Four Reasons Software Suites Enable Device Flexibility And Mobility – Business Intelligence Info

WhenmembersofLowe’sInnovationLabsfirstbegantalkingwiththehomeimprovementretailer’sseniorexecutivesabouthowdisruptivetechnologieswouldaffectthefuture,thepresentationswerewellreceivedbutnothingstuck。

“We’dgiveareallygreatpresentationandeveryonewouldsay,‘Greatjob,’butnothingwouldreallyhappen,”saysAmandaManna,headofnarrativesandpartnershipsforthelab。

TheteamrealizedthatitneededtoditchthePowerPointsandtrysomethingradical。

Theteam’sleader,KyleNel,isabehavioralscientistbytraining。

Heknowspeoplearewiredtoreceivenewinformationbestthroughstories。

Sharingfar-futureconceptsthroughnarrative,hesurmised,couldunlockhiddenpotentialtodrivemeaningfulchange。

SoNelhiredsciencefictionwriterstopenthefutureincomicbookformat,withcharactersandanarrativearcrevealedpanebypane。

Thefirststoryline,writtenseveralyearsbeforeOculusRiftbecameahouseholdname,toldthetaleofacoupleenvisioningtheirkitchenrenovationusingvirtualrealityheadsets。

Thecomicmighthavebeenfunandfanciful,butitsintentwasdeadlyserious。

ItwasavisionofafutureinwhichLowe’smightsolveoneofitslong-standingstruggles:theapproximatelyUS$70billionleftonthetablewhenpeopleareunabletostartahomeimprovementprojectbecausetheycan’tenvisionwhatitwilllooklike。

Whenthelabpresentedleaderswiththefirstcomic,“itwaslikealightbulbwenton,”saysManna。

“Notonlydidtheyimmediatelyunderstandthevalueoftheconcept,theywereconvincedthatifwedidn’tbuildit,someoneelsewould。



Today,Lowe’scustomersinselectstorescanusetheHoloRoomHowTovirtualrealitytooltolearnbasicDIYskillsinaninteractiveandimmersiveenvironment。

Othercomicsfollowedandweregreetedwithsimilarenthusiasm—andinvestment,wherepossible。

Onetellsthestoryofrobotsthathelpcustomersnavigatestores。

ThatcomicspawnedtheLoweBot,whichroamedtheaislesofseveralLowe’sstoresduringapilotprograminCaliforniaandisbeingevaluatedtodeterminenextsteps。

Andthecomicabouttoolsthatcanbe3D-printedinspace?

Lastyear,Lowe’spartneredwithMadeinSpace,whichspecializesinmaking3Dprintersthatcanoperateinzerogravity,toinstallthefirstcommercial3DprinterintheInternationalSpaceStation,whereitwasusedtomaketoolsandpartsforastronauts。

Thecomicsaretheresultofsendingwritersoutonanopen-endedassignment,armedwithtrends,marketresearch,andotherinput,toenvisionwhathomeimprovementplanningmightlooklikeinthefutureorwhattheexperienceofshoppingwillbein10years。

Thewriterscomebackwithseveralpotentialstoryideasinagivenareaandworkcollaborativelywithlabteammemberstorefineitovertime。

TheprocessofworkingwithwritersandbusinesspartnerstodevelopthecomicshelpsthefuturestrategyteamatLowe’s,workingunderchiefdevelopmentofficerRichardD。

Maltsbarger,toinhabitthatfuture。

Theycanimaginehowitmightplayout,whatobstaclesmightsurface,andwhatstepsthecompanywouldneedtotaketobringthatfuturetolife。

Oncethefinalvisionhitsthepage,thelabteamcanclearlyenvisionhowtoworkbackwardtoenabletheinnovation。

Importantly,thenarrativeissharednotonlywithinthecompanybutalsooutintheworld。

Itservesasakindof“batsignal”topotentialtechnologypartnerswithcapabilitiesthatmightberequiredtomakeithappen,saysManna。

“It’sallpartofourstrategyforstakingaclaiminthefuture。



CompanieslikeLowe’sarerealizingthatstandardwaysofplanningforthefuturewon’tgetthemwheretheyneedtogo。

Theproblemwithtraditionalstrategicplanningisthattheapproach,whichdatesbacktothe1950sandhasremainedlargelyunchangedsincethen,isbasedonthecompany’sexistingmission,resources,corecompetencies,andcompetitors。

Yetthefuturerarelylookslikethepast。

What’smore,digitaltechnologyisnowdrivingchangeatexponentialrates。

Companiesmustbeabletoanalyzeandassessthepotentialimpactsofthemanyvariablesatplay,determinethepossiblefuturestheywanttopursue,anddeveloptheagilitytopivotasconditionschangealongtheway。

Thisiswhyplanningmustbecomecompletelyorientedtoward—andsourcedfrom—thefuture,ratherthanfromthepastorthepresent。

“Everywinningstrategyisbasedonacompellinginsight,butmoststrategicplanningoriginatesintoday’smarketplace,whichmeanstheresultingplansareconstrainedtoincrementalinnovation,”saysBobJohansen,distinguishedfellowattheInstitutefortheFuture。

“MostcorporatestrategistsandCEOsarejustinchingtheirwaytothefuture。

”(ReadmorefromBobJohansenintheThinkersstory,“FearFactor。

”)

Inchingforwardwon’tcutitanymore。

HalfoftheSP500organizationswillbereplacedoverthenextdecade,accordingtoresearchcompanyInnosight。

Thereason?

Theycan’tseetheportfolioofpossiblefutures,theycan’tactonthem,orboth。

Indeed,whenSAPconductsfutureplanningworkshopswithclients,wefindthattheyusuallystruggletolookbeyondcurrentmodelsandassumptionsandlackclearideasabouthowtoworktowardradicallydifferentfutures。

Companiesthatwanttoincreasetheirchancesoflong-termsurvivalareincorporatingthreesteps:envisioning,planningfor,andexecutingonpossiblefutures。

Anddoingsoallwhiletheactualfutureisunfoldinginexpectedandunexpectedways。

Thosethatpullitoffarerewarded。

A2017benchmarkingreportfromtheStrategicForesightResearchNetwork(SFRN)revealedthatvigilantcompanies(thosewiththemostmatureprocessesforidentifying,interpreting,andrespondingtofactorsthatinducechange)achieved200%greatermarketcapitalizationgrowthand33%higherprofitabilitythantheaverage,whiletheleastmaturecompaniesexperiencednegativemarket-capgrowthandhad44%lowerprofitability。

LookingOutsidetheMargins

“Mostorganizationslacksufficientcapacitytodetect,interpret,andactonthecriticallyimportantbutweakandambiguoussignalsoffreshthreatsornewopportunitiesthatemergeontheperipheryoftheirusualbusinessenvironment,”writeGeorgeS。

DayandPaulJ。

H。

SchoemakerintheirbookPeripheralVision。

Butthat’sexactlywhereeffectivefutureplanningbegins:examiningwhatishappeningoutsidethemarginsofday-to-daybusinessasusualinordertopeerintothefuture。

Businessleaderswhotakethisapproachunderstandthatdespitetheuncertaintiesofthefuturetherearedriversofchangethatcanbeidentifiedandstudiedandactionsthatcanbetakentobetterpreparefor—andinfluence—howeventsunfold。

Thatstartswithdevelopingforesight,typicallyadecadeout。

Tenyears,mostfutureplannersagree,isthesweetspot。

“Itisfarenoughoutthatitgivesyouabitmorelatitudetocomeupwithabroaderwaytothefuture,allowingfordisruptionandinnovation,”saysBrianDavidJohnson,formerchieffuturistforIntelandcurrentfuturistinresidenceatArizonaStateUniversity’sCenterforScienceandtheImagination。

“Butyoucanstillseethelightfromit。



Theprocessinvolvesgatheringinformationaboutthefactorsandforces—technological,business,sociological,andindustryorecosystemtrends—thatareeffectingchangetoenvisionarangeofpotentialimpacts。

SeeingNewWorlds

Intel,forexample,looksbeyonditsownindustryboundariestoenvisionpossiblefuturedevelopmentsinadjacentbusinessesinthelargerecosystemitoperatesin。

In2008,theIntelLabsteam,ledbyanthropologistGenevieveBell,determinedthattheintroductionofflexibleglassdisplayswouldopenupawholenewcategoryoffoldableconsumerelectronicdevices。

Totakeadvantageofthatadvance,Intelwouldneedtobeabletomakesiliconsmallenoughtofitintosomeimagineddeviceofthefuture。

BythetimeglassmanufacturerCorningunveileditsultra-slim,flexibleglasssurfaceformobiledevices,laptops,televisions,andotherdisplaysofthefuturein2012,Intelhadalreadycreateddesignprototypesandkickeditsdevelopmentintohighergear。

“Becausewehaddonethefuturecasting,wewerealreadyimagininghowpeoplemightuseflexibleglasstocreateconsumerdevices,”saysJohnson。

Becausefutureplanningreliessoheavilyonthequalityoftheinputitreceives,bringinginexpertscanelevatethepractice。

Theycancomefrominsideanorganization,butthemostinfluentialinsightmaycomefromtheoutsideandspanawiderangeofdisciplines,saysSteveBrown,afuturist,consultant,andCEOofBaldFuturist。

comwhoworkedforIntelLabsfrom2007to2016。

Companiesmaylooktosociologistsorbehavioristswhohaveinsightintotheneedsandwantsofpeopleandhowthatinfluencestheiractions。

Someorganizationsbringinanappliedfuturist,skilledatscanningmanydifferentforcesandfactorslikelytocoalesceinimportantways(seeDoYouNeedaFuturist?

)。

DoYouNeedaFuturist?

Mostorganizationsneedanoutsidertohelpenvisiontheirfuture。

Futuristsaregoodatlookingbeyondthebigpicturetothebiggestpicture。

Businessleaderswhowanttobebetterpreparedforanuncertainanddisruptivefuturewillbuildfutureplanningasastrategiccapabilityintotheirorganizationsandcreateanorganizationalculturethatembracestheapproach。

Butworkingwithcrediblefuturists,atleastinthebeginning,canjump-starttheprocess。

“Thepresentcanbesonoisyandbusinessleadersaresoclosetoitthatit’shelpfultoprovideafreshoutside-inpointofview,”saysveteranfuturistBobJohansen。

Toputitsimply,futuristslikeJohansenaregoodatconnectingdots—lotsofthem。

Theylookbeyondtheboundariesofasinglecompanyorevenanindustry,incorporatingintotheirworksocialscience,technicalresearch,culturalmovements,economicdata,trends,andtheinputofotherexperts。

Theycanalsofactorintheculturalhistoryofthespecificcompanywithwhomthey’reworking,saysBrianDavidJohnson,futuristinresidenceatArizonaStateUniversity’sCenterforScienceandtheImagination。

“Theselargecorporationshaveprocessesandproceduresinplace—typicallyforgoodreasons,”Johnsonexplains。

“Butallofthosereasonshaveeverythingtodowiththepastandnothingtodowiththefuture。

Lookingatthatisimportantsoyoucanunderstandtheinertiathatyouneedtoovercome。



Onethingthebestfuturistswillsaytheycan’tdo:predictthefuture。

That’snotthepoint。

“Thefuturepunishescertainty,”Johansensays,“butitrewardsclarity。

”Themethodsfuturistsemployaredesignedtotriggerdiscussionsandconsiderationsofpossibilitiescorporateleadersmightnototherwiseconsider。

Youdon’tevennecessarilyhavetobuyintoalltheforesightthatresults,saysJohansen。

Manyleadersdon’t。

“Everyforecastisdebatable,”Johansensays。

“Foresightisawaytoprovokeinsight,evenifyoudon’tbelieveit。

Thevalueisinlettingyourselfbeprovoked。



Externalexpertinputservesseveralpurposes。

Itbringseveryoneuptoacommonlevelofknowledge。

Itcanstimulateandshiftthethinkingofparticipantsbyintroducingthemtonewinformationorideas。

Anditcanchallengethestatusquobyillustratinghowpeopleandorganizationsindifferentsectorsareharnessingemergingtrends。

Thegoalisnottocomeupwithonedefinitivefuturebutmultiplepossibilities—positiveandnegative—alongwithalistofthelikelyobstaclesoraccelerantsthatcouldsurfaceontheroadahead。

Theresult:increasedclarity—ratherthancertainty—inthefaceoftheunknownthatenablesbusinessdecisionmakerstoexecuteandrefinebusinessplansandstrategyovertime。

PlottingtheStepsAlongtheWay

Comingupwithpotentialtrendsisanimportantfirststepinfuturing,butevenmorecriticalisfiguringoutwhatstepsneedtobetakenalongtheway:eightyearsfromnow,fouryearsfromnow,twoyearsfromnow,andnow。

Considerationsincludetechnologiestodevelop,infrastructuretodeploy,talenttohire,partnershipstoforge,andacquisitionstomake。

Withoutthisvitalstep,saysBrown,everybodygoesbacktotheirdayjobsandthenewthinkinggeneratedbyfutureplanningiswasted。

Towork,thefuturestepsmustbetangible,concrete,andactionable。

Organizationsmustbuildaroadmapforthedesiredfuturestatethatanticipatesbothdevelopmentsanddetours,completewithsignalsthatwillletthemknowifthey’reheadedintherightdirection。

Brownworkswithcorporateleaderstosetindicatorflagstolookoutforonthewaytotheanticipatedfuture。

“Ifweseetheseflaggedeventsoccurringintheecosystem,theyhelptoconfirmthestrengthofourhypothesisthataparticularimaginedfutureislikelytooccur,”heexplains。

Forexample,oneofBrown’sclientsenvisionedtwopotentialfutures:oneinwhichgesturalinterfacestookholdandanotherinwhichvoicecontroldominated。

Theteamsetaflagtolookoutforearlyexamplesoftheinterfacesthatemergedinareassuchashomeappliancesandautomobiles。

“OnceyousawnotjustAmazonEchobutalsoGoogleHomeandothercopycatspeakers,itwouldincreaseyourconfidencethatyouweremovingmoretowardsavoice-firsteraratherthanagesture-firstera,”Brownsays。

“Itdoesn’tmeanthatgesturewon’thappen,butit’slesslikelytobethepredominantmodalityforcommunication。



HowtoKeepExperimentsfromBeingStifled

Onceorganizationshaveavisionforthefuture,makingitarealityrequirestestingideasinthemarketplaceandthenscalingthemacrosstheenterprise。

“There’sahugechangepieceinvolved,”saysFrankDiana,futuristandglobalconsultantwithTataConsultancyServices,“andthat’stheplacewheremostbusinesseswillfalldown。



Manylargefirmshaveforgottenwhatit’sliketoexperimentinseveralnewmarketsonasmallscaletodeterminewhatwillstickandwhatwon’t,saysRenéRohrbeck,professorofstrategyattheAarhusSchoolofBusinessandSocialSciences。

Companiesmustbeabletofailquickly,bringthelessonslearnedbackin,adapt,andtryagain。

Lowe’sincreasesitschancesofsuccessbycreatingmasternarrativesacrossanumberofdifferentareasatonce,suchasrobotics,mixed-realitytools,on-demandmanufacturing,sustainability,andstartupacceleration。

Thelabmapscomponentsofeachbyexpectedtimelines:short,medium,andlongterm。

“Fromthere,we’lltrytobuildasmanyofthemasquicklyaswecan,”saysManna。

“Andwe’realwayslookingforthatnextsuiteofthingsthatweshouldbeworkingon。

”Alongthewaycertaininnovations,liketheHoloRoomHow-To,becomedevelopedenoughtointegrateintothelargerbusinessaspartofthecorestrategy。

OnewayLowe’sacceleratestheprocessofdecidingwhatisreadytoscaleisbybeingopenaboutitsnascentplanswiththeworld。

“Inthepast,Lowe’swouldnevertalkaboutprojectsthatweren’tatscale,”saysManna。

Nowthecompanyissharingitsfutureplanswiththemediaand,asaresult,attractingpartnersthatcanjump-starttheirrealization。

SeeingaLowe’scomicaboutemployeeexoskeletons,forexample,ledVirginiaTechengineeringprofessorAlanAsbecktotheretailer。

Hehelpeddevelopaprototypeforathree-monthpilotwithstockemployeesataChristiansburg,Virginia,store。

Thehigh-techsuitmakesiteasiertomoveheavyobjects。

EmployeestryingoutthesuitsarealsofittedwithanEEGheadsetthatthelabincorporatesintoallitspilotstogaugeunstated,subconsciousreactions。

Thatdirectfeedbackontheuserexperiencehelpsthecompanyrefineitsinnovationsovertime。

MaketheFuturePartoftheCulture

Regardlessofwhetheralltheelementsofitsmasternarrativescometopass,Lowe’shasalreadyaccomplishedsomethingimportant:Ithasembeddedfuturethinkingintothecultureofthecompany。

CompanieslikeLowe’sconstantlyscantheenvironmentformeaningfuleconomic,technology,andculturalchangesthatcouldimpactitsfutureassessmentsandplans。

“Theycanregularlydrawonfutureplanningtoanswerchallenges,”saysRohrbeck。

“Thisintensive,ongoing,agilestrategizingisonlypossiblebecausethey’vedonetheirhomeworkupfrontandtheykeepitupdated。



It’simpossibletopredictwhat’sgoingtohappeninthefuture,butcompaniescanhelptoshapeit,saysMannaofLowe’s。

“It’sreallyaboutpaintingapictureofapreferredfuturestatethatwecantrytoachievewhilebeingflexibleandcapableofchangeaswelearnthingsalongtheway。

”D!

AbouttheAuthors

DanWellersisGlobalLead,DigitalFutures,atSAP。

KaiGoerlichisChiefFuturistatSAP’sInnovationCenterNetwork。

StephanieOverbyisaBoston-basedbusinessandtechnologyjournalist。

ReadmorethoughtprovokingarticlesinthelatestissueoftheDigitalistMagazine,ExecutiveQuarterly。

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