Technology and impatience

Girl magazine iPadWe are losing patience with technology and it is putting pressure on companies to provide services at record speeds, yet it seems as though it is never enough.

I always felt one of the greatest wonders of technological change was how organisations put services into the hands of the customer and we marvelled at this as great service – for example, checking ourselves in for a flight and printing our own boarding passes. They made us do the work and we thanked them for it.

I use a 10-second video to make my case of a young girl less than a year old who is given a copy of a magazine to keep her occupied. Within moments she is swiping the magazine because she thinks it operates like an iPad and when the magazine shows no sign of responding, the girl is crawling away having lost interest.

Today, the tables are turning on technology and we are becoming ever more unsatisfied – I thought technology was supposed to be the next utility but when Wifi was down for a while at the house this weekend it caused much consternation and one of kids declared they “couldn’t function.” When networks are down, we criticise the technology, when a store runs out of a product, we complain that they haven’t mastered big data and when online banking is not available we ask why they couldn’t update their systems when we are asleep.

I have seen “internet”, “wifi” and “phone battery” all added to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and it isn’t always in jest. It is one thing technology progressing leaps and bounds to give us new ways of working and shopping and learning – but can it match our ever-increasing standards?

A return to simplicity

Technology is no silver bullet and better technology doesn’t automatically mean better education.TV

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that across more than 40 countries, students who use computers for their schoolwork, but for a slightly lower-than-average amount of time, do better than average on reading exams. Students who spend an above-average amount of time on computers at school scored lower than students who don’t use computers at all. Like everything, how helpful technology is depends on how you use it.

It has also been highlighted how job roles that require empathy, for example doctors and nurses, are better positioned to withstand the changes that technology is sweeping along its path, and with 36% of the workforce in jobs that have a high risk of being automated by 2030 (via a study by Oxford University) we need to de-mystify the confusion and complexity that technology often brings to our day-to-day existence.

This leads me to a paragraph of hope – during my recent travels I read about the declining numbers of subscribers to cable television. Executives in the industry believe “skinny bundles” might be one solution to halt this decline, and I picked up on that – wouldn’t skinny everything help us in the long term? Offer consumers a menu of options and let us piece together only what suits us – move us from mass production to mass customisation.

That way we get what we need, we are satisfied with what we pay, and we don’t spend hours filtering through unnecessary material. Or maybe we just shut down the TV networks at 10:30pm and ask society to read a book for 30 minutes before falling asleep.


Think Different

Think Different

‘Think Different’ was created in 1997 to promote Apple, and what a company and set of products they turned out to be. The statement itself is never more relevant than today.

Because of the pace that everybody works, always connected, never stopping for breath, technology has allowed some companies to become lazy, their staff converted to order processors and order takers. But that doesn’t last forever.

How about using technology to buy time in our schedule, to give us 10% of our week back to think differently, strategically and long-term? Forrester tell us that 95% of data within organisations remains untapped and 40% of companies don’t target specific customer or visitor segments. How about using technology to create market segments of one and treating customers (and learners) as individuals with unique needs.

Segmentation is a key step toward meeting customers’ demands for more relevant experiences, and by 2018, Gartner predicts that organisations that excel in personalisation will outsell those that don’t by 20%. It’s the treadmill scenario – in this rapidly changing world, if you standstill, you go backwards.

The world’s new language

felix-baumgartner-standing-in-his-capsule-about-to-diveMore often than not, the most powerful messages are the shortest.

I think this is one of the statements of the year: the world’s language isn’t English or Chinese. It’s pictorial. It’s how the next gen engage, it’s how they communicate, it’s how they understand.

It’s time we learned to speak it.

Internet of Things

smart-pill-technology-marketThe Consumer Electronics Show this month has led to lots of press on the internet of things, where every gadget and device is connected to the internet, and sending and receiving data.

Samsung’s Chief Executive pledged that every single piece of Samsung hardware will be connected to the internet within five years, including TVs and domestic appliances. This is very much science fact, not science fiction, and while many will yell is there no privacy left in this world, I would like to suggest my top 3, the first of which I presented for the first time back in 2008:

1. The kitchen – imagine if you are on a controlled diet and you decide to break the rules and cook a ready-meal in the microwave followed by sticky-toffee pudding. Your fridge sensors notice what has been removed from the freezer compartment and the microwave tells your fridge you are about to cook that high-fat, sugar-and-salt meal. The microwave declines your request. You are the system administrator of your kitchen, so you override the microwave and instruct it to cook the food. Your microwave obeys, but it then notifies the fridge, which as the central processing unit of the kitchen sends a note to your doctor and your insurance company, and now you are no longer insured.

2. Fruit & Vegetables – coming from a background of food, I always wondered why my father had to keep a box of fruit that was always bruised or damaged to one side. With RFID chips on the cartons plus tighter planning with transportation schedules, more fruit makes it to its destination intact and bad apples cannot influence the rest of the crate.

3. The health pill – my favourite of the three, which is a tiny pill that you take weekly that monitors your wellbeing and sends a weekly status check to your doctor over wifi via a traffic light system. If it displays green you continue as normal; amber and you are sent a text message asking you to make an appointment; if the doctor receives a red signal, you are called within the hour. Preventative action can save the health services millions and technology must be used to help facilitate change.

I am all for the internet of things because the possibilities are endless, I just think they could have found a more interesting name for it.

FORO and other matters

Maslow_2014_revised.jpgThe Christmas holidays are just about at an end and people are turning their attentions to the new year and their work. Gifts have been exchanged, clementines and chocolate devoured and the gyms have started their annual marketing campaigns to entice more of us to exercise, if only for two weeks in January.

As the new year rolls in we have other matters to deal with – new terms and skills, even new anxieties. The future of work may well mean no CVs, no performance reviews, no permanence. Business Intelligence might easily be shared in real time via wearable devices, mobile certainly could dominate everything and many business services crowdsourced.

Topping the LinkedIn hottest skills list last year was ‘Statistical Analysis and Data Mining’ and the most popular coding language was ‘Python.’ All of this was new to the average person and business.

The standout thing for me was the sudden loss of time yet it became even more important to assign time to networking, speaking to and meeting important customers and key influencers in our lives. The image above right made me chuckle – I enjoyed my Business Administration classes back in the 80s the most, and no class was complete without Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, but last year we added 3 new rows to life’s necessities.

The biggest change of all this year will be ‘FORO’ – the fear of running out, and so our briefcases and satchels will need to include even more cables and devices.

A Happy New Year to everyone.

My Future

When asked “How will the future look?” I replied “Differently.” How different I am not entirely sure, but I can confidently say a few things.

  1. The future will include an increasing amount of measurement, ie. using data to crunch our business information. The more we know about our customers, the more we can target them with products they need and want. Why try and sell a lawn mower to a lady who lives on the 10th floor of an apartment block? A scatter-gun approach of marketing to thousands in the hope that five people buy is history. The future market segment is “One.” One person. One set of preferences.
  2. In future, customers will help set strategy arm-in-arm with CEOs. Technology allows us to be better listeners and social media especially is redefining the way business interacts with both customers and employees.
  3. The future is up to me. I will assemble my own degree from the thousands of excellent courses available, most of them free of charge. I will learn when I want, on the device I choose. I will learn on my iPhone on the train to work, on an iPad in the evening and on the laptop at the weekend. Each will know exactly where I left off and at which point to pick up.
  4. In future I will have more control. When I my car breaks down, I will access the ‘Parts’ section of my car’s website, download a new component, print it on my 3D printer, and fit it by watching and listening to instructions. In 60 minutes I am on the road.
  5. Almost everything in future will be connected. When I brush my teeth twice a day for two minutes, my toothbrush will know. I will be given recognition and offered an ‘m-voucher’ via my mobile for toothpaste the moment I walk into a supermarket – my reward is a free tube of toothpaste by a leading brand and a discount towards my next dental check due in 4 weeks.

People will not allow technology to watch us all day, every day, but these things are happening. It will be interesting to see how they play out.

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,, 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.

Technology 1-0 Humans

In the spirit of the European Championships, my headline represents a football scoreline. Yes, technology has edged ahead in the customer service stakes. Here are two examples.

As my picture shows, the Heathrow car park-to-terminal electric pod is in full swing. It is wonderful. Park your car, go to pod A or B and follow the simplest of instructions to transport yourself to the terminal in exactly 5 minutes. No waiting for buses or queues and every detail has been accounted for in the interaction with the passenger.

On the return journey from my trip, at the terminal in Dubai in the middle of the night, I approached a very quiet Emirates check-in area with no other people around. I checked myself in, printed my boarding card then my luggage tag, weighed my bag, saw it shuffle back and forth as its weight was verified, and finally watched it disappear down the conveyor belt. I marvelled at how easy this was. In fact, I came home and shared how excellent the customer service experience was and yet there was not a human being in sight. I even created a slide for my presentation around this story. This is technology at its best and the place we are heading.

Was I pleased with my experiences because there were no other people around? I don’t think so. I was satisfied because they were easy, I didn’t have to wait and there was no negotiation involved. In a world where there is too much to absorb in too little time, this is what we look for in our daily interactions. What does this mean for us humans? We really have to find other ways to add value.

An i-something or other

I spent the last couple of weeks travelling to Johannesburg and Dubai, meeting my team, talking to clients and helping with deals for some of our exciting prospects.

As ever, I learned some new things – particularly how de rigueur it is to carry several mobile phones. I had to chuckle, people in restaurants obsessively checking all their phones to see if anybody had called or sent a text message – it was most entertaining.  I was asked – and frowned at condescendingly once – why I didn’t possess a Blackberry and only carry an iPhone, as if I were a handbag without a Chanel label.

So, in response, how about we all become i-people with an i-life, devoting ourselves to one company who sponsor our existence? We could live in an i-house or i-pad (get it?), drive a shared or borrowed i-car (recall collaborative consumption), wear an i–suit with our devices embedded into the fabric, have an i-pet and even an i-wife. No, I will not discuss this last one, it will only lead me into trouble!

Throughout my travels the best thing of all was still meeting new people face to face, finding a connection and common talking points and discussing future alliances and partnerships. However cool these devices might be, I don’t ever wish my telephone to be a status symbol; it is a facilitation device, a communications tool, not a pair of Jimmy Choo’s! Forgive my dwelling on fashion, but my apprenticeship was at Versace and I do like a nice suit.