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

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

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.

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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.

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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. 👇

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Brains, brawn and big business: AI and robots reshape the workplace

Automation technology is moving into the workplace with unstoppable momentum. As bots and robots take on more kinds of tasks, will they eliminate jobs? Or will they instead generate opportunity for workers to leverage their own strengths and manage their tireless mechanical colleagues?

In today’s workforce a factory line worker, a university professor, and a customer service rep are guaranteed to have one thing in common: a job that will be transformed by the presence of robots and AI in the coming decade. Will that worker be able to change along with it?

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Is your business Megatrends ready?

Over the next 15 years, we will experience more change than in all human history to date. The pace and magnitude at which change is occurring is staggering.

Did you know we now have more computing power in our pocket than all of NASA had in 1969 when they put the first man on the moon?

Or how about the fact that artificial intelligence spent 42 hours solving the 100-year-old mystery of how flatworms regenerate body parts?

With the accelerated pace of change comes the equally accelerated rate of innovation. 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.

So how do we as engineers, marketers, designers, innovators, and executives stay ahead of that change and help chart our own course?

Ask yourself: Is your business Megatrends ready? Answer these five questions to find out.


1.
What products could you develop to support megacity infrastructure, an aging population, or hyper global trade?

By 2030, there will be 8.5 billion people walking the earth, and 97% of that population growth will be in emerging economies. And as people move to cities, our cities will get larger, and we’ll have more of them, including megacities in places many of us have never heard of today.

It will change how we buy and consume products and services, propelling the sharing economy and convenience-based services. Businesses must design products that meet the needs of the megacity infrastructure, an aging population or hyper global trade.

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My Favorite Technology Talks at TED 2017 … So Far

TED2017: a dancing robot, taking lessons from the past, and looking to the future. TED2017 has been full of thought-provoking and ground-breaking talks. Here are a few of my favorite technology-focused talks so far:

“The future, today” Anab Jain
In the opening night, Anab Jian, Founding Director of Superflux, captured the audience with her perspective and tangible experiments focused on the future. She pointed out that while it can feel like innovation is happening too quickly, we must stay focused on our impact on the future. Jain does this by taking in the signals and trends around her to build objects – flying advertisements, an apartment to survive a drastic decrease in natural resources, and more – that allow us to experience the future.   This talk hit close to home for me, as future enthusiast, and correlates nicely to the Megatrends work we’ve been doing at HP.

“Conquering your fears, the stoic way” Tim Ferriss
“If your goals aren’t specific, you can’t achieve them.” Author, podcast host, and entrepreneur Tim Ferriss shared his inspiring story and enlightened the audience with tips to capitalize on opportunities, manage fears, and fully envision the future. He credits stoicism to his success and recommends achieving similar success by writing down worries about your next move, whether it be starting a business, taking time off, or launching your next product. Once you have those concerns on paper, Ferriss says it’s vital to document how they can be prevented, how you can repair damage if they come true, and most importantly, consider the cost of inaction.

“A vision of robots that might replace you” Marc Raibert
Marc Raibert, founder of Boston Dynamics, is responsible for arguably the most innovative robots today. In his talk, he showcased robots like BigDog, a cheetah-like robot, AlphaDog, a massive robot that can trek through snow, and Spot, a robot that uses its hands to handle packages.

I was most impressed by SpotMini. The robot can move sideways, run in place, and hop from side to side. Raibert demonstrated how SpotMini creates a dynamic map of the world around it, while delivering a drink to Raibert on his command.

Raibert’s talk inspired me to think even more about the future of human and robot collaborations. Innovative robots like the ones highlighted in this talk will allow us to automate the mundane and present endless collaboration opportunities. If we design and program robotics to work with us, there is no problem we can’t solve.

Other TED attendees, cinema experiencers, people who’ve been following along on Twitter, what TED talk has impacted you the most so far? Which TED talk are you looking forward to? I’d love to hear your comments below.

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Changing Demographics: Q&A with HP Labs

I recently sat down with HP Labs for Part 3 of a five-part series discussing HP’s future technology vision, and how key global forces known as Megatrends are being used to shape that vision and our future. Megatrends are global socio-economic, demographic and technological forces that will have a sustained and transformative impact on businesses, societies, economies, cultures and our personal lives in unimaginable ways in the years to come.

Changing_Demographics-Twitter_440x220-1.jpg
One of the trends that will dramatically shift the tapestry of our society is Changing Demographics. I sat down with HP Labs to discuss this trend and how it will impact our future. Here’s a preview of our conversation:

How would you describe Changing Demographics?

On one hand, we have a new generation that is beginning to enter the workforce. Numbering 2.6bn globally, Generation Z (Gen Z) is about a quarter of the US population and will account for 40% of all consumers by 2020.  By 2020, Gen Z will make up 36% of the GLOBAL workforce. [Source: US Consensus Bureau]

This generation has never known a world without the Internet and generation was raised on using five screens, a smartphone, tablet, laptop, desktop and TV, to communicate and digest information instantaneously, but are equally easily distracted. Having never spent a day of their lives offline, they are acutely aware of the issues and global 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. [Source: Sparks & Honey, Millennial Branding, Salt]

Yet at the same time more countries are becoming super-aged, which means more than 20 percent of their population is over the age of 65. By 2030, we’ll have twice as many people over age 65—nearly one billion.

In fact, per the World Bank Databank, by 2060 we’ll have 3B more people over the age of 30 than we do today. And as more countries are becoming super-aged with more than 20% of their population over the age of 65, we will experience a shrinking and aging workforce. China is a perfect example of this phenomenon. Today 26% of their population is over the age of 55. And according to UN Population data, that number will grow to 43% by 2030. To deal with this shift, China recently rescinded their one child policy after 35 years.

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To read the entire interview, head over to HP Labs’ blog and let me know your thoughts on Megatrends and their impact on our future in the comments section below.

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