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A Peek at the Future of Customer Underst anding

The future is a black hole

What are you expecting in 2013? This is a question we should all be asking of both ourselves and our businesses this week. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to consider what we need to do, to be better prepared for the opportunities and risks that will present themselves in the future.

For this reason, and to also announce an exciting addition to the C3Centricity partnership, I decided to ask this of one of THE most inspirational experts in the area of future scenario building, SciFutures‘s Ari Popper. Ari is the co-founder and President of the company that helps organisations to consider the future in a different and more rewarding way. You can learn more about them on the C3Centricity partner page HERE.

As we finalised our partnership, I took the chance to interview Ari on the changes that he saw for those of us working to underst and and better satisfy the customer of today and tomorrow.

Denyse: Ari, thanks for agreeing to this interview. As we start the New Year, I’d like to begin by getting your thoughts on what you see as the three biggest changes / trends that will likely take place in 2013?

 Ari: Thanks Denyse. My pleasure.

It may sound like hyperbole but this is one of the most exciting times to be alive. Humanity is experiencing a significant step change in ‘life as we know it’ driven by a number of powerful trends. In 2013, these trends will continue to gather momentum and embed even deeper in all aspects of everyday life. Different foresight professionals emphasize different trends but this step change is mostly driven by rapid advancements in emerging technology, the democratization of knowledge and our increasingly networked society.

We have huge social, economic and environmental challenges and they certainly won’t disappear in 2013 but we also have the most incredible tools at our disposal for dealing with these challenges. We are living in a time where our options for creating positive transformations are immense and these options are increasing rapidly. I think of it using an artist’s pallet metaphor with color availability representing potential creative expression. Perhaps as recently as 25 years ago we had only 20 colors to work with. Today, thanks to these big transformational trends, we have hundreds or perhaps thous ands of colors to work with.

For example, the average person in Africa has access to the same amount of information as president Clinton had 20 years ago thanks to that smart device in her pocket. You can participate in free online courses offered by universities like Harvard, Stamford and MIT. [One of these courses on Computer Science had over 100,000 people register from countries all over the world!] You can have your own genome sequenced in 24 hours for less than $600. The list goes on and on and on. What I am interested in and what we do at SciFutures is to help our clients underst and that the greatest tool we have is our imaginations. Truly now, more than ever, we are living in a time where what we can imagine, we can create.

Denyse: WOW Ari, that suggests that there are huge opportunities for anyone willing to take them. I am a great believer of Quantum physics and the power of thought. Can you give any examples of what we may see?

Ari: SciFutures recently sponsored the Extreme Futurist Festival in LA. It was two days of ‘mind blowing’ glimpses from the future. My overall impression was that we have the technical knowhow to solve significant problems, even those as pervasive as world hunger. For example, Douglas Mallette, a NASA scientist who worked on technical solutions to feed astronauts living in the first Mars colony, has applied this expertise to ending world hunger. Simply put, it is a sustainable, low cost solution to create a closed loop aquaponic fish farm that can feed the hungry indefinitely with very low expertise and maintenance.

Daniel Epstein who founded the Unreasonable Institute challenges us to be ‘unreasonable’ in order make significant progress. His ‘unreasonableness’ has facilitated a low cost and extremely viable way to cure blindness permanently using fairly simple technology applied in a sublimely creative way. It is clear to me that we are not lacking in the ‘how’, we are lacking in belief and imagination.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. Let’s come back down to the more mundane world of market research, insight and the information business. What do you see as the three biggest challenges for those working in the profession in the coming year?

Ari: The market research industry has taken a well deserved battering over the past few years. I think of it as the inevitable decline of old models and tools that were great in their time but lacking in relevance and applicability in today’s world (see above). You can see it in the fact that most of the big research companies struggled to grow organically and also in the plethora of disruptive and creative research boutiques tat have popped up.

Significant advances in neuroscience, behavioral economics and the impact of emerging technologies like mobile have disrupted the industry resulting in a few big losers and a few new winners. It is a classic case of creative destruction. I think the MR industry is on the verge of a Cambrian explosion of tools, techniques, insights and smart and nimble entrepreneurs or entrepreneurially minded companies like Google (Google Surveys) are going to do extremely well. 2013 will see a continuation of this trend. The end benefit will mean a massive improvement in the quality and actionability of insights for end clients and the death of old fashioned research tools, techniques and sadly, companies that cannot change.

Denyse: Thanks Ari. I have to say that (sadly) I agree with you. It is why I started C3Centricity and have chosen just a few, very unique partners such as SciFutures to work with. It’s time that the profession woke up before it gets killed in its sleep! Tell me what SciFutures, the company you founded in early 2012, offers that is different from others working in the futures arena and how you can specifically support businesses in meeting the challenges we already talked about.

Ari: SciFutures was founded to use the power of creativity and imagination to help companies disrupt routine and outmoded thinking to create genuinely disruptive ways of operating. We are unique in that we use science fiction narratives as a device to engage our clients and transform complex data into engaging and inspiring scenarios. We like to say ‘we make the geek speak’. We were going to be a creative strategic consulting company but what has really surprised me is the fact that our clients are asking for help in implementing these radical strategies. We now have formed strategic partnerships with technology experts and are in the process of envisioning and also building radical inventions. This could only happen in today’s world since, as Warren Ellis says, “we are living the science fiction condition”.

Denyse: You’re really touching on an important change needed there Ari. How we all have to become storytellers and to share our knowledge and underst anding through stories, in order to get our messages across within the organisation. Finally Ari, if you could give just one piece of advice to all those in marketing and customer underst anding for the coming twelve months, what would it be?

Ari: Well, you have to embrace the times. Don’t fight progress and don’t put your head in the s and – it isn’t going away. Ensure that some risky or unreasonable activity is a part of your plans for 2013 as it is better to disrupt than to be disrupted.

Denyse: Great point Ari. So in summary 2013 is going to be the year of disruption, and to paraphrase Darwin “It is not the strongest that will survive, but those most responsive to change.” Thanks a lot for your time Ari. I am sure I can speak for all my readers in saying that you have certainly opened our minds with your ideas  and thoughts about the future.

Thank you!

SciFutures is one of C3Centricity’s unique and carefully selected partners. If you would like to be better prepared for possible future opportunities and risks, why not contact us? You will be amazed by the inspiration and actionability of what we bring. Also check our website to review some of our solutions: https://www.c3centricity.com/home/vision

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