The future is happening whether we like it or not. John and Deven discuss why you can’t proof against the future – but you can innovate for it. Here’s how to get prepared.
John: I’ve just gotten back from the Adirondacks on vacation. The sun was out, the lake was sparkling, and I spent my days floating on a raft with a cold beer.
Deven: It’s hot and humid down here in North Carolina. Floating in a lake with a cold one sounds unbelievable right now.
John: It was great. While I was floating on the lake with my beer, I started thinking – cup holders were a brilliant idea. How did they start? Did horse-pulled buggies have them? Did ox-pulled carts have them? Who had the idea of bringing along a beverage for the ride, and then designed beverage spaces for all forms of transport, including inflatable rafts?
Deven: A genius. That’s who.
John: Considering how humans came up with these brilliant innovations, I thought about this idea of “future proof.” There is no such thing. There is no such thing as proofing against the future. All you can do is innovate for it.
Deven: A whole new way of looking at “reading your cups” – or cup holder I should say. Tell me more.
John: It’s another one of these industry buzzwords that we marketers borrow from Wall Street or consulting firms. Things that are proofed means they are guarded; protected. Holding something at bay – keeping something out. You can waterproof. Baby-proof. But you can’t possibly proof against something intangible and unstoppable, which is occurring constantly, even as we speak: the future. You’re a futurist, Deven. You tell me – do you agree with the idea of being future-proof?
Deven: This is getting deep. Are you sure it was just beer in your cup?
John: To quote Homer Simpson: Does whiskey count as beer?
Deven: When it’s summer, everything counts as beer! Anyway, you’re right about the future coming at us, constantly and relentlessly. I’m a believer in Ray Kurzweil’s take on Moore’s Law – the Law of Accelerating Returns. Which says that because technology advancement is exponential, rather than linear, we won’t see 100 years of progress this century; we will see more like 20,000 years of progress. Change will not continue to happen at the pace we’ve seen in the past; the speed of change will advance more rapidly than we can imagine.
John: So to take that idea and distill it down to how it applies in our industry – and the implications it holds for sales and marketing professionals. The truth is, there’s no one thing that can be done to “proof” against this onslaught.
Deven: No. It’s probably wrong to characterize the future as an onslaught, too. It conjures up nailing boards over windows when a Category 5 hurricane is about to hit. That’s the wrong idea.
John: The future isn’t a bogeyman lurking down the road that you install a home security system against. The future is more like a new boss. Or like your kids growing up. It’s happening whether you want it or not, and if you’re flexible and accommodating and open to change, it can be really amazing. This is where adapting to change comes in. A hundred years ago, humans couldn’t stop the advent of the car, so they built things that made the car even better.
Deven: Comfortable seats, smooth transmissions, shocks.
John: And little things too. Like cup holders. How would you describe the way businesses need to prepare for “the future?”
Deven: Innovate for, don’t proof against. I like the sound of that. These are the key questions we ask our clients: Does your business have the tools in place to be able to manage the changes ahead? Have you assessed your martech stack lately? Do you have the right tech in place to meet the needs of all your constituents – your customers, your employees, your shareholders? Are you using data to guide your audience identification, your messaging approach, your product development? Is your brand message unified and leveraging the right channels to reach the right people? Is your business ecosystem flexible enough to accommodate massive market or tech shifts?
John: It’s pretty intense subject matter.
Deven: Yes. And you’d be surprised at how often these questions can’t be answered – it’s scary and people feel like they don’t know enough. But the truth is, you can’t avoid thinking about it. If you do, you will lose. Fear is not your friend in this scenario: action is. Advocate for your business. Get your best people around the table. Invite trusted partners or source new ones to help guide you on the questions you can’t answer.
John: I have a hint on that. Call Overabove.
Deven: Plugging the business. Vacation is definitely over.
John: I’m a business owner. I’m always on the clock. But even for potential partners who are not quite ready for a conversation with us, watch this space. We’ve got some tools on the horizon to help businesses and marketers make sense of all this change, and help innovate for it. Prepare to work with the future – not proof against it.
Deven: Hear, hear.
John: On that note – back to the grind. But it’s still summer. So tonight, my backyard. And a beer in my hand.
Deven: Cheers to that.