Tuesday, November 07, 2006

FutureTrends Conference - 11-06-06

FutureTrends Conference - 11-06-06
I’m attending the annual FutureTrends conference in South Beach, FL. A crucial component of sustainable innovation is the understanding of trends. At the core, innovation is about marrying “what’s needed” in the market with “what’s possible” to do with emerging technology. Add the dimension of time, and you can see why it’s important to understand not only what’s currently needed and what’s currently possible but also what’s going to be needed and going to be possible. As innovators, we need to be able to understand emerging market needs and technological capabilities.

Thankfully consumers are telling us what they want online and some of the worlds most innovative companies, such as Procter & Gamble, are willing to share their perspectives on where things are going in technology and markets.

Here are some interesting take aways from the conference that I can share with you.

8:30 AM Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble sees the following global trends coming down the pike:

1. Looking better, feeling better
2. Increased power of age-specific consumer groups
3. One world-one economy (thinking globally, tweaking locally)
4. Environment & safety
5. Mergers & Acquisitions

9:15 AM Starbucks
The VP of Global Creative, Stanley Hainsworth, Starbucks, shared a useful practice he used to understand the Starbucks brand when he was hired away from Legos. He went into the warehouse and pulled out all the old Starbucks marcom. He laid it out on a table and got the employees of Starbucks to give a thumbs up and thumbs down on the materials that did and did not accurately express the brand. He then worked with everyone to cluster the good materials in order to identify the 5 most critical elements of the Starbucks brand:

1. Handcrafted
2. Artistic
3. Sophisticated
4. Human
5. Enduring

He’s very true to these elements, frequently referring back to them in his entertaining talk.

10:30 Reebok
There is a new culture of “we” to replace the individualistic culture of yesteryear. Even Bill Gates has turned from capitalist to philanthrocapitalist.

1. New Caring Consumers: Affluent Activists – People flaunt their ethics, not their wealth. They champion sustainability, human and animal rights, corporate transparency, etc..

2. Do-it-Yourself: On-line creativity coming from young people. Check out http://www.VideoJug.com for videos to help you acquire new skills.

3. Social Networking: Staying in is the new going-out.

Corporations, more and more, are tracking what consumers are saying about them online in blogs. This is becoming a big business. It’s difficult to stay on top of it all and to figure out what to do about it. But it’s essential and it has to be identified and responded to very fast.

Consumer priorities these days: social, ethical, environmental. Europeans will spend 5% more for products that espouse social responsibility in some way.

See http://postsecret.blogspot.com where people express their deepest, darkest secrets.

“The major problems for corporations today is that despite living in Web 2.0, they are decisively still operating in Business 1.0”. She outlined the characteristics of Business 1.0 companies and 2.0.

11:15 Ford “What makes something a trend?”

Fad or Trend game?

Pet Rock (Fad) – Inventor tried to re-package it the second year for Valentine’s day and it flopped. He had originally invented it because he didn’t feel he could ever be a responsible pet owner. The first year it sold really well but the following (on the re-launch) it flopped.

Tattoos (Trend) – She thinks it’s a trend, not a fad.

Cell Phone (Trend) – The idea of mobile communication has been a developing.

iPod (Fad) – She thinks it’s a fad. Ford thinks that there will come a point where people will demand an integrated device that combines all the functions of portable digital devices. Others think the concept of the iPod is a trend though.

But a Fad or Trend is in the eye of the beholder (or the consumer, for that matter).

“If I had asked consumers what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” (Henry Ford).

My personal perspective: If you’ve invented a car, and you know it’s better than a horse, then understand what problems people have with the horse, and convince them your invention solves those problems. Then be patient.

How does Ford monitor trends? They have an informal network of people. They monitor ~200 trends in a database. They talk to a lot of experts from think-tanks. They conduct ethnographies. They hire consultants. They talk to people from other industries for inspiration and to understand how products are changing. We try to understand the unmet needs of consumers.

They rank the 200 trends and look at these criteria:

Time frame
Industry impact?
Market impact?

They create a map of trends to understand the unmet need. For example aging populations and emerging technology are two trends. They showed commercials targeting older people to their engineers at Ford.

Key drivers of the Aging Population trend:

1. Medical advances
2. Active lifestyles
3. Delayed marriage
4. Delayed parenthood
5. Declining fertility

Some emerging technologies

1. Tremor-compensation for a computer mouse.
2. Urinalysis toilet-monitors your health without you having to go get tested all the time.

Ford has a tool called the Third Age Suit. Engineers put this on and it gives them the sensation of being older: blurred vision, overweight, difficult to move joints, etc. They use that to understand the consumers’ needs better.

Key drivers of the safety & security trend:

1. Rising crime
2. Sense of vulnerability
3. Media – A story on CNN about a small incident like a kidnapping magnifies the sentiment.
4. Mistrust in business and government
5. Technological advances – cool gadgets such as the Exmocare that monitors your moods electronically.

At Ford, they’ve shifted from inside-out thinking (how can we leverage our strengths) to outside-in thinking. What are the things that we have no control over? How could these things change our customers? How should these shifts in customers impact Ford? She had to stop there because that would get into proprietary information.

Email sconnell at ford dot com if you want to buy a Ford because she can get you an employee discount. Not sure if she meant people not at the conference or not but she seemed very generous in her offer. She gave everyone at the conference a Ford Fusion…it was just a toy care though but got a laugh.

How many people are in Connelly’s group? Well, it’s been downsized along with the rest of Ford. She has about 3 people plus an informal network of part-timers.

How is your function evaluated? When you go from a push operation to a pull operation. So, internal customers are coming to her for the futuring work she does.

Met another Chief Innovation Officer over lunch from AIG. The introduction of the Chief Innovation Officer—now that’s a trend.

1:15 John Maeda, MIT “10 Laws of Simplicity”
John noticed that simplicity is a trend. Is it good? Is it bad?

A simple sky is nice, but it’s also nice when it’s complex, like when there’s an intricate pattern of clothes.

John said he’s at MIT but he doesn’t like it. He likes to make fun of it.

siMplIciTy : coMplexITy

1. Reduce – shrink (iPod=>Nano), hide (clam shell phone hides keys), or embody (Motorlla’s phone is called the Pebble to evoke a meaningful connotation).
2. Organize
3. Time – iPod shuffle removes choice, saving you time = simplicity.
4. Learn – Knowledge makes everything simpler.
5. Differences
6. Context
7. Emotion – More emotions are better than less.
8. Trust – In simplicity we trust.
9. Failure
10. The one

3:00 IBM “Global Trending Process”
IBM is trying to grow beyond its core.

There’s been an invention period in IT ’96 – ’01, a crash, and then a deployment period (as for ’04). Source: Perez, C. “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital”, 2002

Core Business: Hardware, Software, IT services

We can innovate by going: to new offerings for existing markets, to new markets with existing offerings.

IBM is re-thinking what its business is. The largest part, and the fastest growing, is point services, or “solutions”. How can we bundle hardware, software, and services to create solutions?

They looked at external (emerging technologies/offerings, industry trends & VC/PE, gov’t, emerging geographies, societal adaptation) and internal resources. They ran all those insights through their triage process that they learned from Ford. That involved Business Opportunity Workshops, Collaborative Long-Term Planning. The outcome was new products and services. Their process is run by a cross functional group with representatives from Bus, corporate functions and different geographies.

One challenge was to get the business units to pop up and think about the future, rather than just worry about making numbers for the quarter.

Trends IBM has uncovered:
1. Shifting global demographics:
Aging populations – the median age 26 now, will be 36 by 2050
Urbanization – people moving to urban areas, new urban locales are popping up. They have similar challenges: resources, infrastructure, health, environment, housing, governance, quality of life, transportation, economy, security. In emerging regions, the issues are growing pains. In developing regions, though, the issue is sustainability.
Educating new citizens
Skills shortages
Changing migration patterns
Disaster prepardness
Exptended retirement ages
Global workers’ rights
Wireless cities

2. Accelerating globalization
Emerging global markets (e.g. China) are increasing production and export of goods and services. They’re also increasing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).
Developing regions contributing more to global labor force.
Protectionism and nationalism
Citites growing in global influence
Cultural assimulation

They do more than 2 megatrends for their internal clients. They show them this content and then they look at the intersections and how these trends impact the client.

Process for turning global trends into new growth opportunities:

Sharing Insight => Driving Innovation => Developing Opportunities

1. Sharing Insights
innovationJam – Their website for acquiring ideas from internal and external people. It was run by their Communications department. They’ve narrowed it down to 10 different initiatives. It’s now been handed to the group that presented to size it, scope out the solution, tec.

2. Driving Innovation
Focus this year: Energy & Utilities (she couldn’t reveal more)

3. Developing Opportunities (here are some examples)
medical imaging
road user charging - different fares at different times of the day for toll roads

IBM focuses on Innovation that Matters to make the world a better place

3:45 “Using Blogs to Market to Women”
Shefinds.com has 10K visitors per day, the speaker, Michelle Madhok (michelle at shefinds d0t com), was the founder. She has 40 bloggers writing for her.

62% of Internet users do not know what a blog is (Pew Internet & American Life Project).

Question: What is a blog?
Answer: A blog is a special kind of website where an individual can publish their thoughts. I write an innovation blog, for instance, because it is a topic I spend a lot of time thinking about. If you have something you want to talk to the world about and don’t want to have to go through the hassle of getting published, you can create a blog too at www.blogger.com.

“Women come late to technology because we want to see if it’s worth our attention.” Most top blogsites are written by men still.

Blogging, for those women who write them, is about being heard. They can finish their thoughts there.

77% percent of bloggers say they blog to express themselves creatively rather than get noticed or paid.

A big topic area for women to blog is about parenting issues. A big one is Heather Armstrong. Moms listen to other moms. Moms are 98% more likely to spread the word about something new/useful than other groups.

Dove did an ad on the Super Bowl and got 500 million impressions for a lot of money. They put it on youtube for $0 and got 1.7 million views. It’s a really good ad actually.

Flogvertising – Fake bloggers funded by corporates.

PR Posers – Companies hiring PR firms to go respond to blog postings about the company.

Other women-oriented blog networks: blogads.com, adbrite, glam, blogherds

RSS – Really Simple Syndication. It allow you to skim through blogs you’re interested in.

Splogging – Fake blogs full of garbage.

Great presentation Michelle!

Thoughts on the Day
The FutureTrends conference has gotten off to a great start. Not every conference I go to is high quality, but I was very happy about the value I got out of today. I can tell the organizers kept the bar very high. Great location too, it’s my first time in South Beach.


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