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A look into the future of business

Article provided by Discovery

Media personality Dion Chang talks about “bombardment stress” which faces not only entrepreneurs, but also ordinary people. It stems from the fact there is just so much information to wade through to navigate the world today.

“We are at the receiving end of bombardment stress. If you look around the world, this is the state of where we really are. In fact, 12 years ago, I started as an information distillation service to address this. Even then, there was just way too much information and nobody was coping. So, distilling was a way to join the dots, to sift things through and put them into digestible pieces of information.”

For a business to keep on the pulse, he says trend-watching and analysis is essential. “We use our own acronym which is TRENDS: technology, retail, state of the economy, the natural world, diplomacy, and social and cultural trends.”

Filtering the noise

From a futuristic point of view, he says businesses can keep up with the pace of technology is to adapt along with it. “Do you have, in senior leadership, a head of machine-learning? Those are the new job titles that are starting to come through. We have to think about how these new changes apply to your company and how can it improve things,” he says.

“I splice things down for people into different types of innovation. Because everyone looks at innovation as a technological matter, and it’s an app or new algorithms, but human beings come in when we look to areas like sustaining innovation, efficiency innovation, market-growing innovation,” says Chang.

“We’re evolving really fast, but I don’t think we understand or can control where we’re evolving to.”  

The evolution of business however, is about how we work.

“I’m looking at strategy and organisational structure, trends and disruption. But generally in business, helping people who are stuck in an Old-World Order. I speak a lot about Old-World Order and New-World Order.  That is about the corporate structure. In really simple terms, it’s hierarchies, silos, agility and don’t get me started on the 40-hour work week that starts at 9am and ends at 5pm. Why is it still relevant in the 21st century? There are a whole lot of all of those elements. Technological change is not going to happen if you don’t restructure.”

The human trend

However, one of the world trends at the moment is of a political nature, says Chang. This innovation affects how we do business today.

 “The overview for 2020 is ‘The Politics of Rage and Polarisation, and the Quest for Middle Ground.’ Politically, environmentally, economically, socially, there’s just rage and polarisation. Think of #metoo and #blacklivesmatter. We are also at a democratic deadlock. And you’ve seen that even in democratic countries, that are specifically two-party states, are just reaching an impasse. They can’t seem to form governments,” says Chang.

“Within innovation is diversity and inclusivity. This is no longer an HR issue. In South Africa, justifiably, we are still fixated on gender and race in terms of diversity. So when you start really going into the identity politics that are starting to hit retail brands and it’s going to come into corporate business. I think people underestimate identity politics,” he says.

“All of those other things are just bubbling under the surface. And people underestimate what it does to workforce dynamics, management skills, communication,” says Chang.

Future fears to conquer

Cyber policing is something that scares him, Chang says. “This is the worry globally. It is scary. The facial recognition, nudge theories, all of those kinds of things are starting to spook people out a bit,” he says.

We are stuck between a rock and a hard place because we have ceded our data for coffee and free Wi Fi. On the one hand we’re getting this conversation about how, in retail, the algorithms will give you a better user experience. It will customise the ads that you see and you’re not going to be bothered by other stuff. But then it’s scary, just how much information ‘they’ have on me. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable about it.”

But Chang says this is balanced by the rise of solutions-based innovation. “This is a leap into the First World show, but there’s a link back to Africa.  Something like passenger drones – the breakthrough technology is vertical take-off and landing. You don’t need a runway; you need a rooftop. So if you start extrapolating that, I’m saying to asset management companies and property owners, your new gold in real estate is on the top of your building.”

“This will scale faster than driverless cars in Africa, because already, you’ve got wealthy businessmen in Lagos taking helicopters because the traffic is just crazy. That excites me because it goes into a different type of technology that people aren’t really talking about because everyone is fixated on AI and machine-learning. For me, this is the future cities of the world – the infrastructure, hyper loops underground. All of this will allow business to rethink how to work and create solutions.”

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