Top trends for business success in 2018 from Frances Valintine

Frances Valintine (CNZM) is a thought-leader in emerging and disruptive technologies and has 20 years’ experience across business, technology and education. In 2013, Frances founded The Mind Lab by Unitec, and in 2016, she launched Tech Futures Lab. She has worked with and advised 250+ organisations from every sector in New Zealand, from agriculture to finance, retail to law, and has gained a reputation as an expert in leading change initiatives.

As 2018 begins in earnest, now is the time to look back at the year that was and where we’re headed. As we enter a new year this is our chance to put a stake in the ground and invest in lifelong learning to stay relevant, with a commitment to our individual future relevance.

We sat down with Frances Valintine, the founder of The Mind Lab by Unitec and Tech Futures Lab, and recently appointed companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, to discuss the most significant technology and business trends that will shape 2018 and the years to come.

1. Embracing lifelong learning will be the difference between success and failure

“In 2018 people will finally wake up to the idea that there is no stigma around lifelong learning and embrace the endless ways we now have of obtaining knowledge - from online content, to meetups, to mentoring,” she says.

Frances says, “The sooner we commit to this idea that we are evolving and co-evolving with smarter machines, the sooner we will understand that there is an expiry date on what we know. The real value you need to bring in 2018 is new knowledge, the ability to adapt, and the ability to understand the contemporary world.

“We still perpetuate the idea that the longer we have been working you are the more skills and knowledge you have. This view or retained wisdom will no longer carry us forward for our entire career, it needs constant re-investment of time and commitment. If we take a ‘developed nation’ view of the world we miss the uprising of a new generation living in developing nations, those who have leap-frogged the traditional education system to embrace online learning to develop highly technical digital skills.

"You only need to look at the diversity of developers and designers in tech companies to appreciate that the old perception of the us (wealthy Western nations) and them (the developing world) has been replaced by a global market of smart, highly skilled individuals who are shaping the new world.

“In New Zealand we also need to challenge the very culture of big business in terms of the hierarchical structures and roles that still exist. We need to embrace the proven benefits true diversity brings, and we need to value people for what they know and what they bring to the company, not how many years they have been in the job,” she says.

2. Companies will be more open to playing nice with each other

According to Frances, “In New Zealand our competitors are incredibly important to us when it comes to scale and impact, and now business leaders have a maturing understanding of collaboration. Collaboration, not competition, drives success, especially as we expand into offshore markets and take on global competitors.”

As a result of this, in 2018 Frances hopes we will see more partnerships and joint ventures as well as businesses integrating their back-end systems through API’s to enable more conversations and greater efficiencies, she says. This will allow New Zealand companies to approach offshore markets as a united front.

“We are realising just how small the world has become and how interconnected we all are. There is no my turf - your turf anymore,” Frances says.

3. Equality, especially between men and women, will stay in the spotlight

There’s no doubt 2017 was a significant year for rethinking equality across all areas. With the #MeToo campaign, Time’s Up movement, and Iceland’s commitment to becoming the first country to make it illegal to pay men more than women, more than ever there is a spotlight on gender equality issues.

Frances says, “This year all businesses will be acutely conscious of the potential issues around pay parity, promotion inequality or sexism in the workplace. Companies will become a lot more accountable for behaviours that may have been tolerated in the past.

“I look back at my career and I see a generational shift that has already occurred between males and females. This is now supercharged to be addressed properly and sincerely. There will come a time when people will say, “There was a time when you tolerated that?”,” she says.

4. Traceability will become even more important for many sectors

“The ability to understand the origins of products from various standpoints, including health and wellbeing, sustainability, environmental impact and workers rights, will become more significant,” Frances says.

“Fairness has been adopted by a whole generation of young people, and as generation Z becomes the largest market in the world, with significant buying power, we will see a shift in how we sell and buy products.”

Blockchain is defined by Don and Alex Tapscott, in the book Blockchain Revolution, as “An incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.” According to Frances, this is a good example of how technology is impacting and advancing traceability and accountability.

She says, “We’re so much more accountable now. Bold marketing claims will no longer be accepted at face value, consumers will recognise hype for what it really is. This accountability will stem through into organisations which will have to look at their own fairness, practices and transparency.”

5. Keyboards will start to disappear as voice takes over

According to Frances, voice will gradually become the main form of interaction that people have with their devices, and will be used for a variety of purposes, from search to shopping online.

“Home and work voice-activated devices build on the natural way we communicate and create a much more human, and a much more organic, way to interact with devices. Conversation is much more human than typing or texting, and natural language processing advances is allowing computers to ‘think’ about what you are saying,” Frances says.

She says, “The shift to voice changes the way we think about and find out about organisations and platforms. It changes the way developers will build interfaces and platforms, and it changes the types of skill sets we will recruit for. Search engine optimisation, customer service, fulfillment, logistics, fulfillment - all of these areas will be impacted.”

6. We’re no longer a throwaway society, and buying practices reflect this

The collaborative economy, the sharing and utilisation of resources, will come into play even more in 2018, Frances says.

“With the rise of the collaborative economy we're putting more value on the sharing and utilisation of resources and moving away from the high consumer, throwaway society. There is greater demand on building longer lasting products that can be utilised by a number of people. Through different means, such as online platforms and applications, we are sharing resources across a greater number of people.

"Companies in almost any sector should be thinking about how to build longevity into their products. Cheapest will no longer be a competitive advantage - it’ll be about quality and the reputation for long lasting products that have less impact on society and the environment.”

Frances says, “The challenge this year will be to improve access to products and resources, and the winners will be those who are able to remove access constraints to make these services easy as possible. And this can be anything - it could be an app for a rental car company that enables you to pick up your car with one click, a 3D printing company on demand, or a shared electric bike service.”

7. Long term investments and thoughtful spending will mean success in 2018

According to Frances, 2018 will mark a shift in how companies invest and spend their money, moving from a ‘quick wins’ approach to taking a long term view on investments and committing to long-term business sustainability through ongoing investment.

“The dial is shifting for investors looking for fast dividends and a quick return on investments, to investing with a longer horizon that may extend to include intergenerational benefits over many years. We also need to invest significantly in cultural change, which is where a company’s success will often be defined.

"While some companies will still operate in legacy thinking, with multi-million dollar fitouts, companies will start to gravitate towards the start-up mentality of lean budgets, shared offices, and agile approaches. The success of businesses in the Silicon Valley is because they have side-stepped legacy system mentality - they are collaborative across all levels and invest in people and the work experience. They invest in the right people and the company culture, not CAPEX, fancy cars and big buildings. Companies will increasingly see how productivity is intrinsically tied to how people feel about their jobs and the way the company values them,” Frances says.

2018: time to consciously shift from automatic to manual

On how we need to approach 2018, Frances says, “This year we need to get our mind out of automatic mode and shift into manual. In automatic mode the fallback position is “let’s cut costs and make more money”. Any organisation that doesn’t make a concerted and determined effort to invest and adopt new business models and practices will find themselves completely redundant."

"Success will come from strong leadership, bold actions and informed decisions throughout the organisation. In manual mode, businesses constantly review every part of their business to ensure it is still ‘fit for purpose’. In automatic mode we can easily fall asleep at the wheel through being lulled into a false sense of security, before we crash spectacularly into irrelevancy," she says.

We cover key topics around the future of business in our Master of Applied Practice - Technological Futures, with Frances Valintine and others as our key experts in this space. To find out more click here or get in touch to come in and see us in person - coffee or wine on us!


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