Welcome to 2017! It is going to be an interesting year. We have not seen so much creativity, innovation and evolution before in history. Trend watchers go berserk with all the cool new ideas born every minute and futurologist see their predictions come true sooner than expected. The second machine age is here and what an exciting time to live. Running a competitive business is challenging as we tumble from one paradigm into another. This blog is not about predictions for 2017. Instead I highlight seven trends that step towards mainstream in 2017 and change the world and the way we do business.

7. Organizational structures will change

The hierarchical pyramid organizations stuffed with redundant roles described in libraries of role descriptions are end of life. We can no longer use these illusionary walls between people. We have to connect with each other on a deeper and more natural level to continue growth. Frederic Laloux has released an inspiring book called “Reinventing Organizations”, where he uses colors to indicate types of organizations. Today we see a lot of yellow and orange companies. I see a an increase in organizations flirting with the green and teal concepts, such as wholeness, increased focus on customer satisfaction, shared values and self-organizing teams. These organizations are ahead of the game and show a more natural path with a higher (organizational) purpose. As they discover new ways of working they lead the way for more organizations to change how organizations are structured.

6. Work cultures will change

Organizational structures can only change if the people change. Culture change is the bigger picture that needs to happen in organizations to stay relevant in the coming years. Think about this from the perspective of all the new generations that flow into the global workforce. Millennials and the iGeneration add more diversity in the workplace, which requires a rethinking of the purpose of our companies. Simon Sinek has an interesting perspective on this. Sinek highlights three characteristics of Millennials: 1. They are parented like they are very special, leading to lower self-esteem. 2. They are addicted to technology and 3. They are impatient, because they are used to instant gratification.

If you bring these characteristic in today’s corporate environment, where a fiscal year is more important than people, it results in all kinds of problems. With more different generations and technological possibilities there is only one way this problem can be solved: changing work cultures to be more fit for diversity and smarter technology.

5. Supporting organizations will continue to automate

If you are working in Finance, Human Resources or any other supporting role, you better stay in shape. Mental shape. Because these departments are fantastic for automation. After Self Service we will get more intelligent services. The computer takes over more simple administrative tasks. Smart apps and chatbots are already here and will become smarter. Like Pegg, an app that does your financial administration. Or X.AI a new personal assistant.

As this trend in automation continues I can envision the walls between supporting departments dissolve. From an employee centric perspective there are a lot of questions that can be answered by AI. Maybe not today, but forward thinking organizations are looking to make their ‘ticketing’ systems smarter and bring cost centers together in order to drive down cost. What remains are the creative aspects of running a business: connecting people and driving innovations.

4. Social Collaboration

Continuously releasing the best products and services is no longer a task from one or a few people. You cannot run business in a linear way anymore. Ownership of responsibility is not relevant anymore. Shared responsibility and access to each other is what matters. You have to connect the workforce in order to combine the collective brainpower and supercharge innovation. In 2017 we’ll see organizations dive deeper into social collaboration. There will be more crowdsourcing and less competition, resulting in more cross company collaboration to drive more innovation to solve the bigger problems humanity has.

I am proud to announce that my first book will be released in a couple of weeks. The title is “Mens Mens Mens” and will be released in Dutch. The synopsis: more connection and collaboration in organizations to drive more engagement and happiness.

3. Virtual and Augmented Reality

Last year was the breakthrough year of Virtual and Augmented reality. Consumer ready product such as HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR were accessible for masses and mixed reality apps get more interesting by the day. As always new technology starts expensive and works badly. But over time the technology gets cheaper and works better. VR and AR is no different and will amaze more people quickly. Today VR is a big step for most people due to the social disconnect from the real world. It is a matter of time until more senses are involved in VR. Till then AR is getting more attention and will be bigger in 2017. We are gently exploring how to beam enriched metadata into our daily lives. It started with gaming gaming (Pokemon Go) and learning (Ahold Dinosaurs). Shopping follows soon. Gartner states that in 2020, 100 million consumers will shop in AR. Then the world of design is next. Simply because it’s awesome to try out all kinds of furniture in your house or modify your new car in your living room. Kids love it and marketing departments love it. Soon we’ll all love it.

2. Blockchain

The Blockchain is a way to store information decentralized and distributed, where no one person holds ownership of the information. That doesn’t sound impressive at first, but its disruptive power is gigantic and will change our world profoundly. Take Bitcoin for example. It has the power to make the banking industry obsolete. And this is only one application of the Blockchain. There are so many other options for Blockchain, like: proof of ownership of digital content, voting systems, data proof of ideas, etc.

1. Artificial Intelligence

Once upon a time, Siri was a funny voice in your phone we laughed at. But Siri and all her AI and machine learning friends have ambitions and grow up faster than humans. We humans and our deep learning machines will connect more intensely. Look at Tensorflow (a scalable machine learning open source system) where developers around the world can connect and innovate and accelerate research on machine learning. The computing power and quantity of these machines will explode in the coming years. IOT is already mainstream and our dependence of — and entwinement with — these intelligent machines will grow tighter.

Conclusion

Our world spins faster and keeps on shifting to higher gears. Some of us focus on the past. Things that were. Those people sometimes get nausea when the world spins faster around their heads. Others enjoy the ride, the speed, the experience. They explore the new opportunities, new ways of working. Driven by curiosity what another year will bring. I get excited by these trends and changes and will keep on thinking and writing about them for one reason put perfectly into words by Michael Anissimov:

“One of the biggest flaws in the common conception of the future is that the future is something that happens to us, not something we create.”

@PattWiller

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