How to think like a futurist: Microfluidics

The world never stops changing, and it’s the job of a futurist to stay ahead of change and prepare for the future. Anyone can be a futurist by paying attention to trends and embracing the constant shifts in society and technology. As futurists, we can take advantage of opportunities to lead, innovate, and build a better future.

In this new series, we will look through the lens of a futurist to explore some of the exciting technologies and trends bound to shape our future lives.

Ready to think like a futurist? Let’s dive into microfluidics.

Step 1: What is microfluidics?

In short, microfluidics is the ability to work with tiny amounts of fluid and at great precision. Printing is an excellent example of that. Over the last 30 years, HP has perfected the art of placing very small amounts of fluid in exact locations on a page to create printing. The technology behind this is microfluidics.

We are talking here about manipulating fluids that are a fifth the size of a human cell and a thousand times smaller than a raindrop. Hence the name microfluidics, and of course, microfluidics isn’t something that is only applied to printing. There are a lot of fluids in the world, including within our bodies. From life sciences to agriculture to healthcare, microfluidics has a whole host of existing and potential applications.

Step 2: Trendspotting

Did you know that someone is added to the US national organ transplant waiting list every nine minutes? Along with many other sobering statistics, that fact showcases the immense need for innovation within biotech, and microfluidics may be the solution.

Recent advancements from the Stevens’ Schaefer School of Engineering & Science have found a way to accelerate the creation of 3D-printed organs. Led by associate professor Robert Chang, these researchers hope to use microfluidics to achieve a more precise and controllable method for 3D-printing organs. By creating a microfluidics-enabled 3D printer, researchers could more accurately print organs at the scale of human cells. Microfluidics can also utilize multiple “bio-inks,” allowing for the reproduction of any type of tissue and opening exciting new avenues for healthcare technology.

Another healthcare innovation using microfluidics is these wearable sweat sensors. Using paper-based microfluidics, these sensors can measure various chemicals, drugs, and hormones in sweat. The information gathered from these sensors could help diagnose several health issues, from cardio-renal disease to cystic fibrosis.

Step 3: Opportunity knocks

As startups and scientists continue to explore the potential behind microfluidics, the technology will become further refined and precise, leading to more opportunities within healthcare and diagnostic tech.

One such company is Fluigent, which aims to develop more advanced fluid control systems. Doing so could help accelerate the development of new medicines, therapeutic treatments, vaccines, and more. By introducing pressure pumps to its microfluidics chips, Fluigent could achieve complete control of flow rates, allowing for much higher precision. HP Labs is also exploring microfluidics and its many uses, such as cancer detection.

Due to the rising demand for point-of-care diagnostics and other microfluidics technologies, the global microfluidics market is expected to be worth $43 billion by 2027. Though microfluidics technology could be applied across several industries, the healthcare industry will likely see the most significant impact. After the effects of COVID-19, healthcare has received more attention than ever, specifically diagnostic technologies enabled by microfluidics.

Let’s also look at food and water contamination. One in 10 people suffer and fall ill from food contamination every year. One in four people lacks access to safe drinking water. But how do they know? Today these tests for contaminated food and water need to be sent into a central lab facility with large and expensive equipment, and it takes days to get results back. But what if all of us could carry something in our pocket that could in real-time test whether the food we’re eating or the water we’re drinking is safe? That’s the power of microfluidics.  

When I think of microfluidics, I believe it’s very similar now to how computing was 50 years ago. Fifty years ago, we had these vast mainframe computers in central facilities. If you wanted to use them, you’d mail in punch cards that got processed, and you’d need to wait days for the result. Microprocessors changed all of that, effectively shrinking a mainframe down into a PC or a phone to democratize access to computing. Today microfluidics promises to do the same for healthcare and life sciences, taking large centralized and expensive lab equipment and shrinking it down to a lab-on-a-chip, enabling a world where everyone can have a “lab” on their desk or in their pocket, and providing everyone with access to instant disease diagnostics or personalized treatment information.

Microfluidics technology will change our world, from how we diagnose illnesses to how we heal people. Beyond healthcare, the technology could reinvent food science or even space travel! Microfluidics is likely to significantly improve our future lives, and futurists must look for opportunities to embrace and contribute to this technology.

Now it’s your turn: How do you think microfluidics will change our world?

Blog Innovation Trends

How to think like a futurist: Blockchain

Keeping up with our ever-changing world can feel like a full-time job. Adapting to a never-ending stream of news, innovations, and societal shifts can be overwhelming but can also be a source of excitement. For futurists, change brings opportunities to lead, innovate, and build a better future.

In this new series, we will look through the lens of a futurist to explore some of the exciting technologies and trends bound to shape our future lives.

Ready to think like a futurist? First up: Blockchain.

Step 1: What is blockchain?

While blockchain is still relatively new and its adoption slow, it is a core component of most cryptocurrencies and a clear opportunity for innovation.

But what is blockchain, and why is it important?

Blockchain is a distributed public ledger technology (DLT) that allows users to record immutable transactions in a secure digital system. Unlike traditional ways of managing data and transactions, blockchain decentralizes its data instead of holding information on one central database. This is one of the reasons blockchains are so secure.

Most blockchains are public, adding transparency. All transactions on public blockchains are viewable by anyone with a blockchain explorer. This makes it extra difficult for hackers (though not impossible) to steal cryptocurrencies, as every transaction is traceable.

Step 2: Trendspotting

Let’s look at the current trends and use cases that paint a picture of the potential opportunities for blockchain.

Blockchain has predominantly enabled cryptocurrencies and updated banking in recent years. Now, thanks to the hyper-popularity of NFTs, increasing uses in supply chain, financial services, entertainment and other industries there is added legitimacy to blockchain-enabled innovations. According to a recent report, the blockchain market is expected to see exponential growth, from $4.9 billion in 2021 to $67.4 billion by 2026. In 2021, venture capital funding for blockchain startups increased by an impressive 713% from 2020, reaching $25.2 billion. With this increased investment and enablement, blockchain could continue to support everything from cryptocurrencies to NFTs to smart contracts. It could also enable asset transfers, remittances, supply chain monitoring, vaccine management, GameFi, and the Metaverse.

  • Asset transfers: Did you know that the use of blockchain could also apply to tangible assets, like houses and cars? For example, suppose Person A wanted to buy a house from Person B. They could use the blockchain to verify ownership, transfer funds, and update title and deed records using the blockchain rather than through an escrow company. One example of this is startup Propy, a platform that uses blockchain to simplify and secure the home-purchasing process.
  • Remittances and Payments: When it comes to making global payments, the current processes are less than ideal. Due to long processing times and expensive fees, people are seeking out better methods. By using blockchain technology, the remittance economy could remove the mediator and therefore eliminate fees and greatly reduce transaction times. Ripple is a great example of this opportunity, using the power of blockchain to shape an inclusive financial system and the future of global payments.
  • Supply chain monitoring: Global issues surrounding the supply chain have been unrelenting since the start of the pandemic, but these issues present opportunities for several emerging technologies to provide solutions, including blockchain. Because the global supply chain generates huge amounts of data, it can be challenging to track down specific information. Blockchain’s transparency and traceability could help simplify supply chain monitoring, as exemplified by VeChain’s solutions. Using blockchain, IoT, and other solutions, VeChain helps to mitigate the many data issues that arise within supply chain logistics.
  • Vaccine management: The distribution of COVID-19 vaccines presented several logistical challenges, such as temperature tracking. Because most COVID-19 vaccines needed to stay at specific temperatures, these British hospitals turned to temperature sensors paired with blockchain to ensure that any batches that experienced temperature disruptions would be removed from use. IBM has also stepped up and created a vaccine distribution network using their blockchain, making the process easier to control for manufacturers, distributors, and patients.
  • GameFi: Gamers are exploring “play-to-earn” models that combine cryptocurrency, NFTs, and blockchain. This trend is known as GameFi, and earnings range from bonuses for gameplay to full-time income. By utilizing blockchain, GameFi projects allow users to earn crypto for gameplay and own and store their game assets on a public blockchain.
  • Metaverse: Possibly the hottest topic right now, the Metaverse has opened numerous possibilities for emerging technologies like blockchain. Purchasing power within a Metaverse could rely on cryptocurrencies secured by blockchain technology, and user data could also be fully secured using blockchain. If our lives become intertwined with the Metaverse, security could prove essential. Similarly, the decentralized nature of blockchain has become an area of interest for people exploring Metaverse possibilities. Instead of hosting virtual worlds on corporate servers, some believe that a decentralized Metaverse could have more opportunities. Blockchain also empowers and secures digital real estate within the Metaverse, with everyone from PwC to Snoop Dogg buying virtual property.

Step 3: Opportunity knocks

As exciting as these trends may be, some issues hinder realization. When it comes to blockchain, the main problem is scalability. Because of its decentralized nature, using blockchain has certain limitations — storage, compute power, environmental impact, uptime etc. — which can lead to significant issues, like network outages, such as those recently experienced by Solana and Polygon.

Storage capacity is another big concern for blockchain because each node on a network holds a copy of its distributed digital ledger. As more users add information to that blockchain, scalability becomes an issue. In that same vein, response time slows down as more information is added to a blockchain, as each new transaction requires a network-wide verification process from all connected nodes.

Those large computing needs come at a cost. Because each transaction requires so much processing power, many are concerned about blockchain’s heavy energy consumption. Blockchain can also leave quite a carbon footprint because of its storage.

These issues may seem like difficult hurdles to overcome. But obstacles can also become opportunities.

Innovative thinking is required to develop strategic solutions or complementary technologies to solve blockchain scalability issues. Blockchain professionals are looking at several solutions, such as switching from Proof of Work to Proof of Stake consensus algorithms, improving capacity, and reducing computational energy.

To help address sustainability issues many new cryptocurrencies have emerged, aiming to use the most eco-friendly methods. One blockchain, Algorand, was specifically built with sustainability in mind and pledged to be forever carbon neutral. HP is also working to find ways to reduce the climate impact of the Metaverse, an emerging technology likely to be powered by blockchain. With Z by HP and its acquisition of Teradici, Metaverse creators will be able to turn to cloud-based alternatives. As consumer demand for environmentally friendly options grows stronger, blockchain creators are wise to pay attention and find viable solutions.

By looking at technologies and trends through the lens of a futurist, we can begin to shape an idea of how they will impact our futures. Blockchain has the potential to revolutionize how we manage and secure critical data, which is no simple feat in our increasingly digital world.

By keeping aware of trends and obstacles, futurists can explore and influence opportunities that could significantly impact our world. New technologies and trends contribute to a constant state of change, altering everything from how we do business to how we live our lives. By thinking like a futurist, you can become a part of that change.

Now that we’ve explored blockchain, how do you think it will have changed our world in the next ten years?

Blog Innovation

Using trends to create a sustainable future

Thinking like a futurist in this era of constant change provides an incredible opportunity to create the future we want. By staying on the lookout for trends and weak signals shaping the world around us, futurists can identify future opportunities that lead to consequential disruption.

But what happens if you miss these trends?

In the best-case scenario, missing these signals may simply leave you reacting to disruption and working hard to catch up. At worst, however, you are in danger of becoming irrelevant and going out of business. The corporate graveyard is littered with companies that didn’t react fast enough to the changes in the world around them.

Blockbuster

Founded in 1985 by David Cook, Blockbuster was an entertainment staple in the 1990s and early 2000s. At its peak, there were 9,094 stores globally. Consumers would flock to their local stores to rent movies and buy snacks for their Friday nights, making Blockbuster a fixture in households worldwide.

After a few CEOs and missteps, Blockbuster made its biggest blunder when it failed to acquire Netflix in 2000. Netflix saw the rise of DVDs as a significant opportunity and launched its original mail-based DVD rental business in 1997. Because DVD players were not yet standard in the average household, Netflix partnered with HP, Sony, and Toshiba to offer free DVD rentals to new DVD player buyers. Netflix grew in popularity but wasn’t yet profitable, so its leadership approached Blockbuster to propose an acquisition, which the movie-rental giant declined.

Netflix persisted, confident that DVD players would gain popularity, and that confidence paid off as the company became profitable in 2003. The following year, Blockbuster began its DVD-by-mail service seven years after Netflix. From 2007 to 2010, Netflix continued to monitor trends and take calculated risks that majorly paid off, starting their on-demand video streaming service and signing deals with industry giants from Disney to Paramount.

On the other hand, Blockbuster failed to innovate in time and had to play catch up with Netflix while rapidly losing customers. That failure to embrace change, paired with severe debt, became the unraveling of Blockbuster, which declared bankruptcy in 2010 and closed all but one store.

Toys “R” Us

Later considered a category killer, Toys “R” Us had a humble beginning as a baby-furniture retailer in Washington, D.C., in 1948. Initially named “Children’s Bargaintown,” founder Charles P. Lazarus changed it to Toys “R” Us in 1957, dedicating the store entirely to toys and moving it to Rockville, Maryland. Throughout the next half-century, Toys “R” Us experienced incredible success, building a powerful brand, exploring spin-off clothing stores, and assisting in the launch of several pop culture games and toys.

By the late ‘90s, Toys “R” Us began to feel the pressure from growing competition, like Walmart and Target, which eventually led to the closure of its spin-off, Kids “R” Us, in 2003. While competing companies created their e-commerce sites, Toys “R” Us entered an exclusive 10-year partnership with Amazon in 2000. This partnership, while successful, prevented Toys “R” Us from developing autonomy over its online presence, which became a severe problem when Amazon elected to grow its toy category and allow competitors to sell on its platform.

Toys “R” Us sued Amazon and won, but it was too late. The once powerful toy seller had lost out on the essential opportunity to create its e-commerce website, and by the time it had one, it fell far behind what competitors had to offer. Toys “R” Us not only failed to keep up with e-commerce, but it also ignored changing consumer habits and buying preferences, instead focusing on offering the lowest prices, which proved unsustainable. Finally, Toys “R” Us failed to create an enticing in-store experience, instead deciding to cut costs. Unable to provide a satisfying in-store experience and struggling to keep up with e-commerce innovation, Toys “R” Us filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and closed all stores in 2018.

In 2019, the company rebranded as Tru Kids post-bankruptcy, opened new stores, and partnered with Target to sell toys. By 2020, the agreement had lapsed, and Amazon took on Target’s role as a fulfillment partner. In 2021, the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic closed its stores again. In 2022, the company plans to open stores within all U.S. Macy’s by October 15.

Borders

The first Borders bookshop opened in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1971, by brothers Tom and Louis Borders. The company didn’t open its second store in Beverly Hills, Michigan, until 1985 and was subsequently acquired by Kmart in 1992. Three years later, Kmart spun off Borders into a new company named Borders Group. Through the 1990s and early 2000s, the Borders Group expanded globally, with stores and franchises everywhere from Singapore to Puerto Rico.

Initially, Borders stayed ahead of innovation with a robust inventory system that could predict consumer behavior. However, when the industry began to go digital in the early 2000s, Borders began to lose its grip, leaning heavily into CD and DVD sales instead of working on its internet presence. Competitors like Barnes & Noble focused on online sales and digital innovations like e-readers, while Borders chose to outsource its online operation to Amazon, which rapidly became a competitor.

As competitors grew and embraced innovation, Borders steadily lost revenue, and its last profitable year was 2006. After constant financial trouble, Borders filed for bankruptcy in 2011, closing all its stores except those operating in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Malaysia, which other owners took over.

In the examples above, it’s clear that while some companies missed the boat on specific innovations, others were on the right track. They did this by paying attention, listening to the true needs of their customers, and prioritizing learning from all failures.

So how can you avoid missing trends?

I may sound like a broken record, but thinking like a futurist is the best way to avoid being left behind by innovation. Pay attention to weak signals, explore emerging trends and technologies, and adopt an innovative mindset. You need to have a good sense of what you want in the future. Ask yourself:

  • What outcomes am I looking for?
  • What inspiring vision and goals do I need to put in place?

Your goals need to be bold enough that they cause you to work backward to discover what disruptions will get you there, rather than taking today’s solutions and incrementally improving them over time.

Visualizing outcomes is essential, and so is having an open, innovative mindset and attitude. Success is 95% attitude. Make peace with failure and learn from it instead. Think boldly, and never give up. Having the right attitude is essential to staying ahead of all this change and creating the future you seek.

Finally, remember: the future hasn’t happened yet. The future is something that we all get to create. It is the result of all the choices that we make today.

What future will you create?

Blog Innovation Leadership Trends

How weak signals can help you stay ahead of the next wave of innovation

A crucial ingredient for any successful business is understanding the trends shaping the world around us and that point to future opportunities.

If you miss these shifts, you risk being disrupted and, worse, going out of business. But if you can catch these potential trends early and capitalize on them, they instead mean growth and opportunity.

Catching these subtle changes early isn’t easy, however. All world-changing shifts don’t just magically appear, they start as weak signals, and you must look for them. A weak signal is very early evidence of a potential future mainstream trend. Given the very early nature of these signals, they may or may not actually become a trend. But identifying and monitoring weak signals over time is integral to getting in on new trends early. Sometimes this can be the difference between catching a new wave and leading this change or getting left behind.

As futurists, we want to be the disrupters, not those being disrupted. To do that, we need to constantly observe society and the world around us to find these new trends and weak signals.

Here are eight weak signals that our team is watching for future impact.

Eco-consumerism

Consumers are becoming more aware of how their consumption contributes to climate change, and this is changing their buying behaviors accordingly. As consumers become more eco-friendly, they’re putting pressure on brands to do the same by repurposing waste, using biodegradable materials, and prioritizing renewable resources. Companies that don’t embrace sustainability or give back to the planet in some way risk losing the support of consumers. With 77% of consumers concerned about the environmental impact of the products they buy, that’s a large demographic to risk losing.

Here’s a look at eco-consumerism at play:

  • These bio-concrete tiles are made with Japanese knotweed and American signal crayfish, two invasive species in the UK that would otherwise be considered waste. They also reduce carbon emissions caused by traditionally made concrete.
  • These running shoes from Zen Running Club are made entirely from plant-based materials, resulting in a fully biodegradable shoe.
  • Molded fiber, an eco-friendly packaging alternative, is gaining momentum. Once a time-consuming process, recent innovations like HP’s Molded Fiber Advanced Tooling Solution are accelerating the adoption of more sustainable packaging.

Rise of reality

While we are still living highly digital lives, and there is significant hype surrounding a potentially virtual future in the metaverse, there is also a growing need for a return to reality. After the lockdown portion of the pandemic, many of us are ready to return to physical spaces, travel, and in-person entertainment to escape Zoom fatigue and tech burnout. As more people crave unplugging over new online experiences, it will be critical for new technologies to enhance our physical experiences and interactions. Even further, tech companies are responsible for improving their products to battle burnout and enhance user experience.

Here’s a look at the rise of reality at play:

  • AiFi, an HP Tech Ventures portfolio company, offers AI-powered autonomous retail solutions, making shopping a seamless experience for consumers and retailers.
  • To address tech fatigue, many tech companies could provide time-limit features or recommend breaks to users. Other companies are getting even more creative, like these hologram startups aiming to make remote meetings feel less impersonal.
  • Location-based VR experiences, powered by technologies like HP’s VR backpack, allow users to blend the virtual with reality.

Distributed enterprise

In a recent HP Wolf Security report, 46% of office workers admitted using their work devices for personal tasks, and 69% claimed to have used their personal devices for work activities. This overlap between work and personal devices has been exacerbated by the increase in remote work, which has further blurred the line between consumer and enterprise. Enterprise products and services are being increasingly distributed across smaller home offices rather than large company headquarters. This has significant implications for cybersecurity and maintenance and could contribute to feature changes.

Here’s a look at distributed enterprise at play:

  • With the era of hybrid work upon us, there is a growing need for devices connecting home and corporate offices. Solutions like HP Presence provide powerful collaboration tools to reinvent how people connect.
  • Employees and companies can better protect their data from cybercriminals by embracing decentralized cybersecurity. Approaches like zero trust security are gaining popularity, with 78% of firms planning to adopt zero trust in 2022.
  • Remote maintenance is not entirely new, but it’s increasingly essential as remote work grows. Advanced remote management technologies, like NVIDIA’s Fleet Command, are working to optimize processes for global IT professionals.

Omniscient health

As people continue to be hyper-conscious of their health, there has been significant growth in health-related technologies ranging from wearable devices to AI-powered diagnostics. Wearables like fitness trackers have become smarter and more powerful, so users are gaining greater insight into their health. Health providers can use this new data, paired with the power of AI, to aid in their care. Microfluidics could also enable faster, less invasive, and more accurate diagnostics. As monitoring our health becomes part of our daily routine, chronic issues could be caught sooner, leading to more proactive care.

Here’s a look at omniscient health at play:

  • Using data from continuous wearable sensors, physiQ generates personalized and actionable insights for patients and their healthcare providers.
  • For people with chronic illnesses, health monitoring tools are essential. Fortunately, many startups are working to create more straightforward and less invasive health monitoring methods, such as BOYDSense, which developed a breath-based glucose level monitor for those with diabetes.
  • Using microfluidics, researchers at Northwestern developed a sticker that absorbs and uses sweat to accurately diagnose cystic fibrosis in newborns. Another research team from the University of Minnesota has also created a new microfluidic chip that could provide point-of-care diagnostics.

Internet of energy

At our current rate, global energy consumption is set to see a 50% increase between 2020 and 2050. With the growing volume of data, demand for clean energy, and increasing adoption of emerging technologies, a new energy system may be critical. Antiquated energy infrastructure, like electrical grids, cannot keep up with technology advancements and energy demands. The Internet of Energy may be the best solution, as it can reduce inefficiencies, limit waste, and maximize the potential of existing infrastructures. It could also lead to the adoption of smart grid technology, which would hugely benefit users and energy consumption.

Here’s a look at the internet of energy at play:

  • Smart panels from startups like Span balance home electricity use to avoid overloading utility grids.
  • Packetized Energy, recently acquired by EnergyHub, is a software platform aggregating energy devices such as water heaters, HVAC systems, electric vehicle chargers, solar inverters, and distributed batteries into dispatchable and flexible grid resources.
  • General Electric (GE) launched a startup, Current, which pairs LEDs and solar panels with software. This allows the system to gather data to apply insights to corporate operations to increase lighting and productivity savings.

Geospatial AI

The increasing number of satellites and improved image quality provides a plethora of data that, combined with supercomputing, allows Geospatial AI (GEOAI) to extract and impart impactful insights. This integration of geospatial studies and AI helps machine learning mimic human spatial reasoning and dynamics to better understand environmental and geographical impacts. This could lead to hyper-local and instantaneous weather forecasting, real-time wildfire detection, and other capabilities that could make environmental conservation and planning more seamless.

Here’s a look at GEOAI at play:

  • Google’s Machine Learning for Precipitation Nowcasting from Radar Images performs weather forecasting using real-time data instead of hours-old data.
  • The city of Boston will use data from satellites in the TreeTect pilot to improve tree equity and anticipate tree maintenance tasks.
  • Scientists from Stanford University developed a deep-learning model that maps fuel moisture levels across 12 of the US’ Western states, making it easier to predict where wildfires are likely to ignite and spread.

Transportation transformation

Growing concern for pollution and congestion is leading to disruptive innovation in transportation technology, policy, and infrastructure, which will radically change how we transport people and things in the future. Crowded freeways, slow delivery times, and an urgency to counteract climate change all demand revolutionary change in the transportation industry.

Urban transportation is central to the effort to slow climate change, with plenty of opportunities for growth and innovation. Home to more than half the world’s population, cities account for more than two-thirds of global carbon dioxide emissions. Transportation is often the most prominent and fastest-growing source of emissions and is the U.S.’ second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s a look at transportation transformation at play:

  • Though not quite a reality yet, the idea of a hyperloop has long captivated society, with companies like Virgin and The Boring Company working towards its creation. The technology exists to create the ultra-fast transportation concept, but there are still significant hurdles to overcome.
  • TuSimple has created autonomous trucks, which promise improved safety, efficiency, and sustainability. Its trucks allegedly shaved 10 hours off a 24-hour run.
  • Florence has implemented smart trams, which could shape future transportation for other European cities.

3D-printed electronics

Advances in 3D printing technology that allow for voxel-level specification of materials, combined with improvements in metal substrates, will enable electronic components to be printed at the same time as durable parts, rather than being added as a separate assembly step after printing. These capabilities could allow electronic devices to be 3D-printed on demand as all-in-one elements, with no assembly required. This would minimize production costs and time and create an opportunity to reduce the size and weight of electronics.

Here’s a look at 3D-printed electronics at play:

  • Japanese CAD and 3D printing company SOLIZE uses HP 3D printers to make out-of-production spare parts for NISMO, the motorsport division of Nissan
  • Optomec’s Aerosol Jet printing technology enables 3D-printed electronics using aerodynamic focusing.
  • Nano Dimension’s Dragonfly IV 3D printer can generate entire circuits in one step.
  • Researchers at the University of Florida have developed a method of printing copper on fabric, a milestone for wearable electronics.

Considering the state of our world, futuristic thinking is a necessary skill we all need to learn and practice. With the constant and rapid pace of change, everyone should be honing their futurist skills. And thinking like a futurist isn’t reserved for a select group of people. It is a fundamental skill set that anyone can learn.

This is not something all of us do naturally, though. Only a small percent of the population thinks and plans for the future. In fact, only 35% of Americans regularly think about their five-year future. Those who aren’t thinking of their futures are disadvantaged over those who do. If we want to stay one step ahead in our fast-paced world, and if we’re going to move forward and create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.

To help you get started, here are three essential practices that I have found very useful in my career as a futurist:

  1. Monitor shifts — Pay attention and understand what’s happening in the world around you. Notice the small changes that create new needs. Keep an eye on these weak signals and any others that appear.
  2. Visualize future outcomes — Start with your vision for the future and work backward from there, not the other way around. What was the catalyst for your vision of the future?
  3. Adopt an innovative mindset — Have a “can do” attitude and be unstoppable. Embrace everything as a learning opportunity, even failure.

The more you think like a futurist, the better you can create the future you want.

Which of these weak signals are you interested in? Any others you are monitoring? Share your thoughts with me in the comments.

Blog Innovation Trends

4 technologies that will power the metaverse

We’ve discussed weak signals, how to spot trends, and the risk of missing them. Now, let’s shift streams and explore the recent trend getting the most press coverage and attention: the metaverse.

Currently, there’s no standard definition for the metaverse, reminding me of how the internet was viewed back in the early 90s. At the time, we used the word “internet” without truly understanding what it meant. Did it mean AOL? Did it include intranets? And what was this thing called “the information superhighway?”

Like the internet once was, the metaverse is likely to be the source of a lot of potential disruption moving forward. It could replace today’s internet with connected virtual worlds, creating an internet of experiences instead of content. But why all this metaverse buzz now? VR has been around for decades, as have virtual worlds like Second Life.

One reason is apparent enough: Facebook became Meta and announced that it would be investing billions in the metaverse. Perhaps more than that, however, is that four technologies are maturing concurrently, coming together to make the metaverse truly viable. These technologies include spatial computing, game engines, virtual environments, and virtual economies.

Spatial computing

From Fortnite to virtual reality (VR), spatial computing is essential to our current and future digital experiences. In previous iterations of computer games and virtual worlds, we moved using 2D mouse pointers on screens. Now, more and more, we are  transitioning to 3D experiences, which feels much closer to how we move around in the physical world. Spatial computing allows users to digitally interact in 3D vs 2D, which is more much intuitive for most people, and allows us to interact with a digital world in a very similar way to how we navigate the physical world. VR/AR/MR are good examples of this, but so is playing Fortnite on your phone.

Game engines

Game engines are the software tools developers use to build 3D video games, but they’re not just about video games anymore. They’ve become more sophisticated and are now used in applications from agriculture to the driver interface in the new all-electric Hummer. They have also become incredibly realistic, making them the perfect solution for building hyper-detailed virtual worlds in the metaverse. Powerful game engines, like Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 5 and Unity Technologies’ Unity Engine, are equipped with tools that can create large-scale open worlds with incredible detail. They’ve already contributed to popular games like Fortnite and Pokémon Go and are well-suited to the creation of the metaverse.

Virtual environments

When you pair spatial computing with game engines, you get an explosion of virtual environments. These aren’t just entirely made-up virtual worlds but also digital replicas of buildings and locations from the real world, also known as digital twins. These replicas can be used for retail, education, the future of work, and more. Today, companies have websites. Tomorrow, companies could also have virtual worlds or locations that can be used to interact with customers, partners, and employees. And someday, there could even be a digital twin of the whole earth!

For example, NBA teams can (and are) outfitting their physical stadiums with hundreds of video cameras that capture the action in real-time and instantly convert it into a metaverse version of the stadium where people can virtually watch the game. These users can choose any seat in the stadium, watch the game in the metaverse instead of in-person, and still get close to the same experience.

Virtual economies

The fourth technology trend that’s coming together to create the metaverse today is something we call virtual economies. People want to make purchases in virtual worlds. They want to buy clothes for their digital avatars. They want to buy special powers. They want to purchase virtual sneakers or digital tools. And they’re willing to spend a lot of money purchasing those digital items. In 2018 and 2019, Fortnite generated $9 billion through its virtual economy. However, the problem with today’s virtual economies is that you can’t buy something in one world and use it in another. It’s also challenging to convert virtual items into real-world cash. This is where NFTs come in: they allow everyone to own their digital assets. In theory, these assets could be used across different virtual worlds and could be more easily sold, traded, or converted into cash. NFTs have the potential to implement a pan-world virtual economy for the Metaverse that isn’t tied to a specific company or virtual environment. They give people and consumers the ability to own their digital assets and information, rather than these being owned by the operators of the virtual worlds themselves, and this is why they are currently garnering so much attention. 

The emergence of these four related technologies and trends makes the metaverse the topic of today and potentially the internet of tomorrow. Together, they are unlocking several vital elements that will power the metaverse and make it engaging and immersive. As these technologies mature, we move closer to the internet of tomorrow.

What other technologies do you think will be essential for the metaverse?

Blog Innovation Trends

How to think like a futurist: Cybersecurity

Change is happening faster and faster around us. So how do we manage it and stay ahead of it? How do we ensure we are leading change and not being disrupted by it to create the future we want? One of the key ingredients for any successful business is understanding the trends that are shaping the world around us and that are pointing to what the opportunities of the future might be. The corporate graveyard is littered with companies who weren’t monitoring trends and went out of business because they didn’t react fast enough to the changing world around them. But if you can catch these shifts early and figure out how to capitalize on them, that is where growth and opportunity lie.

In this new series, I’m helping you see through the lens of a futurist by exploring some of the exciting technologies and trends bound to shape our future lives.

Ready to think like a futurist? Let’s explore cybersecurity.

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the practice of protecting connected technologies against unauthorized digital access. It applies to everything from devices to digital networks to critical data. As our digital lives grow, so does the importance of cybersecurity. With the number of cyberattacks occurring at alarming rates, the cybersecurity industry must continue to adapt and improve to keep up with cyber threats.

There are several different facets of cybersecurity, including:

  • Endpoint security: Securing endpoint devices such as laptops, printers, and point-of-sale devices
  • Data security: Protecting and managing digital information
  • Network security: Safeguarding access to secure networks by monitoring access and use
  • Application (app) security: Implementing security features within apps to protect users
  • Database security: Protecting the data within the database, as well as any associated apps, infrastructure, and physical hardware
  • Cloud security: Securing cloud-based tools and data
  • Identity management: Technologies and infrastructure that control user access to networks and/or data
  • Mobile security: A facet of endpoint security that focuses on protecting mobile devices
  • Disaster recovery: The recovery of IT infrastructure following a disaster includes anything from a cyber-attack to a natural disaster

In an ideal situation, these facets work together to create a comprehensive approach to cybersecurity for organizations and individuals, however, it is extremely difficult to do that, which is the source of many problems the industry is facing.

What are the trends?

Our society has become dependent on digital tools and technologies, and the impact of cybersecurity breaches and attacks cannot be overstated.

HP understands the importance of cybersecurity and endlessly works to build safe and secure products. With a deep focus on endpoint security, HP is constantly adapting to stay ahead of cybersecurity trends and risks. In 2019, HP acquired Bromium and now utilizes its technology for essential malware protection. HP also offers HP Wolf Security as powerful endpoint protection that is built-in to its PCs and printers. Starting at the hardware level and extending across software, HP Wolf Security is a unique and comprehensive cybersecurity offering. As a true prevention-first solution with containment of threats, HP Wolf Security is better than detection alone.

When cybersecurity fails or is ill-equipped, several aspects of our lives are at risk, from our data and identities to our safety. Governments, organizations, and individuals respond to cybersecurity threats with new approaches and regulations in our increasingly digital world.

These new approaches include zero-trust frameworks and multi-factor authentication, which provide a heightened level of security for users. Zero-trust framework adoption has increased by 27% in the past two years. Zero-trust security works by requiring all users to be authenticated and regularly validated before gaining access to any networks, data, or applications. Multi-factor authentication is a part of zero trust, requiring multiple verification points before granting access to any user, thus protecting against brute force logins and login theft.

Individuals are now expected to be more responsible for cybersecurity, as well. With hybrid and remote work now commonplace, more responsibility is placed on employees to stay on top of their organization’s cybersecurity requirements. Many organizations now require remote employees to install a VPN (virtual private network) to protect their internet connections. Network segmentation is also becoming popular amongst IT professionals, as it gives administrators more control over who has access to which data. While this increases security, it also adds steps for all employees as they maneuver these new systems.

Governments are enacting new regulations and policies to navigate this new world of cybersecurity and digital risks. In June 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden signed two new cybersecurity bills into law. The State and Local Government Cybersecurity Act of 2021 is meant to improve coordination amongst different departments and governments, allowing for more accessible tools and information sharing. The Federal Rotational Cyber Workforce Program Act of 2021 focuses on skill-building for federal employees, allowing role rotations amongst those in cybersecurity-related fields to enable a more comprehensive learning experience. The U.S. is not alone in its cybersecurity laws. The UK and EU are also considering new legislation addressing the growing cyber protection demand.

Where is the opportunity?

There was a 125% increase in cyberattacks in 2021, a percentage expected to grow in the coming years. Not only were there more attacks, but they were also more complex, with many having the ability to evade existing endpoint protection tools. To maintain cybersecurity in the future, there must be continuous improvement and adaptation in security tools and frameworks and increased skill development for cyber professionals and leadership.

As explored above, more organizations must adopt a zero-trust framework. While this framework is not a perfect solution, it is still a powerful strategy against cyber risk. Zero trust inherently focuses on prevention rather than reacting to threats, which is essential for organizations dealing with constant cyber-attack attempts.

Another area of opportunity for cybersecurity is blockchain technology. From secure transactions to identity management, blockchain has the potential to be a powerful cybersecurity solution. Due to its transparency and interoperability, blockchain could make it easier to verify data, identify fraud, and create innovative cybersecurity solutions.

The downside to blockchain, however, is its immaturity as a technology. As it is a somewhat recent innovation, it is likely to have unknown vulnerabilities that leave it open for risk. This issue applies to all emerging technologies, such as AI and quantum computing, because cyber threats tend to evolve alongside technological advancements, creating an ongoing feedback loop. Due to this, assumptions about cybersecurity practices will need to be constantly challenged as nascent technologies grow.

Finally, there is an incredible demand for cybersecurity talent, with over 700,000 roles needing to be filled. Because cybersecurity positions often require specific credentials and certifications, there aren’t enough qualified job seekers to fill those roles. Some companies are addressing this issue by removing some requirements, and others are creating talent pipelines and programs specifically for cybersecurity professionals. There is also a lack of cybersecurity talent in leadership, with 45% of companies lacking a Chief Information Security Officer. This lack of cyber skills opens an opportunity for company programs and online courses that could help build a qualified and effective cybersecurity workforce.

Data rules our digital lives, and protecting that information from bad actors is essential. As emerging technologies bring us deeper into the digital world, cybersecurity tools, approaches, and skills will become critical for everyone. Cybersecurity professionals may be the only people honing their abilities now, but these skills could soon become necessary for anyone accessing the internet.

Now it’s your turn. Do you think cybersecurity will be able to keep up with future threats? Should we all be taking cybersecurity courses? Sound off in the comments.
 
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Blog Innovation

E3 Reckoning: Equality, Equity, and Environment

The COVID-19 pandemic shined an unflattering light on the need for further advancements in equality and equity, as well as growing concerns for sustainability post-pandemic. As our team began to study the cause and effect of these dire circumstances, we noticed three key trends and opportunities that will impact all of our futures.

1. From digital divide to digital parity

Nearly half of the world’s population remains unconnected to the Internet and locked out of opportunity. Inequality in access to the Internet and communication services, known as the digital divide, affects 52% of women and 42% of men worldwide. That gap becomes even more pronounced in rural regions of the world or here in the U.S. in urban locations that lack affordable and reliable access to broadband Internet. In Africa, only 39.3% of its inhabitants have Internet access, compared to 87.2% of Europeans and 94.6% of Americans.

COVID-19 further highlighted this issue when it pushed us all to work and study from home. Take education, for example. Pre-COVID, roughly 260M children were not in school, which soared to 460M. However, according to the United Nations, almost half of the earth’s inhabitants — some 3.6 billion people — did not even have access to the Internet at the end of 2019. It is nearly impossible to work or study from home without access to the Internet.

There’s also a cost to digital equity. The U.S. alone loses more than $130 million a day in economic activity when people aren’t online.

Closing the digital divide will take trillions of dollars, and no one company can solve it alone. Yet digital equity is indispensable for exercising fundamental human rights, including access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity.

The HP Refresh Program aims to empower communities by providing schools with the resources to equip every student with the tech they need. HP software helps organizers restore previously used PCs, providing a workaround that avoids dipping into already-strained school district budgets. Plus, this helps to reduce tech waste by keeping devices in good condition and in use.

Microsoft also recently expanded their Airband Initiative, connecting rural areas to eight cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, El Paso, and Memphis. The Airband program provides affordable internet access and computers. Microsoft also intends to make devices more affordable by providing free and low-cost refurbished computers and tablets to communities of color. Microsoft is partnering with companies like PCs for PeopleHuman-I-T, and PlanITROI, whose Digital Dreams Project provides refurbished devices to K-12 students in need.

HP has also set very aggressive goals to help bridge the divide by 2025:

  • Enabling better learning outcomes for 100 million people by 2025, since the beginning of 2015
  • Contributing 1.5 million employee volunteering hours by 2025
  • Contributing $100 million in HP Foundation and employee community giving by 2025

2. From business capital to human capital

According to the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report, the world’s richest 1 percent, those with more than $1 million, own 43.4% of the world’s wealth. That disparity only grows greater when you look at it by class and race.

According to a McKinsey study, Black workers make approximately 30% less than their white co-workers. At the same time, Latinx Americans make just 73 cents for every dollar earned by white Americans.

At HP, we believe leveling the playing field is critical. We believe in creating a culture of inclusion, equality, and empowerment for our employees. We also believe in creating a platform for human rights that extends beyond HP, where we will strive to drive policy changes that fight racism, advocate for human rights, and advance social justice across the globe.

Diversity and inclusion are fundamental drivers of innovation and creativity. HP was built on the values of diversity and inclusion, fairness, and equality. We embed diversity, equity, and inclusion into everything we do. HP’s Board of Directors is one of the most diverse of any U.S. technology company. We encourage our suppliers and business partners to commit to diversity, equity, and inclusion goals and invest in programs and partnerships that build the pipeline for diverse talent. We are committed to creating inclusive technology that affirms human dignity, promotes independence, and unleashes creativity.

Our 2025 goals include:

  • Double the number of Black and African American HP executives (VP level and above) in the U.S. by 2025
  • Developing skills and improving the well-being of 500,000 factory workers by 2025
  • Doubling factory participation in our supply chain sustainability programs by 2025, compared to 2015

One of those programs helping us achieve these goals is HP LIFE, a free, skill-training program for entrepreneurs, business owners & lifelong learners. HP LIFE is intentionally accessible offline — given the current digital divide. Since 2012, more than 1 million people have taken courses.

3. From resource consumer to environmental steward

Corporations across the globe are stepping up and making more meaningful goals to battle climate change. Climate impact on business and supply chain and growing demand from customers to buy from and work with companies that better align with their values drive these efforts.

Nielsen studies show that 66% of consumers would spend more for a product if it came from a sustainable brand, and 81% of global consumers feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment.

At HP, we have long been proponents of climate action. Our mission is to drive toward a net-zero carbon, fully regenerative economy while engineering the industry’s most sustainable portfolio of products and solutions. In April 2021, we set new goals that outline our comprehensive plans to combat climate change, focused on carbon emissions, circularity, and forests. We are also working to address the fiber of non-HP paper used in HP printing products and services through initiatives like the HP Sustainable Forests Collaborative and are restoring, protecting, and improving the management of over 200,000 acres of forest in Brazil and China. Being an environmental steward is not only good business but also smart and impactful business.

Our broad goals include:

  • Using 30% post-consumer recycled content plastic across HP’s personal systems and print product portfolio by 2025.
  • Eliminating 75% of single-use plastic packaging by 2025, compared to 2018
  • Recycling 1.2 million tonnes of hardware and supplies by 2025
  • Achieving zero deforestation associated with HP brand paper and paper-based product packaging
  • Using 100% renewable electricity in our operations by 2025

We have an opportunity as technologists, entrepreneurs, and global leaders to drive the change needed to create a more balanced, equitable, and sustainable future. What steps will you take this year?

Blog Trends

My top 5 leadership principles

Leadership is constantly evolving to meet the demands of the times. To thrive as leaders, we must understand the needs of our teams and adapt accordingly. There are, however, some leadership principles that I have found to be essential no matter the situation.

1. Be humble. Leaders who place too much focus on results and control rather than the people on their team can create trust issues. Employees may feel restricted in their abilities to explore new ideas or even fearful of disappointing their boss. When teams operate out of fear, there can be several consequences, from a lack of engagement to high turnover. One Gallup study even found that one in two U.S. adults have left a job to escape a bad manager.

Because of this, leaders must embrace humility in their approach. While it is essential to hit targets and goals, the leader’s role is to help their team learn, grow, and explore without fear of failure. Leaders can benefit from their team’s expertise, experience, and insight by serving their employees rather than controlling them.

Ask your team how you can help them do their jobs and encourage them to experiment with innovative approaches and ideas. Create a safe environment for them to take risks and chances. Recognize that, even though you might be leading a team or organization, you are still a member of a team, and the best results will come from working together to find solutions and stay productive.

As my Mum used to remind me, we all put our pants on the same way. As human beings, we are all equal, and just because I might be the leader of a team doesn’t make me any better or less equal than anyone else in the team, no matter what they do. For me being humble means treating everyone as an equal and doing everything I can to help everyone else realize that we are all in this together as equals.

“The leader’s role is to help their team learn, grow, and explore without fear of failure.”

2. Treat everyone with respect and dignity. It’s essential to treat every person in your team and your company with respect and dignity. Each employee plays a vital role in how your business functions from the top of your organizational hierarchy to the bottom. How you treat them matters.

This principle highlights the importance of prioritizing diversity and inclusion. For leaders to encourage their employees to bring their whole selves to work, they must create an environment where people from all backgrounds feel accepted and valued. The benefits of a diverse and inclusive workplace are clear. Diverse teams consistently outperform those with less diversity, and employees on inclusive teams are 5.4 times more likely to stay at their company.

Treating everyone with respect and dignity can create a company culture that ensures employees feel heard and valued. In turn, this can encourage loyalty, productivity, and motivation. But that’s not why this is important, it’s important because it’s the right thing to do, and the right way to treat the people around us.

3. The team is always more important than the individual. No matter how talented, educated, or skilled an individual may be, nothing compares to the success of teamwork. By building a team with complementary skills, a leader can create a well-rounded approach to innovation where the team can learn from each other.

When appropriately used, collaboration is a powerful tool that can significantly improve outcomes compared to individual work. In addition, a Deloitte study found that employees that engage in collaboration and use digital collaboration tools are 17% more satisfied at work. While individuals may get tasks done independently, there is an increased risk of burnout and lower-quality results.

Leaders need to encourage open communication to enable teams to work together. Clear expectations and structure can also be helpful, such as assigning responsibilities to specific team members and designating particular times and methods of collaboration.

I remember many times in my career when I had no idea how we were ever going to achieve a particularly challenging goal or objective. Something that at first glance appeared impossible or completely unreasonable. But then something happens. Someone has an idea that triggers another idea, that leads to a first step, that leads to a second step, that creates a momentum that starts to take on a life of its own. The mood starts to change to a “We can do this!” and a palpable sense of excitement starts to build. There is a point in this process where the team shifts from a group of individuals to a thriving, thrumming “We can do anything!” functional unit that elevates everyone in it to achieve things they never thought possible. Things that could never be achieved by an individual or even a group of individuals – things that only a true team can achieve. If you’ve ever experienced that feeling, you know what I’m talking about.  

“A team is more than a group of individuals; it is also the energy that is released when true teamwork happens that elevates everyone involved.”

4. Have fun! Boredom is not a corporate objective. If you’ve seen the movie Office Space, you know how soul-sucking a boring (albeit fictional) office job can be. While the cult film is a satirical, darkly comedic take on corporate life in the 90s, it can also be a cautionary tale against boredom and monotony at work.

For leaders, it is crucial to know when and how to have fun. Happy employees are healthier, more creative, and more productive overall. So, what can leaders do to create a more fun work environment?

One way to promote more fun is to create experiences that allow team members to get to know each other and interact outside of a work setting. These experiences can be as formal as a monthly virtual happy hour or dinner, or as informal as a weekly group lunch or virtual coffee chat to catch up on life outside of work. While planning events like these can be a great way to create structured fun, simpler methods include encouraging employees to share photos, stories about their vacations, work-appropriate memes, and pictures of their latest golf outings in group messages or recognizing team members for big and small achievements.

Another way to promote more fun is to just have more fun. I also like to say, “We’re not here for a long time, we’re here for a good time”. Life’s too short to take too seriously. Having fun at work doesn’t mean we’re not working hard; it just means we’re having more fun working hard.

5. Pay attention to the details – the small things matter. Leaders are often tasked with directing their team towards one final, all-encompassing goal. While this is important, it can sometimes lead to the dismissal of small but crucial details. Achieving one significant goal results from many small achievements that occur along the way, and each one is as important as the next.

For leaders, this puts them in the unique position of needing to keep both the big picture and the details top of mind. For this reason, it’s crucial to have solid organizational skills and a reliable team that you can delegate to as needed. Remain dedicated to the end goal while maintaining a broad understanding of what each team member is doing to succeed. Trust your team and avoid micromanaging but know when to step in as a leader to help push things forward.

These five leadership principles have helped me throughout my career as a leader, and I hope they serve you on your journey.

Have a leadership principle that you believe to be essential for leaders to know? Share it in the comments.

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My top 5 TED Talks of 2021

There’s no question that the past two years have been highly disruptive. Our daily lives look entirely different than they did in 2019, and we’ve all had to adapt in one way or another.

One thing that I’m grateful for, however, is that TED has continued to share inspiring and innovative TED Talks throughout this time to give us inspiration and insight. Watching these talented individuals on the stage has become a favorite part of my week as someone who misses in-person public speaking.

Here are my top five TED Talks of 2021:

“We were looking for bliss in a blah day and purpose in a perpetual pandemic. But languishing is not unique to a pandemic. It’s part of the human condition.” –Adam Grant, How to stop languishing and start finding flow, TEDMonterey, August 2021

The pandemic created a massive shift in our lives, and many of us found ourselves sinking into “languishing,” which Adam Grant expertly explains in this TED Talk. After spending nearly two years living through a pandemic, it feels validating to put a name to the feeling that so many of us were experiencing. Even better are the solutions that Grant provides in his talk.

“On today’s internet, we don’t get paid for the work we do with our minds. And what’s more, the content we upload to these services is trapped there. These services not only make money from our content, they control it. Until NFTs.” –Kayvon Tehranian, How NFTs are building the internet of the future, TEDMonterey, August 2021

NFTs surged into popularity in 2021, and people have been trying to explain them ever since. This TED Talk from Kayvon Tehranian does a brilliant job of explaining what NFTs are, as well as their potential to bring the internet into its next evolution.

“This wouldn’t just be better for chickens and cows and pigs and the people who have to farm them and slaughter them and process their meat. This could be better for the whole world.” –Isha Datar, How we could eat real meat without harming animals, TEDMonterey, August 2021

One of my daughters is vegan, and she’s always making creative meals for us to enjoy (like this vegan turkey). She’s inspired me to look into vegan options, but I have to admit that I love real meat, which is why the development of lab-grown meat is fascinating. This TED Talk from Isha Datar dives into the science behind lab-grown meat, as well as all of the incredible benefits that could result from this new means of food production.

“The future of work is not going to be created with top-down, opinion-driven edicts from senior leaders whose day-to-day realities don’t match those of us dual-career, time-pressed and income-pressed people. Of course, senior leaders want to go back. That worked for them. But they have to recognize that for 18 months now; their people experienced unprecedented agency, control, flexibility, trust, and accountability.” –Debbie Lovich, 3 tips for leaders to get the future of work right, TED@BCG, September 2021

There’s no question that the future of work has changed drastically, and the post-pandemic world is likely to see a somewhat permanent shift to remote and hybrid work. As Debbie Lovich says in this TED Talk, it’s time for leaders to embrace the change and learn new methods of leadership and teamwork.

“It’s not just about your commutes. It’s really about changing everything in terms of how we move people, goods and services, eventually.” –Aicha Evans, Your self-driving robotaxi is already here, TEDMonterey, August 2021

Self-driving cars are not a new subject, but Aicha Evans believes their technology has the potential to shift how our world moves entirely. In this TED Talk, Evans discusses how robotaxis could create a high-tech, sustainable, and convenient mode of transportation.

These were some of my favorite TED Talks of 2021, and I’m looking forward to more educational and inspiring talks in 2022!

Share your favorites in the comments.

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How to Think Like a Futurist

The following is an excerpt of article that was first published in the Summer 2021 issue of HP’s Innovation Journal:

The world around us is changing and advancing at breakneck speed. From cars that can see around corners to robots on Mars, hyperloop travel, and artificial intelligence (AI) that can write a poem like Coleridge or fiction like Kafka, keeping up can be overwhelming. For business leaders, innovators, and organizations, the central question becomes: How do we lead this change, rather than being led by it?

I’d posit that we all need to learn to think like futurists. Thinking like a futurist shouldn’t be reserved for a select group of people, but instead is a basic skill set that anyone can learn.

Tapping into your inner futurist requires that you stay aware of what’s happening in the world around you, and think through the long-term impact on countries, societies, industries, and our day-to-day lives. But it’s not a spectator sport; it also requires that you anticipate, plan for, and take action to create the future you want. It’s about monitoring shifts, visualizing outcomes, and adopting an innovation mindset.

Monitoring shifts

No one can predict the future, but understanding the global socioeconomic, demographic, and technological shifts that are shaping the world around us can help point the way. It’s important to understand how these trends will influence our human experiences — from how and where we work, to how we make things, to how we stay healthy, learn, and live our lives. Being aware of these shifts enables you to spot new opportunities, reach your goals, and make plans based on the world of the future, not the world of the past.

For example, prior to the pandemic, only a quarter of US workers did some work at home. During the pandemic that number skyrocketed to more than 80%. The future of work will undoubtedly see many jobs becoming primarily hybrid. Many employees will do their desk work at home or at coworking spaces, while offices transform into places employees go to collaborate and innovate as a team.

The pandemic and today’s geopolitics have also shone a light on the need for supply chains to become more flexible and resilient. As we look to the future, the inherently digital nature of 3D printing opens a world of possibilities for manufacturing to become more digitized and sustainable as well, and for products to become more personalized.

Similar shifts are happening in healthcare, education, retail, and across our business and personal lives in general. Moreover, the role of business in society is changing, as customers increasingly expect more from the companies they engage with, and companies must stand for more than the products they sell.

Read more in the Summer 2021 issue of HP’s Innovation Journal.

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