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"Building the Innovation Drivers of the Future'"



Thomas Frey


CEO of the DaVinci Institute, Thomas Frey is one of the most referenced futurists on the internet. He carries out research work that allows radically new matters to be dealt with. His arguments on future related matters have captivated directors and businessmen from companies such as NASA, IBM, AT&T, GE, Hewlett-Packard, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Capital One, Bell Canada, Visa and the Ford Motor Company, etc.



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"Knowledge-based industries such as IT, communications, information and web-based services will lead the recovery"





Due to the celebration of the Forum of Reflection on the Future, organised by the OPTI Foundation, that will be held on 28th May, it has been performed the next interview with one of our speakers, Thomas Frey



OPTI: How do you characterise the enterprise of the future?


T.F.: Several major shifts are happening in business, and this will cause a change in the way business will be conducted in the future.

1.) Employment costs are rising. Because of the overhead costs associated with hiring people, more and more businesses will work with people on a project-to-project contract basis.

2.) With the tools available on the Internet, we are placing far more power and control into the hands of the individual.

3.) Fewer businesses require people to physically move to accept a job. Consequently, shifting positions frequently is less disruptive.

For this reason I see business moving towards a much more organic style of business operation where available talent and people will form around specific projects, and once completed, will disband and form around the next project.


Empire of One

Running a solo business in the past meant that you had a one-person practice, most often offering a professional service, well suited for lawyers, accountants, and doctors. However, a new breed of solo business has emerged that allows people to leverage the power of the Internet and control a vast empire from their home office or wherever they happen to be. Across the world thousands of people are giving birth to what I call an "empire of one".

An empire of one business is a one-person (sometimes married couple) business with far reaching spheres of influence. Typically the business out-sources everything - information products marketed and sold online, or products manufactured in China or India, sent to a distribution center in the US, with customers in theUK and Brazil. Manufacturing, marketing, bookkeeping, accounting, legal, and operations are all out-sourced to other businesses around the world.

In addition to product based businesses, other empire of one models will include coaching and consulting businesses, freelancers, Internet-based businesses, solo practitioners and much more.

Yes, much of this has been done before, but a person's ability to leverage talent and products across country lines, and still maintain control of a vast and virtual empire is refreshingly new.


The empire of one business model is one with great appeal to former corporate executives with global contacts and good ability to manage things remotely.
Over 80% of all new startups will be started by this kind of lifestyle entrepreneur - people who've gone into business to take more control over their lives and to build a lifestyle that suits them. Health and happiness are bigger priorities than wealth. 57% said they would not take on extra stress even if it meant more money.
Once economies improve, middle age people searching for meaning and significance in their lives will cause an exponential increase in these types of businesses in the years ahead.

Business Colonies

Business will become more fluid in nature with talent and projects converging for short periods of time. Much the way the movie industry works, where a single movie project will attract camera people, script writers, lighting and sound people, actors, and makeup artists for the extent of the project. Once the project is complete, team members will disband and form around other projects.
Being a one-person business brings with it many challenges that not all individuals are not equipped to handle. As a support mechanism for their growing numbers, business colonies will begin to form around industrial sectors such as photonics, nanotech, biotech, IT niches and many more.
Often times the colonies will form as a support mechanism for large corporate players in a specific industry. As an example, companies like Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo could easily spawn gamer colonies as a way to drive the development of new games for their consoles.
Over the next few years we will see a number of experimental colonies begin to form, testing a variety of operational and support systems. Individual members of the colonies will be drawn to the prospects of steady project flow. Project leads will be attracted to the available talent pools. And host cities will be most interested in generating jobs and employment for their constituencies.
However, to make this work effectively several key elements need to be in place and these elements are driving the design

OPTI: Which are the industrial sectors from which it will start the economy recovery?

T.F.: I often talk about the current battle being waged between the "atoms" and the "electrons". The world of electrons, which includes all things digital and virtual, is moving exponentially faster than anything that requires manipulation of physical materials - atoms.

Products made out of wood, plastic, metal, and rock are constantly battling for limited resources, involve teams of designers and engineers to create and refine the products, require shipping and storing of inventory, and careful matching of supply with demand.

Digital products, on the other hand, may still require designers and programmers to produce the product or service, but place very little strain on natural resources, requires virtually no shipping and storing of inventory, and minimal effort to match supply with demand.

For these reasons, digital products are invented, created and experimented with 10,000 times faster than anything requiring the handling of physical atoms. The electrons are winning.

We can see the shifting of talent and jobs happening all around us as people move to where the rich veins of digital opportunities are being mined.
For this reason, knowledge-based industries such as IT, communications, information and web-based services will lead the recovery.

OPTI: You can build the future, what would you recommend to a business man to get the new future visions into his own company innovation policies?

T.F.: We are a very backward looking society. Each of us has personally experienced the past. We have evidence of it all around us. The past is very knowable. Yet we will be spending the rest of our lives in the future.
It is as if we are walking backwards into the future. We have good tools for viewing the past, but rather poor tools, in comparison, for looking at the future.
That said, it is the responsibility of every CEO and business leader to create a vision for his or her company, and direct company resources to support that vision.
As a first step, company leadership must be actively engaged in not only understanding the competitive landscape, but also the forces of change, technology trends, shifting consumer patterns, and social drivers. Building this kind of awareness is the first step.
Letting the world know that a company is open to outside innovation will not only put corporate leaders in contact with new creative elements, but also inspire thinking internally.
Risk taking must be encouraged and supported, but there are ways to create defensible postures when testing new possibilities. The entire field of analytics has been evolving as a way to uncover new consumer preferences at the earliest point of detection.

OPTI: How can we achieve a citizen innovation spirit from the education in the childhood?

T.F.: This tends to be a system problem requiring a two pronged approach. First, existing systems need to be analyzed and any unnecessary impediments must be removed. All choke points must be eliminated to maximize potential and minimize drag.

Secondly, a series of steps needs to be undertaken to develop a durable, resilient community of innovators.
Innovation Networks - Creative people and innovators learn for each other. Forming associations, networking groups, and other kinds of talent pools is a great way to build communities.
Angel & Seed Capital Networks - Talent flows to where the money is. Without good funding mechanism to support the risktakers, ideas will be stopped before the start.
Learning Instead of Education - Rather than traditional classroom lectures, innovators need to learn from other innovators. They learn from doing, not listening. They derive their understanding from meaning, not theory and abstractions.
Support Networks - Every aspect of society needs a supporting cast. Creating good support networks is essential.
Create a New Class of Heroes - Instead of movie actors and sports athletes, applaud the innovators and their accomplishments



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