A view on the latest trends

Annual Trends

I gathered a lot of useful information from my travels this summer and particularly liked a story around global trends. I have mashed some of this with my own thoughts on how technology is at the heart of change:

  1. Rising demand for resources as the world’s population grows – the large emerging markets will drive this need, and as well as staple food and clothing, they will insist on smartphones, online shopping and the fastest connectivity.
  2. A growing urban middle-class in emerging economies – this huge group of people knows what it wants and it buys the latest trends; as the generations grow up, technology will very much be a part of their day-to-day existence.
  3. The population in those economies will experience lifestyle changes – lifestyle means quality of life and this implies disposable income to buy and consume – technology sits at the centre of this movement, be it phones and gadgetry or purchasing via smartphones.
  4. More online shopping everywhere – my key message here is where in the past people went through a process before purchasing something, now we are online all the time, so in effect we are always shopping, especially via mobiles.
  5. The percentage of the world’s population that is over 60 will be a third bigger by 2050 than it is today – let’s not wait for 2050; right now, people over 60 know what they want, they purchase leisure-related goods and services like never before, and they have the cash – this demographic needs to be targeted starting now.

 I like to stay grounded, so as I lead a global project for the company looking to the future, I have started by looking back, as I think the future will be best served by a mix of old-fashioned values and people interacting, combined with the evolution and speed that technology brings.

Nowhere to hide

Technology is headlining so much of the evolution we are seeing in business, but for the consumer, digital has changed things even more drastically. Our phone is the passport to almost everything, yet even this device will disappear into our clothing and our cars as technologies such as Microsoft’s PixelSense come to the fore.

The phone is not just what keeps us in touch, it gives us the truth. Advertisers can no longer hide. Just a few years ago, the only way to differentiate between brands of television, sportswear or fast-moving consumer goods was to fall for the adverts coming at us from all angles (and I do like ‘Mad Men’). Today, you get the real views of millions of people and the opinions of those closest to you by turning to one of the social tools on your handheld. A recent survey said that 14% of customers trust advertisers, whereas 78% trust their peer reviews – which is why TripAdvisor, Hotels.com, Amazon and eBay are so powerful. The meaningful data that we can access at the touch of a button means a product whose message is overhyped can be exposed within moments and ridiculed to a joke in an afternoon in tweetland.

The future is small

I first starting reading the Sunday Times in the early 1980s and I was fascinated by the big-company stories and headlines around the industrialists of the era. But one story that stuck with me was about shopkeepers. My father was a shopkeeper and my family own a wonderful vintage tea room today; Britain grew up as a nation of shopkeepers and although the front pages remain the same, I believe that our the future is once again small (nearly 70% of GDP in the US and 60% in the UK is made up of consumer spending).

Technology has spawned a new type of entrepreneur which allows people to work not 9-5, but 5-9 in the evening, having a side business that runs online and with an appearance that can compare with any giant out there. The little guy can compete. My point however, is that the great next idea will most likely not stem from the giant corporatioons, because these organisations are focused more on satisfying their shareholders, their green footprint and their internal systems. Most innovation, great ideas and next-gen creativity come from small groups, startups and the individual – a youngster in a corner of the south west of England or two best mates from college on the west coast of the US. We must give them a platform for dialogue and exchange – give them an opportunity to shine, because I firmly believe these youngsters, digital natives as they are, are full of ideas that may materialise into something great. The future for me is all about small countries, small organisations and individuals.

My view of the role of the big company matches something Rajesh Chandy of the Deloitte Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship referenced last week – that arguably the biggest responsibility of the CEO of these big firms is to assign time to think about the future. My personal view is that these CEOs will help all parties if they organise think-tanks, workshops and invitations to young people willing to talk ideas, and give them a chance.

Inspiration with Zenos

As a young man growing up, I followed many sports stars – Kevin Keegan, Kenny Dalgish, Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, but my sporting inspiration was Zinedine Zidane. He was so naturally gifted and so intelligent with the ball. This week, I found inspiration not with footballers, but at youngsters no more than 18 years old who won the apprentice of the year awards at the Zenos annual conference, where I also had the pleasure of presenting my view on the ‘Evolution of IT, Jobs and Learning’.

Zenos is a quite amazing company. 400 staff, mostly young and very dynamic, but what really stands out is the camaraderie, the culture and the ethos that drives this team of people led by Jason Moss and his management team. They live to help the next generation acquire the skills that will set them on the road to a new chapter in their lives, a career IT.

I selected Ashleigh Carr as the Zenos-CompTIA apprentice of the year.  He is 18 years-old. He has Crohn’s disease. Our CompTIA A+ certification helped him find himself and a job at the Royal Bank of Scotland in IT Support. Most of 400+ audience were in tears as I presented the award to him (and we gave Ashleigh a 3D LED TV as a cool gift to go along with his award). We must never forget, this is why we exist, helping Ashleigh and others like him to get a job and make progress in the world of technology.

I will always love football, basketball and most other sports, and I will always enjoy watching the best talent grace our stadia. But this week has taught me that our inspiration comes from these youngsters, who overcome adversity to achieve results and aim high, and get the jobs they apply for. If that is our future, there is hope. Presenting at Zenos this week, and handing out this award, was my finest hour at CompTIA. Thank you Jason, Claire, Nicky, Richard and all the fantastic Zenos team.

It’s down to the people again

I was closely watching the exchange in the US over the debt issues and President Obama supported the Gang of Six plan to reduce trillions of debt over 10 years. In a news debate on TV, the panelists claimed it was led by somebody with whom the President had a close relationship over the years. No surprise.

Now apply this to technology and to every walk of life. Despite the new platforms and tools now at our disposal, doesn’t business still get done when people make a connection with each other and find a situation that benefits both parties? Hasn’t it always been the case, and will it not always be that way? I think so.

I do enjoy the US – such good service and huge choice of everything you care to buy. Little wonder that so much innovation stems from there. It seems to have this knack of combining ideas and people to create some of the most innovative and forward thinking applications of technology.

Look at the image above. In a Brookstone store, I found this cushion; it was a remote control embedded within the softest material. Tacky in some respects, ingenious in others, but it sells! The US has such a willingness to try things, to embrace failure as a step in the right direction; as one leading author claimed, “By failing in a project or task, that is one less mistake that can’t happen next time.”

I enjoyed being a part of the Service 800 event where the theme was excelling in customer service. I had a chance to present to the group and engaged in some interesting conversations with individuals from 3M, GE Healthcare, Lexmark, Siemens and others, as well as some quite brilliant personalities from CompuCom. Some of these great people were kind enough to share a testimonial for me (see the tab above). Europe can benefit so much by watching and learning from these service experts.


Attended a few good events recently; presented at the British Telecom apprentice managers event in Gatwick, Brokerbin’s UK partner meeting in Manchester and the ElementK Learning Practitioners seminar in St Paul’s. Some excellent new contacts through those, and enjoyed them all. By far, this was the best thing I heard: “The best things in life aren’t things.”

The future and convenience

How we consume is changing very quickly. In our non-stop world, with barely time to think, let alone face-to-face interaction, there is an opportunity. Digital content is expected for free in the modern internet era, and yet there is a lot of cash in the consumer pocket up for grabs – how, by enhancing our personal convenience. Save us time, make difficult choices easy, give us what we want, when and where we want it, and fast – make our lives easy and you could reap some real rewards.

It Can Happen

This is exactly what the web is all about. A producer from Uruguay who uploaded a short film to YouTube in November has been offered an £18.6m contract to make a Hollywood film. Fede Alvarez’s short film “Ataque de Panico” (Panic Attack) featured giant robots invading and destroying Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. It is 4 mins 48 seconds long and was made on a budget of £186, but has attracted more than 1.5 million views on YouTube. Within days he was contacted by Hollywood studios and is now planning the new movie – you see, it can happen.

Tweet Now, Tweet Later

Just back from the windy city, one of my favourite places, Chicago. Favourite not for its weather or the sightseeing, but the people – large portions of food, good attitude, great people. Enjoy reading US papers every day for snippets of news – learnt that 5 million tweets are now recorded daily and bloggers post 900,000 new articles every day. That is enough to fill a broadsheet for nearly 20 years! Also discovered TweetLater, which allows you to schedule tweets to post when you are offline. The wonder of information.