Monday, February 8, 2016

The Future Hunters COO on Preparing for Disruption

The pressure to connect consumers and brands is more meaningful than ever before. Those who can make the connection are thriving and those who cannot are fading away.

That’s why we sat down with Erica Orange, who will be speaking at the upcoming FUSE 2016 conference in Miami this spring. Orange talked to us about the consumer trend of immediacy, what it takes to be a leader who inspires creativity, and how to prepare for disruption.

Here’s what Orange had to say:

IIR: We live in an always-on "now," where the priorities of this moment seem to be everything. What does this emphasis on immediacy mean to marketing and design?

Orange: In recent years, there has been considerable dialogue around attention. The ultimate “alternative currency,” attention is what everyone – marketers, teachers and parents, alike – is fighting for. Attention = greater chance for success. In business terms, attention = more money. Marketers, as sophisticated as they have become, are struggling with this because they simply cannot adapt quickly enough to keep pace with technology.

However, the focus is now shifting from attention to boredom. Boredom studies are a fast-growing, formal field of inquiry. Researchers suggest that boredom has serious consequences for health and productivity. Smartphones and other modern, digital technologies may also change the way consumers experience boredom. Mobile devices offer instant stimulation, but researchers speculate that may leave some even more bored when they are unplugged. As a result, “now” takes on an even greater importance. We will have to actively reimagine, reengineer and redesign both the learning and working environments of the future, as well as our marketing paradigms, to mitigate boredom.

IIR: What does it take to be a leader who inspires creativity and innovation?

Orange: I think it’s less about a leader who inspires creativity and innovation, and more about an environment that organically inspires a culture of innovation. If it’s a tone set from the top, many younger generations may view this as artificial. Rather, they will crave spaces that are designed to allow creativity and innovation to flourish. One way this can be accomplished is through spaces that encourage play. The need for play is a fundamental human instinct that never abandons us throughout our lifespans. New research indicates that whimsical play might be critical for healthy childhood development.

And, many neuroscientific studies have identified play as an adaptation that enabled early humans to become powerful learners and problem-solvers. One of the biggest marketing and design opportunities will be figuring out how to best harness concepts of experiential play. We will continue to see stores become more designed around playful experiences; we will continue to see brands engage young consumers with social media driven events that capitalize on this ethic of play; we will continue to see companies – particularly smaller, more entrepreneurial ones – more fundamentally embed elements of play in the workplace.

IIR: How do you prepare for disruption?

Orange: Change has always been a constant, but it is now happening faster than ever before. The pace of technological innovation around the world is increasing at an exponential rate. This is leading to a world of, what we in our shop call, templosion, in which very large things happen in increasingly compressed amounts of time. The impacts of this acceleration – and digital transformation – will be felt everywhere. Because of the rapid speed of change, preparing for disruption becomes ever more difficult.

Perhaps one of the first ways to prepare ourselves is by training our minds to see more clearly and more objectively. This is hard to do because we begin learning from the time we are born; and perhaps even before. And the older we get, the more knowledge we acquire, and the more mental baggage gets loaded into our consciousness. But all of this learning can make it hard to see objectively into the future, because we are so conditioned by what we already think we know. We call this educated incapacity: knowing so much about what we already know that we are the last to see the future for those fields in which we are the most knowledgeable.

We talk about the need to pretend we are children, or aliens from another planet, in order to see our world for the first time, objectively and with no educated incapacity. Only then can we get the future right. One aspect of educated incapacity is focusing on central/core/accepted assumptions and ignoring many relevant and true things that have been relegated to the background. We call this “figure/ground,” and we have seen remarkable truths and strategies emerge from switching out the two. So in a world where things move at an exponential pace, untrapping your mind can help you better prepare for constant disruption.

Want to hear more from Erica Orange? Join her at FUSE 2016 April 4-6 in Miami. She will be presenting a keynote session, “Are You Prepared for Disruption?” To learn more or to register for the event, click here:

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