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Trends15 March 2018

Amy Webb on trends: “do a good job of listening”

Social trend

Amy Webb a futurist, author and professor. She is a professor of strategic foresight at the NYU Stern School of Business and the Founder of the Future Today Institute, a leading future forecasting and strategy firm that researches technology and answers “What’s the future of X?” for a global client base.

Adam Przeździęk: Why trendwatching is so important for brands today? Why companies should care about signals and trends?

Amy Webb: So companies have to think about what’s coming next and every company has to pay attention to technology. And that’s because every company in some way uses technology. And the problem is that if you’re not paying attention, not just to your own industry but across lots of different areas then you wind up getting disrupted. And a good clear example of this is Blackberry. At one point Blackberry had the number one product it was so popular that here in the United States people called it “CrackBerry”. And they have most of the market share, it was insanely popular product and it never occurred to them that the technology might change and that we may someday have a phone that actually is not a phone but it’s like entertainment device. Once that happen and we don’t need buttons but they couldn’t conceived of this and because weren’t paying attention to the signals they missed that. And now Blackerry’s market share is zero. So you have to pay attention and that’s a great example of what happens when you don’t.

Adam Przeździęk: And what is the biggest problem for companies when we’re talking about this trendwatching process?

Amy Webb: This is an easy answer. The biggest problem is that companies, they give the job of trendwatching to just one or two people when actually everybody in company should be doing this, they should all be paying attention. If you assign that job just to one or two people, they are only thinking about the trends. But if you have somebody who is also in marketing and somebody who is also in human resources, and somebody who is processing the payroll and accounting they see the world differently. So it’s better to have everybody using the tools of futurists and watching trends because in that way you get everybody’s perspective.

Adam Przeździęk: Because they’ve got the same level of knowledge, right?

Amy Webb: Yeah, that’s right. That’s good point too.

Adam Przeździęk: So how companies should prepare for this? What is essential to make this process right?

Amy Webb: So I described this in my book and I think that the most important thing is that you have to do it all the time. So the other thing, it’s our secret, I’ll tell you a secret. Everybody always wants to know what’s the future and the answer is : “I don’t know”, because we’re not robots carrying out somebody else’s software programme and only one thing can happen next. So there is no way to know exactly what the future is going to be. So instead the best what we can do is to pay attention to collect data and constantly think about it in different ways and keep an open mind.

Adam Przeździęk: And which mega trend, in your opinion, will be important for companies in many industries?

Amy Webb: Everybody is thinking about Artificial Intelligence. AI is big, but I think more immediately Voice. We are talking to machines and pretty soon machines will talk to us. And then pretty soon after that machines will talk to each other. So all of these different technologies and platforms, they are all now voice activated and voice driven. So definitely our voice is the next killer technology.

Adam Przeździęk: Could you give one piece of advice for Polish companies in terms of trendwatching?

Amy Webb: My advice is: “do a good job of listening”. So a lot of time when people want to think about the future and this is in Poland and this is everywhere they tend just to know what do young people do about it but the future is not just the young people it is all of us. So do a better job of listening. We do some work with Polish companies and there is a lot of talent in Warsaw and in Cracow , so the other thing I would say is don’t lose sight of all the talent and all those exciting things that are happening inside Poland.

Adam Przeździęk: Thank you very much.

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