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Are You Ready for the Future, Really?

Your favourite film was released when you were 15. The same goes for books. Games. Films. Well, statistically, anyway.

It’s been found that, if you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember things like Biff from Back to the Future, but won’t remember last summer’s smash hit.

Why?

Because change scares us.

Intuitively, we know that fearing change makes no sense. (I mean, who wants to go back to the days of dial-up?) And yet we need to be dragged towards it.

Despite how obvious this all sounds, it’s becoming an issue for businesses over a certain size threshold. Invariably, they become more resistant to switching course. And yet, ambitious startups are circling all the time, all after the same prize.

This is the slowest rate of change we’re ever going to experience. If this strikes fear, then good. Because that probably means that it’s time to incite change within your business, rather than react to it.

 

The worst-case scenario?

Apple, Amazon, Google, Monzo – all the likely characters – are consumer technology companies that have raised the bar when it comes to what we expect from our interactions with brands. People now judge your business against the very best experiences in every industry, across every sector. Traditional businesses are expected to compete against digitally disruptive newcomers; a local mini-cab firm’s user experience is now being measured against Uber’s, which in turn is being evaluated against Amazon’s. And so on.

As the pace of change accelerates, no business can afford to coast. New technologies such as AI, blockchain and voice recognition are here to stay and will actively reshape how individual markets operate. Not only that, they’ll remould what it means to be a creative, future-focused business.

The worst-case scenario, therefore, is that your business sees all of this happening but chooses to stay in its safe-zone, sticking to what’s known and what has worked before. Eventually (and likely soon) this will spell chaos as the blending of new technology and creativity continues to change the business landscape beyond recognition.

 

The best-case scenario?

Pulling back from potential scaremongering, let’s look at it another way: we live in a time of unparalleled opportunity. Technology has the capacity to deliver amazing experiences to people around the world. It provides opportunities that go beyond just business, making a brand’s offering a deeply personal and creatively inspiring relationship.

This can change how we live, how we work, how we entertain and even how we find purpose in the world.

Ultimately, we must learn that there’s nothing to fear. The more tech we can use effectively, the more problems we can solve for clients. And we don’t have to fear tech taking jobs either, because there will always be work as long as there are challenges that need solving.

All of this is easy to say, but less easy to do today – as we found out in our own research.

 

Our combined reality

We asked 250 senior business decision-makers from global brands how confident they are in their organisations’ ability to adapt to change.

Over a quarter (28%) indicated they are not future-focused, resulting in a state of inertia. More than two-thirds (70%) refuse to sacrifice short-term benefits for long-term gains.

One thing stood out, however, and that’s the need for digital transformation: 99% of our sample agreed that data is crucial to future success and, as such, digital renovation on the inside is key.

Putting data at the centre of a business doesn’t happen overnight. It entails a fundamental shift in the way a business thinks. It can mean integrating new software, automating processes or changing working methodologies for the entire organisation.

The problem is, established organisations often think in silos. This is inefficient. Slow. The outputs lack ambition, vision, scale, culture. In theory, new technology could disrupt this unhelpful behaviour. But if the thinking doesn’t change, tech will only add another layer of complexity rendering the business even less agile.

Digital transformation requires everyone’s buy-in; every department needs to understand how they benefit, every colleague needs to know why their ways of working need to change.

The “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality doesn’t wash. You should be breaking stuff. Regularly.

 

How to transform

Transformation is a big word. Reaching it takes courage and some big leaps.

First, you must get clear. Your vision has to cut across the organisation, convincing colleagues that change is – honestly – a good thing. You’ll face resistance – particularly when dealing with teams that have become institutionalised, managers who’ve spent years carving empires.

The secret to winning them over is simple: get clear on what everyone will all get out of it.

The UK Government delivered this masterclass in 2012, embarking on its Government Digital Strategy (GDS). The mandate was simple enough that everyone got it: to ‘redesign its digital services so well that people prefer to use them’. No arguments there.

The next factors are closely linked: performance and speed, enabling all staff to access the data they need, whenever they need it. This frees teams up to spend more time focusing on what they’re best at. Crucially, they’ll be able to deliver in hours, days and weeks rather than weeks, months and years.

Breaking through silos means enabling better communication. Transparency is a pivotal transformative leap. It reveals surprising, valuable insights, driving experience through avenues previously unconsidered when that data was the ‘property’ of a particular department. Transformation is not a consideration only when the big disposable budgets present themselves, as you’ll be waiting forever. It’s the groundwork for organisations to become the disruptors, rather than disrupted – and therefore future-ready.

It’s about having the digital, strategic, creative and cultural confidence to make the most of the rapid changes we’re experiencing. Because the output isn’t built solely around short-term metrics, it requires a complete change in mindset. Bravery, and not just on the part of business leaders. Everyone needs to believe in the future of your business.

Radiohead may have released Pablo Honey when you were 15, but they went on to give you Kid A. In the context of one of my favourite bands, this shows us why experimentation is essential.

 

Pip Hulbert, CEO

Wunderman

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