The future of technology

Futurist Chris Riddell is Australia’s authority on technology and emerging trends. He recently revealed insights on the future of technology to a captive audience at the 2015 Future of Work conference in Melbourne.


Digital disruption

Riddell believes that every industry, whether it’s reliant on technology or not, should expect to be disrupted. “You cannot outrun the blinding speed of digital disruption.”

To help come to grips with the changes that are around the corner, Riddell asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of our youngest generation. “Gen Z’s view of the world is entirely different.” It’s a generation that knows no limits to how technology can be used and one that will drive technological change like never before.

He notes the ways in which disruption has changed how we work, as well as how businesses can work. There’s the importance of network acceleration – how, thanks to the power of internet-enabled and mobile technology, “a person can create a business on par with big companies”. But equally important is what he terms “ultra outcomes”, where big businesses shift from selling the technology to selling the outcome. “Why is Google now in the business of cars? Because it answered a mechanical problem with an information solution.”

Innovation leads to disruption

Riddell points out that the simplest of ideas can disrupt everything. He praises his favourite business: the taxi and ridesharing force, Uber. The company showed the taxi industry, globally, that a lack of innovation and a lack of customer focus makes you a big target. “If you don’t innovate and adapt, you will be disrupted.”

Earlier, in a panel discussion at the Future of Work conference, Simon Rossi, GM at Uber Technologies Australia, noted the company’s customer-centric philosophy. “Through technology we are creating the ability for people to transact together. It’s your choice when, where and how you do your work.”

The idea came from the simplest of thoughts. When founders Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp couldn’t get a cab in Paris one evening, they imagined a world where you could order a ride with the press of a button. Today, Uber operates in 55 countries and in over 200 cities. Business Insider estimates that Uber will generate $10 billion in gross revenue by the end of 2015.

The smartwatch effect

Of the Apple Watch, Riddell says it’s a step in the right direction – one that is disrupting the personal space and giving traditional watchmakers food for thought.

Even Switzerland and Germany’s high-end watch-manufacturing industry, one that values mechanical complication over digital sophistication, is not immune to the disruptive force of the smartwatch. Both IWC and Montblanc, makers of fine timepieces, have stepped into the smartwatch game, albeit cautiously, with smart, connected wristbands.

Flexible work and the flexible work environment

Riddell touches on the future of work itself and highlights the startling fact that “40 per cent of Gen Ys think they can earn more freelancing than in a traditional job. They don’t prioritise job security.”

The future worker might be their own corporation, autonomously enabled by technologies and services developed by other single-person corporations. And those workers will rely more on flexible work environments like Canon Australia’s Sydney headquarters, professional workspaces like The Cluster in Melbourne and even the digitally savvy local cafe.

The customer experience will drive technology

With the customer now more powerful than ever, Riddell says business needs a continued push into customer experience. “Good is no longer good enough. Customers have more choice thanks to their phones.”

Importantly, business needs to find new ways to build customer engagement. “Content marketing is absolutely critical. Tailored experiences are how you will win customers.”

Change is accelerating, and if we want to keep up we must embrace Riddell’s VUCA acronym: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Accept change, forget predictability, mash up technologies and find opportunity in chaos.

Article by Chuck Kolyvas

Chuck Kolyvas is an Australian freelance writer and photographer working in content marketing, journalism and copywriting.

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