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How to prepare for extreme trends

How to prepare for extreme trends

Some pointers from futurist, author, business and White House adviser James Canton PhD, who is CEO and chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, a leading think tank that advises businesses and governments on future trends.

What are the 'extreme trends' for business and technology that senior IT executives today need to prepare for? The top extreme future trends, that will change the competitive marketplace, are the coming global innovation economy, integrated supply chains, real-time dynamic information, deep collaboration over global architectures, and many non-IT trends such as geopolitics, climate change, energy and security. IT executives need to be able to navigate the future that will be more complex, challenging and fast.

What will come as the big surprises for business leaders and IT executives over the next five years?

The big surprises will be the emergence of radical innovations in pervasive wireless, immersive media, and next generation internet. The globalisation of consumer lifestyles will also be very important to monitor and understand.

How should today's business leaders and IT executives prepare for what is to come?

Get ready for fast change, non-traditional competitors, radical innovations and game changers, things that do more then surprise. They change the game of business. We must get ready for high-velocity business.

Not business as usual.

What mistakes will people, 10 to 20 years hence, believe society made in the first decade of the 21st century?

The big mistakes we can see today-being slow to innovate, failing to understand globalisation, the lack of investment in alternative energy, our inability to plan for the future, climate change's impact on business, agile IT that enables customers we don't have, or even think we could have, in 2010.

What are the dangers for business people and entrepreneurs stemming from unexpected trends into the future?

The biggest danger is the likely failure to survive because of a no-growth or low adaptation strategy. Many companies will not change fast enough, many leaders will not innovate or plan for the future and will go away via mergers. The under-estimation of the rate of accelerated change in employees, customers, markets and, of course, technology, will create a lack of competitive advantage.

What specific technology trends (devices, programs, gadgets) will have the most impact over the next five years?

The top gadgets will be connected to cloud computing networks, next every object will have an IP address, the Internet will be always on, everywhere. Content will be dynamic, media-rich and personalised. Infinite petabytes of power will be in every device, every object, both virtual and physical, online and off. Embedded AI, intelligence avatars will guide us, shop for us and organise supply chains for us. All this is coming in the extreme future.

Research shows that Asian IT executives don't see green IT as a priority. How do you see this changing?

I don't see green IT as a real objective but a metaphor for making all business more green. That is the real issue. Customers want to know business is green and this cannot be hype for marketing alone. What you do for pollution controls or alternative energy is a business strategy now affecting reputation and branding, but it must be real and backed up.

What are the three key issues you have been concerned about, and that you have been using as the basis for your advice to businesses and governments?

My top three issues for leaders in government and business to pay attention to are:

1. Develop future readiness. We need leaders who have a vision and plan for the future, not just today or next quarter.

2. Next is to prepare for the global innovation economy that is coming. Invest deeply in innovation that enables your organisation, customers and yourself. Leading-edge innovations from IT, biotech and nanotechnology are all important to know about.

3. Understand how the population is changing and get in synch with the mindset, needs, desires and geography of customers.

What are the big mistakes businesses and governments are making and how should they correct this?

The big mistakes are the lack of future vision, a lack of courage to make the bold decisions to transform a nation or an organisation to prepare them to meet the key challenges of the future that are coming now: energy access, management of climate change, increased global competition, fierce new innovation invention and transforming the education system to make more entrepreneurs and scientists.

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