“It’s only a stranded asset if you decide to leave it stranded!” – Futurist Jim Carroll
I did a virtual talk for a global investment firm yesterday on the ‘future of infrastructure.’
It was actually within their annual general meeting, which is always a structured, formal affair that involves many specific legal issues and detailed requirements. But the team there wanted to shake things up a little with a view to the future, and so found me through one of my agents in the UK.
My talk took a look at the future of several major sectors of ‘infrastructure’ investment, including energy, telecom, construction, and healthcare. In that context, I pointed out several things, with a few examples including the fact that:
- the era of carbon is over, and we are building a massive distributed, connected energy hyper grid based on renewables, with new demand drivers involving electric vehicles and new inputs coming from the continued cost decrease of renewables
- we will continue to see significant investment in new telecom and communications infrastructure as a result of increased content generation, combined with new distribution platforms such as the growth of low-earth-orbit satellite technology and
- healthcare is shifting, as we will see significant new spending with the accelerated visualization of hospitals and care
- construction is changing with the arrival of new material science, combined with accelerated methodologies, robotics and AI, fundamentally changing how we ‘build’ things
The entire 30-minute video is here; you might find it interesting.
In the planning calls around the event, the client did want to make sure that I made a reference to the idea of ‘stranded assets,’ i.e. those investments that are rendered old, irrelevant, out of date, obsolete, or from the olden days as a result of accelerating trends. This might include such things as natural gas and nuclear plants., which play a smaller role in our renewables-based distributed energy future. It might also involve the old business models and ideas that support old business concepts – such as a world of big, centralized energy distribution networks which become somewhat irrelevant in a future world of distributed, connected intelligent energy microgrids.
And that’s where the idea for today’s phrase came about – because these old stranded assets can always find new life if they are subjected to new forms of thinking!
Assets become ‘stranded’ or old and out of date only if decisions are not made to make them relevant going forward. This means accepting that business models have changed, new technologies have emerged, or new ideas are dominating – and doing what is necessary to realign those old assets to ensure that they somehow have a role in this new future. The best example is with energy utilities, where essentially, those old stranded assets evolve into a new role – one in which the energy utility simply becomes ‘insurance’ for the new renewables-based future.
Read the post The Future of Energy Utilities: Simply, They’re Insurance Companies Now, for more.
Here’s a clip that puts it into perspective:
I spoke about the issue of stranded assets near the end of my keynote, noting that I am seeing increasing signs that senior executives in these industries are coming to recognize reality – and are doing what is necessary to accept and align with that reality, thereby pursuing the ‘de-strandification’ of stranded assets! (I made up that word!)
Over the years, I’ve seen many leaders fight the future and try and prevent the future – but an inevitability, the future wins. If you don’t accept that, any stranded asset will remain forever stranded.
You’ll notice by watching, of course, that for this event, I had my friend Briana interview me throughout. She’s another version of the AI-generated avatar that I am increasingly integrating into my work. It’s all a part of the idea that you can’t talk about a trend – in this case, AI – without working with as many different aspects of the trend as you can. I’ll be taking her on stage with me at an in-person event next week in Quebec City.