Our scanning focuses on:
Emerging technologies. Technology-led innovations, like quantum computing, blockchains, and artificial intelligence have the potential to upend industries, markets, the workplace and consumer behaviors. Moreover, they are often the source of sustainable competitive advantage.
Sociocultural shifts. The way we find meaning in our lives – at home, work or play-- depends heavily on our values, beliefs, public norms, economics, traditions, art, and lifestyles. Subtle or rapid sociocultural changes create new opportunities for radical innovations to take hold.
Emerging business models. Successful startups find opportunity spaces and drive experimentation with a pace and vision that can prompt dramatic changes in an existing industry or create entirely new industries. More often than not, substantial innovations that drive these new businesses rely on new or existing technologies to satisfy unmet or previously unknown sociocultural needs.
Of course, none of these three drivers is discrete; none operates in a vacuum. Promising new technologies, like facial recognition, can struggle to gain acceptance if sociocultural norms about privacy suddenly shift. And within each domain there are degrees of difference. Not all emerging technologies are of the same magnitude; some add only incremental value (think color TV), while others represent radical breakthroughs (for example, genetic sequencing). The same goes for sociocultural trends and emerging businesses. Some new behaviors are not much more than fads (remember mood rings?), while others represent deeper shifts in how we find and create meaning in our lives (the growth in popularity of meditation). Some new ventures are just a new flavor of an existing business in an already crowded market, while others combine emerging technologies with shifting cultural norms to create novel ways to achieve breakthrough results.
As we scan emerging technologies, sociocultural shifts, and emerging businesses, we look for innovations that either on their own or taken together represent a seismic shift in our world, a breakthrough large enough that it has the potential to change the way we do business and/or improve the standard of living. Quantum computing, for instance, stands alone as it would usher in an entirely new computing paradigm. Machine autonomy, on the other hand, depends on several technologies – 5G, AI, edge computing, advanced sensors – to fully materialize. Similarly, some sociocultural shifts, like the rise of Gen Z, deserve separate treatment whereas others, like the future of trust and privacy involve a wide variety of software, hardware, legal and behavioral developments. How do we know we got it right? Though hard to measure, we generally know we’re on the right track when innovations we wrote about 3-5 years ago are frontpage news today.
John Dalton is VP Innovation, Emerging User Interfaces Research in FCAT