Monday, March 4, 2013

Live from FEI EMEA 2013: Macro Trends: Building Blocks for Improvisation

Presentation by Heather Moore @hmoore Strategy & Future Vision, Vodaphone Group R&D.

You can tell when at the end of the presentation if it was a great presentation, you just want to know more.

The talk has some deep under streams to think about longer term, longer term here defined as longer as the next 3 years. The talk was in essence a story about the resilience of your company in highly unstable periods of history, and new ways of thinking and new tools to deal with the unpredictable.

“Disruption is the new normal” was almost the opening one-line by Heather Moore. She referred to Steward Brand’s diagram on “rates of change” impacting fashion, commerce, infra, governance, etc

Social, political, economic events are pulled along by the exponential technology evolution. Everything is connected in very complex and fast feedback loops. Increase in resilience is affected positively by increase in flexibility and innovation. New skills are needed for addressing these new challenges. Some skills mentioned were “network smarts” and “improvisation.

The core of Heather’s talk was about improvisation, performing without a script, but that does not mean without preparation. Behaviors associated with improvisation include the following capabilities:
  • Listen; open to change
  • Agree and say “yes”
  • Not only say”yes”, but say “yes, AND…”
  • Play and experiment with what is there, for example with macro
  • Appreciate there are no mistakes, only opportunities
Heather then went into a long list of macro-trends (large movements that are driving change, I sometimes call them the “ under streams”), some of them obvious to professionals in the innovation space, others less obvious. Let me focus on some less obvious ones, or on the specific twist that Heather gave to them:
  • World increasingly filled with Digital things and “Digital Vintage creates giant digital archive, everything becomes digital”
  • 3D printing is about replicating cherished objects
  • Digital Patina, grows with you, digital equivalent of sock-monkey, reflects what you are
  • Digital Objectified, the making physical of internet memes, and give real access to them; this is about shared values and needs to belong to the same group
  • Movement towards the “WE”, creating some collective energy
  • Alternative economies becoming a lit more legitimate, with more reliance on transparency and resource matching (new models for supply/demand matching, at micro level and ad-hoc)
  • Changes in production processors and actors: the trend towards “small batch” anything, hyper-personal, against mass production. Obvious examples were Nike, but also “Local Motors” where car designs are uploaded, voted upon, produced. This is about “Sales on demand”, Completely open- sourced. The equipment stays the same, the process changes
  • The electronic me, reshaping the individuals: the importance of creating your own branding, so you can target your expertise to small niche audiences. This almost smells like the “long tail of demand”
Heather closed her presentations with a recommendation to “Create space for improvisation and collaboration skills and culture”

There was also a quite interesting Q&A part to this session, with most questions about how Vodaphone uses this knowledge in concrete product launches.  Obviously, Heather could not speak beyond her confidentiality policies, but she alluded to the fact that some products are in development, and we will see 2-3 products based on this research in the next year or two.

 I would have loved a bigger deep dive on the other resilience related themes and skills.

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