A Window into the Future

Don’t predict the future, control it.

What music comes to mind when you try on a pair of jeans? “Does the music in your head” somehow change when you try on a different brand?

The next time you try on a piece of jewelry, pay very close attention to the emotional experiences that run through your mind as you touch and feel the jewelry.

Even though clothing and jewelry are inanimate objects, they are closely tied to an emotional response, and brand managers and marketers are working overtime to figure out ways to cultivate and amplify that emotional connection.

One example is a company called Gomus, a Brazilian-based music branding company that embeds RFID tags in clothing. When a customer tries on a piece of clothing in the changing room, music will automatically come on that matches the feel or mood of the clothing.

This is just one example of how retail stores of the future are attempting to differentiate themselves from the online world.

Much like walking through a dark forest with a flashlight, the future comes into focus only a short distance in front of us. So how do we create a brighter flashlight?

We are a backward-looking society in that we’ve all experienced the past. As we look around we see evidence of the past all around us. The past is very knowable, yet we spend the rest of our lives in the future.

Until now, the science of the future has been very murky. The tools are primitive and the unknowns continue to dominate the path ahead.

Scenario planning, trend analysis and cyclical patterns are all tiny braille bumps on the looming mosaic that constitutes our future.

The future will happen with or without us, whether or not we decide to participate. It follows then, if your vision or project is not aligned to the needs and desires of the future-the future will kill it.

Examples of technologies that are approaching the graveyard are:

Checking industry:

The demise of the handwritten check is drawing near. Within ten years the appearance of a paper check will be quite rare.

Fax Machines:

Museum curators are already dusting off a spot for this former staple of the business world.

Traditional AM-FM Radio:

With commercial free satellite, the success of iPods, and internet radio, traditional radio has lost ground quickly.

Broadcast Television:

Internet TV is gaining ground. Netflix and Hulu are causing traditional broadcast TV to dwindle.


As we move further into the wireless age, more and more of our wired infrastructure will begin to disappear.

First TV lines, then telephone lines and eventually the power lines will disappear.

Our visions drive us forward. Great visions have a way of infecting nearly everything we touch. As ideas flow into a crowded room, they create wants, needs and desires, and these in turn create markets.

The vision is only the beginning!

A great vision begins more as an art form than a science, later adding details, attributes and emotional commitment as it progresses along on the path to realism.

An example of more than a vision is Apple. They have trained their staff what they can and can’t say. An apple employee will not say “unfortunately” instead they will say “as it turns out”. They have created their model with radical thinking. Other retailers have tried to emulate without the same success.

Apple broke all the rules. As consumers we lined up at cash registers. Apple checks you out from a phone with the employee standing next to you. They position their products like pieces of sculpture or art. They broke all the paradigms of a computer store and changed a service/retail model forever.

Lessons from the ancient world

During the time of the Greek civilization, several mathematicians became famous for their work. People like Pythagoras and Archimedes brought new elements of thinking to society.

A few generations later, the Romans became the dominant society on Earth but mathematicians were notably absent.

Fast forward to today, we have learned that people are social creatures by nature, and while the online world has dealt a temporary setback to traditional retailers, a new breed of services and retail stores with hyper individualized experiences is starting to enter the marketplace.

When it comes to retail, consumers are in control. They vote with their dollar when they decide what to buy, where to buy, when to buy, and how much they’re willing to pay.

In our connected world, where information is fluid and transparent, retailers must become actively engaged in the global conversation.

Touch Marketing

The salon of the future will have a “Virtual Personal Stylist”. A retail and service salon experience that will bring personalization and customization of shopping to consumers, will be the salons that will continue to flourish in the future. Using a tablet or mobile device, shoppers will be able to access their avatar via a full-sized networked mirror where they can see color, cut, make-up and products without a physical application. They will get product knowledge, watch videos of the products being applied and have their buying profile updated in real time.

Additional innovations in technology will bring wireless hairdryers, and USB ports will be normal throughout the salon.

Ralph Lauren has unveiled a new form of window shopping. You can browse merchandise on a 78″ touchscreen directly from the window. With this concept, future salons exterior windows, will have embedded glass walls with interactive digital touch screens in them, meaning salons will effectively be open 24 hours a day for products and gifts.

Imagine walking into a retail store in 2015 and having an interaction with products, moving from shelf to shelf and being advised by the products themselves and the retail management network. When you walk in, you are offered products that fit your shopping profile. It’s being streamed to you or you can scan it on your I phone.

The flow of globalization

We are in the global stage of human evolution.

We have gone from family to tribe to village to city to nations. Our only remaining boundaries for now are planetary. So we are at the global stage of human evolution. And that means that globalization is no longer just an economic term. It is a term that will cover all aspects of human society for the next 15 years.

At the same time we are getting organized to the flow of the individual.

One of the reasons this has happened is because over the past 30 years there has been an explosion of choice. When that happens, something very significant occurs. The power moves from the producer to the consumer, from the institution to the individual. If you grew up 30 years ago, you probably had two newspapers and three television stations. That was your choice for information. Now if you are connected to the internet, it’s unlimited choice. Unlimited choice brings all the power to the individual.

The single most powerful force on the planet today is the accelerated electronic connectedness of humanity.

Predictions based on history are futile!

The greatest minds in telephony when asked in 2007 ” when will we reach 3 billion cellphones subscribers?” all said 2010. Why did they say that? Because it took 20 years to go from the first cell phone subscriber to a billion. Then it took four years to go from one to two billion. That’s 500% increase in growth! They thought “that’s so fast, we will project that linearly into the future” and they came up with 2010.

Nobody should ever buy into the mistake of taking the overwhelming rapid range of change that is occurring right now, and project it linearly into the future.

What happened was we crossed 3 billion subscribers by the end of the first quarter of 2008. Today we are 5.25 billion cell phone subscribers.

The cellphone has brought economic leverage to the third world for the first time, because it gives everybody a chance to connect.

If I was to call somebody in the next room, it would take about 5 seconds. If I was to call China, because of the delay of the satellite it would take 7 seconds.           The difference between 10 feet and 12,000 miles is 2 seconds. There is now no time or distance limiting human communication.

We want things to happen quicker!

The web has made us incredibly impatient. We lose 30% of people in the first 15 seconds. That’s 15 seconds of answering the phone, waiting for a web page to load, or a credit card transaction to be accepted.

Consumer values and perceptions are changing. It’s not just about high quality. It’s also about speed and convenience.

Have you ever pressed the button to engage an elevator when the light for the button is already illuminated? After it has been pressed once and is lit, not even Bill Gates can make it come faster.

The human driving force!

The most powerful word that will drive the future, is a word that we see running through the history of Europe for the last 1000 years. This is a word that drove the Roman Empire before that. It is a word that controls the result of every political election. It is a word that creates tribes and also terrorists. This word of course is emotion. It’s about family, teams, belonging. It’s about the passion we have, the culture we enjoy, and the relationships we wish for. Passion and emotion are at the heart of the past and will control the future.


All of us are futurists, because all of us know that the future depends on us. You can see the future as something that happens to you, or you can see the future as something that we all can create.

We have to ensure that we are not following marketing and management theories that come from the 20th century. If you want to stay current in the next ten years, we have to change our form, appearance, nature, character and thinking. This is the first decade of 21st century thought, because we have barreled into the 21st century with legacy thinking of the 20th century. You see it in Washington, that’s why it’s not working. Most people drive down the freeway of life, looking through the rear view mirror.

Our challenge is to contribute in building a better world. Everyday matters, everyday counts. As we connect with the passions people have, as we understand the emotions they have, as we understand what it is that drives them and what matters to them, then we will find ways to make markets, improve their world and improve our business.

Consciously live your vision with the awareness that your unconscious history may undermine your intent!