Like many things in life, the answer to the question relies on context. For some like my tradesman father “the future of business is now”, for the Elon Musk’s of the world it might be taking place on Mars. So a panel on the future of business at what is typically perceived as a design conference definitely piqued my interest. I know about Singularity, I have watched Andrew McAffee at TED (above) on the new machine age. So i thought, count me in!
From a variety of backgrounds, including old school business success, new school business success, diversity and design - the panel of Vaughan Rowsell, Cecelia Herbert, Peter Biggs and Dean Poole all grappled with what will the future of business look like? The response? One of exponentials, humanity, creativity, diversity and questioning.
Vaughan Rowsell: The future of business is framed around - “what does this mean for us?”
When Rowsell possets the question to a room of designers, creatives, coders and bright eyed grads at Semi Permanent it leaves the audience silent. I wiggle uncomfortably in my seat, because twice in the months previous I have heard Kaila Colbin speak on all exponentials, futurism and the NZ Singularity U Summit. So whilst the graphic designer next to me had visions of robot man-servants, I was pondering the far reaching impact increased mechanisation could have on the New Zealand economy.
Vaughan has no answers, for him it's about opening up a dialogue for us to think about the reality of business when faced with the reality of the fast paced world of tech. A dialogue that will encourage hard questions, and result in some possibly even harder choices.
Cecelia Herbert: The future of business is diverse
It seems 2016 has been the year for conversations about diversity, even if our boardrooms and workspaces are yet to catch up. However, Cecelia Herbert asks us to look beyond the confines of demographic diversity, and look to craft teams with diverse skills, culture sets, language and knowledge sets. In an increasingly complex world, with new challenges coming to the fore, diverse skill sets within teams will allow business resilience and the ability to face challenges and craft solutions that solve them.
"Without diversity and inclusion we won't be able to face those challenges"
Peter Biggs: The future of business needs to embrace creativity
Peter Briggs opens his talk by drawing a correlation between poetry and technology. Both powerful, aspirational - even inspirational but at the same time utterly terrifying. It is an interesting connection, especially in the face of the more obvious tendency to see technology as emotionless and sterile. In between touching on exponentials, the game changing role that technology will have on employment in the near future and the fear this harbours - Peter paints a future made positive through investing in creativity.
A future in which humanity embraces creativity could manifest in a number of different ways, driven by causation that varies from technology breaking us free from the monotonous necessity of every-day drudgery to live in an enlightened, and creative society. Or, in a somewhat more dystopian bent a world that necessitates the sort of active problem solving and creative approach needed to deal with the problems we face today as a world on an increasing scale. Or maybe we need creativity to fight our own boredom, spawned from a frictionless world?
“tech has democratised creativity, given us hundreds of open-source apps and tools and created a sharing economy that has upskilled hundreds of people. Genuine creativity gives us a new appetite for something we hadn’t previously wanted or could articulate in the past. Netflix rewired our entertainment culture and ushered in the binge-watching phenomenon, Uber made us realise that we always needed cabs on demand and god forbid they were more than three minutes away” - Lara Enoch - “Is technology at odds with creativity”, in the guardian
Dean Poole: The future of business needs to be questioning
The world of innovation can so easily become awash with buzzwords that mean little. Dean believes old adages like “we just need some creative out of the box thinking”, will only get us so far - and he challenges us to embrace new frame works of thinking and problem solving. Outlining his process, a mixture of abstraction and iteration - Dean highlighted how a playful yet rigorous approach can create innovative work.
Curious about understanding, adapting and thriving in an exponentially changing world? Check out the Singularity U NZ Summit happening from the 14th - the 16th of November 2016.