What Will the Successful Business Look Like in 20 Years?

Jun 29, 2017
8 Min Read
What Will the Successful Business Look Like in 20 Years?

What Will the Successful Business Look Like in 20 Years?


Predicting what comes next is what Australian technology and innovation futurist, Mike Walsh, does best. A keynote speaker at Quick Base Empower 2017, he gave attendees a glimpse of a future where delivering the perfect, customized experience will be paramount to business success.

“Customers will be coming to your companies and brands expecting that you are going to be part of a solution in which their entire universe is somehow configured perfectly for them,” says Walsh, who is also author of The Dictionary of Dangerous Ideas and Founder and CEO of Tomorrow, a global consultancy firm and consumer innovation research lab.


An immersive and curated experience

Everything we do today leaves our digital fingerprints behind, whether it’s watching television, searching for something online, sharing a photo, or even ordering food. All that data is being collected and leveraged by an increasing number of organizations to formulate algorithms, which are at the core of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation.

This is the magic (and potentially the mischief) behind business operations of the future. It’s also the conduit for developing predictive, personalized products and services that will drive what Walsh calls “the digital orchestration of daily life”.  

Walsh envisions voice, instead of screens, to be the predominant way people will connect with such products and platforms in the future. Today that’s Siri and Cortana or smart home solutions like Google Home.

Our senses—vision, touch, and hearing—will be augmented by computer vision, deep learning algorithms, sensors, and other technologies that will increasingly interpret the world around us. This is already becoming a reality. Consider Amazon’s prototype “grab and go” convenience store with no checkout lines; L'Oréal’s new body sensor that monitors UV exposure, or even self-driving cars.


Get set for the algorithmic age

According to Walsh, companies and organizations best positioned for future success are the ones that pay close attention to those who will work and live in the future.

“Kids growing up with artificial intelligence will be faster, smarter, and will expect authentic data-driven experiences,” explains Walsh. “That’s a wake-up call for all of us to reinvent, reimagine, and redesign not just our products and services but our approach to work itself.”

With this new age already at our doorsteps, Walsh spoke about how companies can drive the business transformations needed to remain relevant and competitive for decades to come. Below are the highlights.


On people

  • Talk with your own kids and your youngest employees. Ask about their personal experiences with connected devices and machine learning. Consider how their insights and ideas might shape the way you do business and the things you sell.
  • It’s tempting to think you will just need more analysts and AI experts in this emerging era of data and automation. But there is another type of employee you will want on your team. Just as vital to the survival of your business, says Walsh, are “People energized by the unknown…who can exist in a maelstrom of uncertainty and find a solution”.
  • High-velocity decision-making will also be important in this fast and changing world. It may be best to act on 70% of the data rather than wait until it’s all in; but be ready to quickly alter course if needed.


On tools and processes

  • Cultivate a culture where creativity, innovation, and agile thinking can thrive. Give your workforce 21st century tools and platforms that will enable them to quickly solve day-to-day challenges and “design” their work in smart new ways.  
  • Think about replacing legacy tools such as email and spreadsheets with modern alternatives like Slack and Quick Base to help people more easily share ideas, innovate, and work more productively.
  • Recognize that the most agile processes won’t be designed from the top-down but rather by the people who are closest to the customer and to the work itself.  They are the ones you will want to empower.


On the intersection of knowledge and automation

  • To be effective in creating responsive, personalized experiences you will need to understand the value of data as well as the context in which it lives.
  • It’s not enough to just digitize processes. To optimize the way they live and work, data, algorithms, AI, and automation, will all need to come together to create value for customers, employees, partners, suppliers, and others.  
  • That said, computer algorithms used to make the rules and guide our business processes must be closely monitored and contested if needed. When algorithms dictate all actions without question a company can get in trouble. This was recently evidenced by United Airlines which allowed unchallenged algorithms to put crew schedules ahead of paying customers.


Thinking ahead

The way we interact with the world is undergoing a profound and rapid change. Our experiences in and outside of the office will be increasingly shaped by ever growing volumes of data about us, and the technology used to collect, understand, and leverage it. We need make sure our businesses are prepared.

“Get passionate about data,” advises Walsh. “Challenge your decision-making with the realities and complexities of human behavior, and make a mental shift from doing work to designing work.”

Where do you see your company in 20 years?


Find out how Quick Base is enabling businesses to “customize the experience” one business-built app at time.

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