Reimagining Our Future in 6 Key Growth Areas

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Jared Weiner, executive vice president and chief strategy officer for Future Hunters, opened last Monday's Business Information & Media Summit (BIMS) with a bit of a magic trick. He gave the audience a sequence of seemingly open-ended questions—pick a number between 1 and 10; pick a animal—and then nailed the final answer visually for about 80% of the people.

His point was that, to a certain degree, you can "extrapolate where the future is headed." A great deal of that future involves our relationship with time. What do you need a lot more of that you never seem to have enough?" Weiner asked the audience. The answer was shouted in unison. Time now affects almost everything we do.

Weiner said that there are 10 growth/disruption areas to contend with in the near future and covered six with us:

1 Time/space. "You want to optimize time for your customers and your own people," he said. "The pace of technological change is exponentially" speeding up. This creates anxiety and an atmosphere for change... We're multi-tasking more than ever before as a species, and research indicates we're not that good at it. It's actually harming our efficiency."

This carried over into our communication, which became "longer, more voluminous and more sophisticated." Until social media, that is. "In the last 10 years, we've moved into the micro-blogosphere, heralded by Twitter most notably... We don't have the time we used to have, so we use this short-format, content media where we basically just spit it out, 140 characters." Now we're moving to images and short video-based communication, he said.

2 Wearable technology. Virtual reality experience. The limitations are still there—for now. "Not until we can simulate the five senses will we be fully there," Weiner said. "If you put someone in the shoes of someone else, they will be much more likely to give to a cause. "So there is a direct tie to narrative empathy and storytelling." He also coined the term "cyber insecurity." "The term cyber security should be thrown in the garbage. We have to operate on the assumption that no data will ever be secure."

3. Inter space. "Designers and engineers are using the actual structure of the internet itself as inspiration for designing new things," he said. "And the best example of this is the internet of things [which is] going to change the ballgame for everything we do. You're going to need new programming languages to get [processes] to speak to each other."

4. Play space. This is where Weiner puts gamification which, he said, has been used for decades in marketing—loyalty programs, rewards programs, frequent flyer miles. "Now it's going to affect everything else like training, learning and development." He added to look for the rise of e-sports—watching people play video games. "How will that change the nature of influence?"

5. Inner space. "This is all about the human brain... We're in a world where we can now neurify or measure, everything," Weiner said, using things such as facial recognition. "It's going to fundamentally change the game for research." He pointed out how people admitting lying to pollsters before the election. "People were unable or unwilling to share what they were actually thinking. Get neuro" and you'll get a more accurate feed.

6. Design space. Design is now a highly leveraged market differentiator—for everything, Weiner said. "Not just physical, tangible products that we can hold in our hand, but...for services, packaging, apps, infographics—everything you see here. Design thinking is really going to be one of the most critical executive competencies in the future.

"I will argue that the CEOs of the future will be as equal parts design thinkers as they are MBAers," he continued. "How do we design everything around the design protocol and all we do in our workplace to increase profitability and efficiency?"

Weiner finished with a plea for creativity. "You want to think of the future not as innovation; you want to think of it as imagination. That is my challenge to you. No matter what industry you are in—...accounting, insurance, legal...—as you go back to your day-to-day, really reimagine the future for it, versus just innovating the next of what you're already doing."

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…