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: 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

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 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.

Blog Innovation Leadership Trends Videos

3 technologies impacting our lives during COVID-19

Appreciating technology’s progress amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

There is no doubt that this global pandemic is putting a massive strain on healthcare systems, businesses, economies, and governments all over the world. The world’s economy is expected to diminish by 3% this year. 36.5 million Americans have applied for unemployment since mid-March, nearing levels not seen since the Great Depression. At the time of publishing, over 8 million people have been infected, and 436,322 have lost their lives. In response, the global population is collectively adjusting to a new way of living as the COVID-19 situation progresses. Amidst the extreme stress and uncertainty that we are all facing, it’s important to take a moment to appreciate some of the technologies that are helping us cope during this difficult time.

Connective technologies like video conferencing, social media, gaming, and more are quickly becoming essentials as we are less able to collaborate, socialize, and interact physically. Working from home, something that would have been practically impossible for many people less than two decades ago, is now supported by these technologies, allowing people to connect via video conferencing apps like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Cisco WebEx etc. Zoom, one of the most popular video conferencing apps of this time, saw a staggering increase in meeting participants, up from 10 million in December to 300 million in April.

Virtual events and educators are utilizing video conferencing as well, in an attempt to continue life as normally as possible. Similar apps like HouseParty and FaceTime are helping friends and families stay connected from afar. Some have noted this reconnection to be ironic in the age of social distancing, as it’s prompting many friends, families, and neighbors to rekindle and deepen their relationships.

Mobile applications and delivery services are enabling people throughout the world to support their favorite local restaurants and vendors by ordering delivery while things remain closed. Throughout the world, apps like Postmates and DoorDash are allowing restaurants to continue business through deliveries, with options to have deliveries left at the door in order to limit person-to-person contact. Some delivery services, like Zomato, are waiving restaurant fees in an effort to bolster the now-struggling industry. In Uganda, the Market Garden app is now connecting women vendors to customers seeking fresh fruits and vegetables that they would normally find in the bustling markets of Kampala but are missing while social distancing rules are in place. In the U.S., 49% of consumers turned to online grocery delivery because of the coronavirus, a practice that may continue even after stay-at-home orders are lifted. Even drones are getting involved in deliveries, with startups like Manna Aero using drones to deliver much-needed medicine to vulnerable people on lock-down.

Social media and entertainment platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Quibi are providing a welcome distraction from the many stressors of day-to-day life under quarantine. Over 80% of U.S. and UK consumers admit to consuming more content during the lock-down, especially online videos and broadcast TV. In response, Netflix released a way to watch TV shows and movies simultaneously with your friends, virtually. Video games have always been a great way to connect and play with others, and now more people are embracing them. According to Verizon, gaming data usage increased by 75% in mid-March, and several streaming gaming services experienced server issues, likely due to a significant increase of inactive users. Among the affected were Blizzard Activision and Riot Games.

Thanks to these existing technologies, people all over the world are finding ways to stay entertained and sustained during this difficult time, and 9 out of 10 surveyed Americans claim to have a better appreciation for technology due to how it has impacted their lives during this crisis.

How have emerging technologies affected the world’s response to COVID-19?

Artificial intelligence

While artificial intelligence (AI) is still in a relatively nascent stage, researchers have been using it to track the coronavirus and predict potential spread. In the very early days of the virus, Toronto-startup BlueDot’s AI platform spotted a heightened amount of “unusual pneumonia” cases occurring in Wuhan, China. Kamran Khan, BlueDot’s founder and CEO, served as an epidemiologist and physician during the 2003 SARS outbreak, which inspired him to develop a technology that could cull through massive amounts of data in order to detect potentially dangerous diseases. In the past, AI has also successfully predicted the outcomes of the 2016 Zika virus and the 2014 Ebola outbreak. AI machines, like the CS-1 computer from startup Cerebras Systems, are being used to speed up the discovery of a potential vaccine for the coronavirus. Originally intended for cancer research, the CS-1 computer is hard at work at Argonne National Library, running learning models with the intention of finding compounds that may be effective against the virus.

Robots

In Singapore, semi-autonomous robots are being utilized to disinfect large public surfaces, such as outdoor seating. One robot, called the eXtreme Disinfection robot (or XDBot), was created in only six weeks by a team at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). In China, robots are helping out in several ways, from taking temperatures to sanitizing surfaces to producing and delivering food. To limit the amount of contact between healthcare workers and COVID-19 patients, robots are also serving as portable telehealth operators. One such example is Boston Dynamics’ Spot, a dog-like robot with a tablet attached for video conferencing purposes. Boston Dynamics also says that they are working on upgrading Spot with technology that would allow the robot to test for fevers and monitor respiratory rates.

3D printing

The 3D printing community has been incredibly active in finding ways to contribute during this difficult time. Many in the industry have been producing essential gear and helpful devices for healthcare workers, including HP. HP’s 3D research and development centers located in San Diego, Corvallis, Vancouver, Washington, and Barcelona are actively creating mask adjusters, face shields, and hands-free door openers, as well as testing potential new devices that may help patients. HP has made these designs public and available to any who are able to 3D print and contribute to the cause.

We are not alone in our efforts. Digital manufacturing companies from all over the world are coming together to create necessary supplies, such as test swabs. Lamborghini is using HP Multi-Jet Fusion technology to make lung simulators used to test ventilators used by coronavirus patients. Individual 3D-printing enthusiasts are also working tirelessly to give back to healthcare workers, using smaller, at-home 3D printers to craft personal protective equipment and other helpful gear.

During this time of uncertainty and overwhelm, it is perhaps comforting to appreciate how far technology has come. Existing technologies are enabling people to cope in a variety of ways during isolation, and emerging technologies are proving themselves to be essential to the future of our world. While the current pandemic has brought us great challenges, we are better prepared today than we have ever been in history, and perhaps our continued progress will enable humanity to survive future challenges with more confidence and awareness.

Trends Uncategorized

HP Megatrends 2020 Refresh

Staying ahead of constant requires a keen understanding of the global forces that will shape our human experiences and business decisions

The amount of change happening in the world today is accelerating, creating a continuous challenge for how companies stay ahead of it all, decide where to invest, think about the future, and innovate in ways that enable them to do the disrupting, instead of being the ones disrupted.

Blog Innovation Leadership Trends

Preparing for Gen Z as a Futurist

As a futurist, my job is to anticipate change and stay on top of current trends. There’s a new generation entering the workforce – Generation Z. Following Millennials, this generation includes those born between 1995 and 2010. While being defined as the most ethnically-diverse and largest generation in American history, Gen Z also grew up surrounded by technology, also making them the most tech-savvy generation.

I’ve previously provided some thoughts on thinking like a futurist and today, we’re diving deeper into the role Gen Z plays in the future. Here are my tips for how to collaborate with Gen Z:

1. Put yourself in their shoes

It’s important to acknowledge the obvious differences that divide each generation. For example, Gen Z grew up in a post-9/11 world with new technology and completely different childhood experiences than those of previous generations. With technology constantly at their fingertips, this generation of “digital natives” have had nearly lifelong access to boundless amounts of information at the drop of a hat. In fact, 97% of Gen Z have smart phones and spend more than 4 hours a day online.

And because they’ve never spent a day offline, they are acutely aware of the issues and challenges happening in the world around them. As a result, they are 54% more likely to say they want to have an impact on the world as compared to millennials. Also noteworthy is their attitude towards work and employers; almost half consider what the company does to make the world a better place as important as the salary.

By becoming familiar with Gen Z, and by understanding the different era and experiences they’ve grown up with, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to effectively collaborate with them. Whether it’s through asking questions, doing research, or understanding current trends, you won’t fully see eye-to-eye with this generation until you put yourself in their shoes.

2. Pay attention to what’s important

In the next decade, Gen Z is expected to cause an influx of roughly 60 million job seekers, effectively transforming the workplace. Concerning their careers, Gen Z-ers are very driven and competitive. Nothing motivates them more than achieving success and being rewarded for their good efforts. They value skill development and appreciate feedback, as they are always hoping to improve their performance. A controversial topic amongst Gen Z is the debate over work-life balance. It can be argued that this generation struggles the most with this – 24% say they feel guilty for taking time off work. On the other hand, 39% view work-life balance as a top priority when choosing an employer. Knowing these statistics as an employer can help foster a healthy work environment for future employees.

When choosing where to work, Gen Z will base their decision on the company’s values. This generation’s passion for sustainability, diversity, and inclusion reflects in their expectations for their future employers. Studies show that 77% of Gen Z believes a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there.

3. Stay up to date on trends

As any futurist knows, one of the most important ways to prepare for the future is to stay up to date with the latest trends. This applies to Gen Z trends as well. The more informed you are, the more prepared you will be to work with this generation.

Here are some resources for futurists to better understand Gen Z:

  1. After the Millennials
  2. Gen Guru
  3. Gen Z Insights
  4. Generational Differences in the Workplace Infographic
  5. Looking Ahead to Generation Z

We can all benefit from learning from one another. As this new generation enters the workforce, preparing through a lens like this will allow us to better understand and support them in their journey as they embark on this new chapter.

Blog Entrepreneurship Innovation Leadership Trends

Are you ready for the future?

As the pace of change continues to accelerate, one thing is certain. The future will look very different than it does today. I believe this accelerated innovation and the Megatrends driving it will have a sustained, transformative impact on the world in the years ahead — on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives.
 
This change is inevitable, and those that anticipate and embrace it will be the revolutionaries of the experience age. In fact, adapting to the changes is the difference between leading change and being led by it. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill. No silver bullet. It takes dedication and thought. So, how can you lead the way and future-proof yourself?

1. Adopt an innovation mindset

When I was in college, a single computer took up an entire room. Yes, am dating myself a little here…. Now, we hold computing devices in the palms of our hands. In fact, we have more computing power in our pockets than all of NASA had when they put the first man on the moon in 1969.
 
Innovation is significantly shaping our world. And it’s the number #1 topic I’m most frequently asked about. Whether it’s at the HP offices, at speaking engagements, or when I attend conferences, people want to know how they can tap into their own inner innovator, and spark innovation at their offices.
 
Innovation is an attitude. As an innovator you need to believe you can change the world, that if you keep working on a problem you will eventually find a solution, and that anything is possible. Innovators have a passion to make things happen. They relentlessly take action.

Start with small things. Have lunch every week with someone outside of your team. Talk to them about what they do and how they do it. Innovation is about leveraging diversity, and the more you know about more things, the better you will be able to innovate.

Write down your ideas. Sometimes the simple act of writing things down can bring your ideas to life. You never know when that list will come in handy.
 
Once you become comfortable with those, move on to larger mindset shifts.

Question your assumptions about everything. Many times, the “right” way to do things can be altered and improved, it just takes someone to question the underlying assumptions. Ask yourself, how can this be improved? How can we make it better?

2. Keep learning or unlearning

“In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.” –Eric Hoffer

If you have a fixed mindset, your qualities are carved in stone. If you lack a skill, you will continue to lack it. However, when you adopt a growth mindset, you can grow and change through persistence and experience. With a fixed mindset, you can be easily overwhelmed with the future’s uncertainty, but the future belongs to those who can adopt a growth mindset and keep learning.

I’m currently learning about Quantum Computing by reading “In Search of Schrödinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality”.

I’m very interested in how the line between science and philosophy is blurring. It seems where science doesn’t have all the answers (e.g. quantum mechanics and the true nature of reality), philosophy comes back to the fore to help us imagine the possibilities that we hope science might one day prove out. Consider Einstein’s original thought experiment about sitting on the end of a light beam (philosophy) and how that led him to the special theory of relativity (science). Both are equally important for charting the human future in a world of accelerating change and technology.

3. Collaborate

A Nielsen study examined the impact of collaboration in the development stage of innovation. It showed ideas developed by teams of three or more people have 156% greater appeal with consumers than those developed by just one or two people who played a hands-on role.

Ideas developed by teams of three or more people have 156% greater appeal with consumers than those developed by just one or two people who played a hands-on role.

Connect with people in your field (current or desired) by discovering how they think and their vision of the future. When you get to know one another, you feel more comfortable sharing ideas and voicing your opinions, creating healthy collaboration.

4. Pay attention to emerging technology trends

Stay current on trends by reading, watching, and listening to sources you trust. As a futurist, my job requires a keen understanding of how the world around us is evolving, the global forces that are dramatically changing the landscape of markets and industries, and trends that are reshaping customer expectation. 
 
At HP, we’ve formalized our analysis and forecasting process into a body of work we call Megatrends, a systematic effort to identify the global technological, economic, and social currents that are influencing how people will live and work around the world in the future. Take a look at this year’s report that looks at how innovation and disruptions in economics, data, automation, and energy impact megatrends.

Personally, I stay on top of trends by reading the latest technology news, speaking with customers and industry pundits, paying attention to university and academic research areas, monitoring venture investing trends and start-up activity. I also draw from my personal experiences, media coverage, and public data sources.

It’s important to have a vision and desired outcomes in mind. Then explore how trends and technologies can help you realize those outcomes. Ongoing problems the world is facing, like poverty and climate change, cannot be solved with short-term thinking. If we want to move forward and create the future we want, we must adopt long-term, futuristic thinking.

Once you’ve identified the trends, come up with proactive statements about where you think the future is going. This is something that true disrupters do. So … ask outlandish questions, free your mind, and push yourself outside of your box. The future is yours to create.

5. Give yourself a break

After all that, are you feeling a bit frazzled? We spend hours pondering how we can stay ahead of this change instead of being led by it. Even if we could predict the future perfectly (which, of course, we can’t), we need to be willing to reinvent ourselves continuously as all of this change in our world occurs.
 
It’s okay to take a break from future-proofing yourself. Read a book. Take a walk outside. Listen to your favorite music. Give your brain a chance to breath and recharge.

Our future will be transformed by people like you, who are strategic thinkers, quick to innovate, and passionate. What do you think? What skills or mindsets will we need to adopt today for the future? Sound off below. 👇

Blog Innovation Trends Videos