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Tuesday
Jun222010

Why the Future Matters

My mother was a futurist.  She read Alvin Toffler, Paul Ehrlich and all the Science Fiction novelists.  Being a female doctor was strange enough, but being a female doctor who was an optimist was way out there.

In the past the future was a luxury.  A nice to have.  Most of us would experience a relatively steady life (aside from the interruptions from annoying things like world wars, genocide, and economic upheaval).  Now it is here.

Even if you don't believe in the singularity (which I mostly do), it's pretty hard to make the case that we aren't experiencing something fundamentally new. 

When Apple unveils its long awaited iPad, which makes the critics yawn, the fanboys swoon, and the consumers flock in April, and then leaps over it with the new phone in June, you have to admit that the future is increasingly here.

The future is built into the present in our industry.  Device manufacturers have to plan and build for factors of two every 18 months.  Software developers have to stay on top of the new devices, while gracefully degrading to the shameful form factors from - egads - 2007.

Anyone who thinks that they can afford to just know what is going on now, is just wrong.  Chances are that you work in an industry which might have been glacial in the past, but has moved onto a hardware/software basis in the past 20 years, and is now subject to Moore's Law.

The music industry, the movie industry, now television, voting, fundraising, political action, newspapers, magazines have all become software.  As an increasingly adaptable media consuming public changes its habits, the industry has to come along, more and more frequently, and more and more fully.

How well are you and your team equipped for dealing with the future right now?  Are you running on the vapors of past glories, surfing on last years wave, or watching and ready to exploit the new hotness (how's that for mixed metaphors). 

I'm having some interesting conversations with business leaders about how they bring the future into their teams every day.  Hopefully I'll have answers to how best to do that in later posts.

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