Positive Disruption using Hard Trends and Soft Trends

Strategies based on uncertainty come with high levels of risk, but strategies based on certainty dramatically reduce risk and produce superior results. This is the difference between Soft Trends and Hard Trends.

If you don’t like a Hard Trend, there isn’t a way for you to change it. However, if you don’t like a Soft Trend, you can easily change it to your advantage. I’ve discussed the three digital accelerators responsible for today’s rate of exponential change, transforming every business process in a short amount of time. This is a Hard Trend, while a Soft Trend would be whether you will transform your business processes.

Knowing where to find certainty makes the future more visible. For example, let’s say you want to start a smart watch company. The smart watch business is already filled with competition; however, by using Hard Trends, you can stack the deck in your favor.

Using the certainty provided by demographics, you can create a successful watch business based on the demographic Hard Trend of aging baby boomers and their parents. Simply design a watch for people who are 70 and older — and keep in mind the fact that it will likely be their children who buy it in an effort to keep their parents healthy and safe.

You could design the watch with sensors to detect blood oxygen levels, blood pressure, pulse, temperature and much more. If the wearer falls, the accelerometer in the watch will activate an alarm and send a text message to his or her caregivers. The watch’s GPS and digital assistant will help a wearer with Alzheimer’s get home — and, more importantly, make it possible for caregivers to find him or her from anywhere.

By using the certainty of Hard Trends, you can see new opportunities to create winning products in industries that may already seem saturated.

Next, let’s look at an example of a technological Hard Trend using speed and bandwidth to grow sales. Domino’s Pizza is using a voice-activated personal assistant to increase the speed and efficiency of ordering pizzas. The app even has a “pizza tracker” that allows you to follow the process of your pizza, from creation to delivery. They’ve taken this technological Hard Trend a step further and have created a partnership with Ford Motor Company, making it possible for you to order your pizzas directly from your Ford! With these simple steps, Domino’s has gone from being just a food company to a technology company.

Today, it seems I hear more and more people complaining about government regulations. But what these individuals are missing is that these same governmental regulations are actually Hard Trends that offer visible opportunities. Take the case of the state of California’s requiring nonfiction reading for first through third graders, with a two-year window to comply. I recently met a savvy entrepreneur who capitalized on this new law. She contacted the largest school districts in the state to see if they were interested in getting help meeting this reading requirement. The districts were very interested, which made it easy for her to secure outside funding to develop and supply the online reading products schools need to comply with the new state law.

This entrepreneur took the Hard Trend of a seemingly impossible-to-navigate governmental regulation burdening teachers and administrators and created a new business opportunity out of it. In part thanks to having guaranteed sales by partnering with the large school districts, she cornered the market and successfully developed and supplied the online reading products by the required deadline.

Remember, strategy based on certainty has low risk and high reward. Base your strategies on certainty, on the known future ( the Hard Trends), as well as on the Soft Trends you can manipulate, and you will build something that will not only survive but even thrive in the years ahead.

Merely hoping that disruption is not on your horizon is not a strategy; it is avoidance. Paying attention to a certainty is a strategy. If you don’t make this perspective shift today, it will be far more difficult to lead from behind tomorrow. As dizzying as the pace of change has been these past few years, that pace will only increase.

It’s not uncommon to limit yourself by focusing on all the things you don’t know and all the things you can’t do.

Instead, create the habit of starting with a list of all the things you do know and all the things you can do! Every time you run into something you aren’t certain about, focus harder on the certainties involved.

Turn Disruption and Change Into Opportunity and Advantage with my latest book The Anticipatory Organization. 

Bitcoin’s Highs and Lows: Where to Next?

Since the critical acclaim of Bitcoin and digital currencies in 2017, there has been a lot of talk about its future. Bitcoin was the first digital currency to attract mainstream attention, and after that, 2018 was less than glamorous, with the price plummeting. Are cryptocurrencies a thing of the past already, or a Hard Trend of the future?

Since the critical acclaim of Bitcoin and digital currencies in 2017, there has been a lot of talk about its future. Bitcoin was the first digital currency to attract mainstream attention, and after that, 2018 was less than glamorous, with the price plummeting.

Are cryptocurrencies a thing of the past already, or a Hard Trend of the future?

A Bitcoin Overview

Cryptocurrency uses peer-to-peer technology, similar to the file-sharing technology of the early 2000s. Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency, it being virtual and decentralized. This means no one is in charge of it and it isn’t backed by the government. Bitcoin’s value is protected only by a distributed network that maintains its ledgers and protects its transactions by means of cryptography.

The concept behind Bitcoin first emerged in 2009 by an anonymous programmer (or programmers) using the pseudonym Satoshi Nakamoto. A single Bitcoin is today valued at $8,204, while the market cap is now at $145.66 billion.

Every Bitcoin is connected to an address and every Bitcoin is sent or received by a digital wallet attached to the address. Names aren’t associated with the transactions, creating a system that is wholly transparent while remaining functionally anonymous.

Bitcoin: A Soft Trend?

What exactly can you do with Bitcoins? It’s digital currency, so saving or spending them seems to be the immediate answer. However, in order to spend them, individuals and, more importantly, businesses must accept your Bitcoins. While a growing number of businesses accept Bitcoin, such as Overstock.com, most popular merchants and service providers including Amazon do not.

Let’s first discuss my Hard Trend Methodology and the differences between Hard Trends and Soft Trends to assess Bitcoin’s longevity.

A Hard Trend is a trend that will happen and is based on measurable, tangible, and fully predictable facts, events, or objects. They are future facts that cannot be changed.

A Soft Trend is a trend that might happen and is based on an assumption that looks valid in the present, and it may be likely to happen, but it is not a future fact. Soft Trends can be changed.

While Bitcoin itself grew in popularity, its future success is still a Soft Trend. During 2017, Bitcoin was treated by many as more of an investment than actual currency and likewise faced backlash when it was used for illegal online transactions.

However, the concept of cryptocurrencies is a Hard Trend, and here’s why:

Cryptocurrency: A Hard Trend

Cryptocurrencies are here to stay, including the underlying technology (blockchain) that enables them to function. Cryptocurrency, as well as blockchain, represents a radically new idea in finance: a decentralized system for exchanging value. Due to its open-source nature and its copyright-free core program, there will always be room for improvement. Programmers around the world have already developed military-grade encryptions and new ways to trade, thus stabilizing the prices.

Cryptocurrencies exist as mere entries in a blockchain-enabled accounting system. That system acts as a transparent public ledger that records transactions among “addresses.” Owning cryptocurrency isn’t analogous to having paper money in your pocket. Instead, it means a personal claim to an address, with your own password, and the right to do with it as you see fit. Over time, this will increasingly disrupt traditional models and global currencies, playing a role in a number of future digital transformations.

The Future of Currency: Digital Payments

Imagine you want new shoes, and your favorite shoe store accepts some form of cryptocurrency. If you don’t already possess cryptocurrency, you purchase some from a crypto-currency kiosk or an online exchange and assign it to your online account, known as a “wallet.”

When paying for your new shoes, you open your “digital wallet,” which is unlocked with passwords and/or biometrics, and the currency network is publicly informed that you’ve transferred $100 worth of cryptocurrency to the store. This happens fast, and there are almost no fees and no personal information divulged. Compare this with the slow debit or credit card counterpart, often with a third party involved. The benefits become more clear.

Other Cryptocurrencies

Bitcoin was the first digital currency, but not the last. A large number of cryptocurrencies now exist, and the list is expanding. Litecoin, for example, was launched back in 2011 on the same blockchain as Bitcoin and was meant to improve it. Ethereum was created in 2015 by Vitalik Buterin and is a blockchain-based platform that can be used for developing decentralized apps and smart contracts. The list of cryptocurrencies is actually quite large and, as I said earlier, growing. And the enabling technology, blockchain, is being applied to a rapidly growing number of industries creating both disruption and new opportunities.

In Conclusion

Bitcoin versus the technology category of cryptocurrency gives us a clear example of the difference between Soft Trends and Hard Trends. Cryptocurrencies will continue to evolve and integrate into our economy and everyday life, as will the enabling blockchain technology, making cryptocurrency a Hard Trend, while the future success of individual cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin is a Soft Trend: It may or may not have a bright future. When you’re able to distinguish between the Soft Trends that might happen and the Hard Trends that will happen, you will dramatically improve your ability to understand and manage risk as you become more anticipatory.

Learn how to accurately manage risk with my latest bestselling book The Anticipatory Organization.

Use Anticipation to Turn Disruption Into Opportunity

For the longest time, cable television was a miraculous technology that not everybody had in their homes, mostly because not everybody could afford it. Now, not everyone has it in their homes because YouTube TV, Sling TV, and other new, emerging technologies have disrupted the broadcast industry. So why didn’t Spectrum think of it first? Why did they become the disrupted and not the disruptor?

For the longest time, cable television was a miraculous technology that not everybody had in their homes, mostly because not everybody could afford it. Now, not everyone has it in their homes because YouTube TV, Sling TV, and other new, emerging technologies have disrupted the broadcast industry. So why didn’t Spectrum think of it first? Why did they become the disrupted and not the disruptor?

At some point, Spectrum and many others established a cash cow — a product or service that generates the majority of your income and profits — and got comfortable building a successful business around it while protecting and defending it. The fact that most of us are all busy, focused, and needing to meet or exceed our quarterly numbers keeps us from looking far enough ahead in our industries to see disruption.

In order to thrive in this time of exponential change, it is imperative to actively scan far outside of your industry looking for new ways to disrupt yourself first. When you discover a new technology or disruptive technology-driven trend, it is important to separate what I call the Hard Trends that will happen from the Soft Trends that might happen.

Anticipating disruption before it happens defines whether you’ll be the disrupter or the disrupted, using predictable Hard Trends to create the new cash cows that will disrupt your competitors and grow your future.

Another reason so many companies fail to see disruption is that the strategy most often invoked is to protect and defend the status quo. The amount of time and money organizations spend protecting and defending their current cash cows is astounding, as in the past, this was a valid strategy producing good results. However, digital disruption is different, as it tends to be game-changing with a low cost of entry.

A key to success for an established company that’s facing early-stage disruption is to adopt a strategy of embrace and extend. Spectrum continues to spend millions on bringing in customers for cable, Internet, and phone packages, mostly campaigning on the grounds that you can’t watch sports without cable. Unfortunately, Spectrum and other cable providers saw Internet TV like YouTube or Sling as a Soft Trend, much like Blockbuster viewed Netflix, that could be protected and defended against. It was definitely a Hard Trend. YouTube and Sling have conquered broadcast sports and are quickly leaving Spectrum in the dust.

The assumption that disruption won’t happen to you and your business is dangerous. Today, there are many industries still ripe for disruption. Taking the time to look outside of your industry at the Hard Trends shaping the future will amaze you. Understanding that digital disruption will happen to you if it has not already happened is important.

Ask yourself if you are looking inside and outside of your business. What are your blind spots? What fundamental assumptions about the “way things will always be” do you operate on? And what are you doing to become your own disruptor?

What is a hotel? What is a taxi? What is a bookstore? Companies like Marriott and Barnes & Noble, and even government agencies like New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, thought they knew the answers to those questions, and Spectrum and other cable providers are currently thinking the same way.

What do you think you know about your industry?

The connectivity of the Internet has changed so many industries. The emergence of Netflix, Hulu, and even Spotify for music has not only revolutionized the entertainment media industry and consumers’ consumption of said media, but it has also closed up some of the loopholes that fostered piracy of content. They are problem solvers, and now they are solving the problem of customers having to pay exorbitant fees to companies like Spectrum and DirecTV to merely cling to one favorite sports channel.

If these cable providers offered a cost-effective alternative with a price and framework similar to YouTube TV’s, they would be using this current disruption to their advantage. But is it too late for them? Are the days of cable as we know it over? Better yet, will Spectrum shrink exponentially until it’s merely an Internet provider? If so, it’d be foolish to ignore the possibility that a more affordable means of accessing the Internet is on the horizon as well.

Letting your ideas about consumers calcify and ceasing adapting or anticipating is when you start inadvertently digging your own grave, no matter how outlandish the disruption may seem. Believing that your business is immune to changing circumstances is the common thread between all disrupted organizations. The fundamental assumptions of so many industries have turned out to be wrong.

You need to become your own disruptor, your own best competition. Don’t get comfortable. Disrupt yourself, or someone else will.

Which technology innovations could be a game-changer for your industry? Learn how to tell with my latest book The Anticipatory Organization.

Augmented Reality Defined with Opportunities

Now that the Three Digital Accelerators have improved enough to enhance smart glasses, consumer use will increase. Imagine walking down a busy street in New York City searching for the perfect slice of pizza. It would benefit you to be wearing AR glasses that can quickly scan the area for a highly recommended restaurant per consumer reviews. Wearing the technology rather than having your eyes divert to your phone is faster and safer.

Several years ago, I started using an augmented reality (AR) app for my smartphone whenever I ventured into the mountains. It was quite useful; I could point my device at any mountain to see information overlaid on the image. When I moved my device around, the information changed to correspond with what I saw.

Google Glass was an early example of AR glasses. However, the Three Digital Accelerators(computing power, digital storage and bandwidth) I first identified in 1983 as the drivers of predictable exponential change were not advanced enough when this product emerged, and miniaturization of components had not reached the level needed to make the glasses look like regular glasses.

While few consumers tried them, Google Glass opened the eyes of entrepreneurs to see future possibilities. Surgeons used Google Glass to watch a patient’s vitals without taking their eyes off the surgical area, warehouse workers used them to locate products needing boxing, and universities used them to enhance student engagement in science lab classes.

The Future of AR

Now that the Three Digital Accelerators have improved enough to enhance smart glasses, consumer use will increase. Imagine walking down a busy street in New York City searching for the perfect slice of pizza. It would benefit you to be wearing AR glasses that can quickly scan the area for a highly recommended restaurant per consumer reviews. Wearing the technology rather than having your eyes divert to your phone is faster and safer.

I envision that the earpiece of your AR glasses will act as a rheostat, allowing you to fade the information in or out. As a keynote speaker, wearing a pair of AR glasses that allow me to see the names of audience members would be helpful, and by adjusting the fade control, turning off the information as needed will be helpful. This does not exist – yet. One of the principles I teach is “If it can be done, it will be done, and if you don’t do it, someone else will.”

It’s clear that practical uses for AR are ripe with opportunity. After acquiring smart glasses lens manufacturer Akonia Holographics in August 2018, Apple has been working on AR products. This positions the company to positively disrupt the industry, along with Microsoft and Facebook, which are working on AR glasses of their own.

Outside the US, Chinese technology giant Huawei is creating its own version of smart glasses. Its latest device, the Mate 20 Pro smartphone, already utilizes augmented reality apps predominately, but the company suggest that AR glasses are definitely in the works.

The company will bring more AR experiences to the Mate 20 Pro so its customers can use AR more widely before releasing its smart glasses. By better perfecting the user experience, they are pre-solving predictable problems, following one of my core principles.

Outside of AR, Huawei is a serious player in consumer electronics. It recently displaced Apple as being the world’s second-largest smartphone maker, expanded its digital products and even ventured into the world of smart speakers.

In comparison with virtual reality (VR), AR is developing faster for several reasons.

1)   VR requires the user to be cut off from the real world in order to be fully immersed in a virtual world,while AR allows the user to see the real world simultaneously.

2)   VR requires time-intensive graphic programming in order to create a photo-realistic 3D world, limiting the ability to attract the talent needed to grow as fast as AR.

3)   VR headsets are cumbersome compared to AR glasses.

Augmented reality represents a new platform for launching game-changing products and services. If you want to profit from this fast-growing industry, focus on being anticipatory by identifying the Hard Trends that are shaping the future and their related opportunities to lead change.

If you would like to learn how to become more anticipatory in the new world of augmented reality, be sure to pick up my latest book The Anticipatory Organization today!

Embracing the Power of Blockchain Technology

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

During the digital transformation, we have witnessed traditional forms of physical media fall out of favor as users abandoned their treasure trove of CDs, DVDs, books, magazines and even photo albums to partake in an entirely clutter-free life. Digitally optimizing our lives has enabled us to remove shelves, cabinets and dust magnets while we get our entertainment fix from the likes of Netflix, Spotify and the endless list of streaming alternatives.

We often forget just how much technology has changed our lives in the last few years. Therefore, it should be no surprise that our love of cold hard cash could be the next twentieth-century casualty to fall by the wayside.

Over in Europe, Denmark and its Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden are leading a charge toward a cashless society that will see the end of tooth fairy payments for children, but will equally wave goodbye to a world of money laundering, fraud and tax evasion. The bonus of replacing scrambling around for loose change for a purchase, or riding public transportation with contactless payment by swiping a card or smartphone, is incredibly appealing for most users.

The concept of handing over a handful of silver coins in exchange for any product or service can feel quite primitive in our modern world dominated by technology. However, contactless and smartphone payments are not the end-all, be-all payment options, as there is another game changer in the form of a cyber currency. But does this technology disruptor have the power to transform our traditional banking system?

Blockchain is the digital ledger software code that powers Bitcoin. As this system has grown in popularity, the CEO of Digital Asset Holdings, Blythe Masters,has her sights set on changing the way banks trade loans and bonds in a way that could dramatically change the way we look at both business and banking. Blythe delivered a massive wake-up call to finance leaders when she compared the influx of changes to the arrival of the internet when she advised, “You should be taking this technology as seriously as you should have been taking the development of the internet in the 1990s. It’s analogous to email for money.” The speed in which technology trends can go viral illustrates how an internet of finance could become a reality sooner rather than later.

The interesting aspect of Bitcoin is the ability to buy and sell without the need for an intermediary. This represents a paradigm shift in the management and structure of the financial services industry. However, adopting innovation and changing entire ecosystems is not something that the notoriously cautious financial industry and affiliated regulation committees are famed for.

Because this technology has the potential to reduce the role banks play in the lives of individuals, it is understandable why financial institutions are skeptical. However, these developments cannot be written off just yet. They could save consumers and the financial industry billions of dollars while also removing their reliance on middlemen to offer a speedier, modern and more efficient banking experience.

The ultimate goal is to move payments globally much faster while simultaneously becoming more transparent and lowering costs. We will likely begin to witness early adopters making waves in the private market before the ever-cautious big players speak of standardization and implementation. However, there are already a few of them dipping their toes into the water.

According to the PwC, there are already over three hundred technology startups developing ideas that will allow blockchain to revolutionize the financial industry. Big players like Visa and Nasdaq are already investing heavily into a blockchain startup, and there are also plans to modernize the London Market. Lloyds is looking to blockchain technology to improve its data access and reduce costs associated with administrative paperwork.

There are daily stories of heavyweights within the financial industry becoming increasingly eager to capture the tamper-proof benefits offered by a future web-based cryptocurrency. Technology leaders such as Microsoft also have thrown their hats into the ring to demonstrate the possibilities that blockchain technology can offer.

There is exciting potential to completely revolutionize the way in which the finance industry works. But in its infancy, many will continue to exercise great caution before rushing into a shiny electronic cash system that is fully peer-to-peer. The future of cash and pockets full of loose change is indeed looking numbered, as many wonder if in just a few years we will be looking back at our quaint primitive payment methods in the same way many do with physical media now.

Cryptocurrencies that thrive in a transparent environment might seem like a foreign concept today, but the rise of blockchain technology is one Hard Trend that will quickly prove to be impossible to ignore.

Finance trends can be anticipated – when you know how to look. The Anticipatory Organization Model has the power to shift an organization’s operating mindset from the default of reacting and responding to changes coming from the outside in, to a place of empowerment by anticipating and shaping the future from the inside out.