forces of nature. In the top-left box, industry knowledge and skill is needed only by a small percentage of employees (30%+ perhaps). The same is true for the box below it (Dependable). Those employees that come in each day, do their job to great effect, never cause HR issues, nor moan too much can be godsends to the running of a business.
It should also be understood that being on the right side of the matrix does not mean that such people are more valuable than those on the left – especially in a world open to innovation like never before. Not in the slightest. I happen to believe that hard work is much more virtuous than being able to come up with many ideas as idea generation can be something we are born with, and is not always a learned skill.
We all know the people that have ideas aplenty, but never act upon them due to lack of effort. As stated before, I can hand on heart say that the colleagues that I have most admiration for throughout my career have been primarily extremely hard working, with innovation being something that only a few had. In fact, without naming names, the very best hire that Embryo has made so far would score exactly 0.1 in the innovation scale, if there was such a thing!
Team Embryo on the Matrix
A real-life example of the effort/innovation matrix – the Embryo Digital team:
I have taken out all names to protect any embarrassment, positive or negative, but you can see here that we are rather a lucky company to have such a hard working team. I have not in any way improved my scores to make this look better. In fact, I will show this exact matrix, with names shown, to the team, and expect some positive and negative responses to say the least.
We seem to have a good mix of hard working, dependable people, and some very motivated, innovative team members…and as you can see, some (but not all) are extremely talented in their disciplines, as is denoted by the size of each circle. As you can see, there are a few people that need to step up their game, just like there are in most companies.
Who will win? Which companies, and staff types, will succeed?
It is now so clear to me that companies need two key types of people if they are to be successful; firstly, those that have excellent levels of effort, and secondly, motivated people with good ideas. There will always be a place for hard workers that enjoy nothing more than to not even realise that “it’s 5.30 already”. These are the backbone of our whole economy. Alongside these, people with ideas, and the energy to get them into practice will also become key winners over the next 10 years and beyond.
Once again, as in previous statements in this article, you could argue that the above two types of people have always been successful. And yes, this is true. But now, with this thirst for innovation that will envelop the business community, these abilities will be highlighted to a much greater degree.
Which type of person won’t succeed?
Aside from the usual personality types that don’t succeed in forward-thinking, aspirational businesses, there are two clear types of people that I think will struggle in the modern workplace over the next 10 years:
- People with obviously good ideas, but take too long to do anything about them.
- Talented people that lack focus, and become very ‘hit and miss’.
There are homes for these people, but they are in ‘also-ran’ companies that are not aspirational enough to try to become better each and every day.
What types of companies will win over the next decade?
Companies that prioritise effort and innovation, and have a healthy mix of talent/industry knowledge among the team. Show me a company with these attributes, and I’ll show you a successful company that is an enjoyable place to work.
But now for a real JW curveball…
There will be some companies that excel in working hard, in being innovative, and have plenty of talent that will go undiscovered. This is because they will need to shout about themselves more. Not all innovations are natural contenders for public or industry awareness.
This is where PR and marketing become EASY to do. Yes, you heard me. If a business is extremely innovative, it will probably be doing something around producing great products, or offering imaginative services, doing something out of the ordinary. And these are a PR company’s dream client. Whether needing to be seen by the rest of the industry, or the public at large, many stories put to the editor of a news outlet would be quite suitable for publishing. How could they not be?
PR companies spend far too much time working with clients that have nothing to say, and produce little in the way of interesting. A typical PR account manager loves nothing more than to get their teeth stuck into a company with something different, bold, innovative. The 80/20 rule exists in the PR world as it does everywhere else…80% of PR clients are bloody hard to create publicity for.
Innovation has been a word used mainly by very large companies in the past 20 years. While many companies say that they innovate, and even have innovation departments, in reality, bureaucracy stops the vast majority of innovations forming at such places. Much innovations happen when people leave large companies to start up their own businesses, allowing them the freedom to take an innovation to market with less red tape. You just have to look at the automotive industry (among many, many others) to see this in action.
I expect many times more SMEs that at present will be thinking about and implementing innovations as the decade progresses. The changes that the aforementioned innovations at the very beginning of this article will see to this. And just like there is now a marketing person or department in most companies of 20+ staff, there will soon be an innovation person/department, too.
For this reason, SMEs, just as they do with marketing services, will be looking for outside innovation help. An army of innovation consultants will appear, and services such as productivity improvements, clever marketing strategies, product creation, and as-yet unknown solutions will become something that leadership teams of small businesses will be clamouring for, to get – and stay ahead of – the competition.
At this moment in time, only a tiny fraction of leadership teams in businesses of under 20 staff would consider seeking out an innovation consultancy to help them improve, but this will see a significant rise over the next few years.
Innovation services, just like search engine optimisation services, will quickly move from something that early adopters have, to something that managing directors do, perhaps because of reasons such as “everyone I spoke to at the last industry trade show was using these services”.
In fact, I don’t think that it will be too long at all before we see innovation services advertised almost the same way as you would buy a box of washing powder. There will be companies – much like in the world of SEO or web design – that offer low-cost deals that cut many corners. But such will be the desire to “get some innovation in” by small business owners that haven’t done their research, that many of these services will sell in the thousands.
There will be locksmith companies of less than five staff buying innovation services before the decade is out, mark my words.