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A New Way to Work in 2020
Business, as we know it, is coming to a crossroads. Technological advances are happening faster than ever. Today, 10 billion of an estimated 1.5 trillion objects in the world are connected. That means 99% of the physical objects we use on a daily basis are unconnected. By 2020, it’s expected 26 billion items will be connected through technology. Separately, freelance workers (mostly Millennials) are expected to make up 40% of the workforce by 2020. Are we ready for these changes?
There are thousands of professional prognosticators trying to predict what life and business will be like in 2020. Will automated robots instruct driverless cars to pick up packages dropped off by drones in remote areas for people who don’t have time to do anything with them because life is so hectic? That’s the question for our collective Magic 8 Ball.
A few weeks ago I spent several days attending a fantastic conference in New York City hosted by PureMatter and IBM. The theme for the event was #NewWayToWork. I joined 29 fellow “futurists” in guided conversations about Millennials in the workforce, automated systems running much of our daily lives and what business will be like in the next 5-10 years. After meeting some really smart, imaginative people and learning a lot about how technology is developed with consumers and business owners in mind, I came away with three key points for small and midsize business owners with regard to the future.
- Stop worrying about it! If you are a business owner, focusing too much on the future means taking your eyes off the present. It is important to know where you want to go with your company and how you plan on getting there. This process is looking at your business from the clouds. From your 20,000 feet view, you can see well into the future, spying the opportunities and obstacles. However, at some point, you need to get back to earth, delving into the weeds of your business and deal with the daily and weekly issues affecting it. If you become paralyzed by your view of the future and get stuck in the clouds, it will be only a matter of time before the present runs your business into the ground.
- Utilize more of your existing technology. In a number of surveys among business owners, most entrepreneurs admitted to utilizing less than 30% of the existing technology in their companies. It’s akin to buying a big SUV and only using the front two seats. When you invest in technology, commit to learning as much as you can during the onboarding process in order to take advantage of the product’s features. Otherwise, why invest money into new technology that you won’t use.
- Chart where will your company be in 2020. Are your long-term goals still the same? Even if you change the means (new technology and big data) to your end (specific business goal), if your goals haven’t changed then it’s still the same end! Don’t let shiny new bells and whistles distract you from achieving your goals. In my conversations with entrepreneurs since the conference, I’ve asked all of them two critical questions: First, does having access to substantially more information about your customers measurably strengthen your relationship with them? Second, are you willing to commit (and do you have) the necessary resources to meet the requirements for your #NewWayToWork? The answers to these two questions will help guide you to your the appropriate destination in 2020.
Thanks to my friends at PureMatter and IBM I got a glimpse of life and business in the future. To my fellow business owners, plan for your business marketplace to be fundamentally different in five years than it is today, but don’t lose focus on the most basic premise for success: set a goal; achieve a goal. Enjoy the ride.
Photo courtesy Thinkstock