“If you are surrounded by transformative trends that are so big, why do you continue to think so small?” – Futurist Jim Carroll
Every once in a while, a conversation with a client reminds me of the scope fo the transformative change that is in front of us – and that’s odd since I’m in the business of massive, transformative change. I was reminded of this yesterday while talking with one client representative of an event I’m doing for a few weeks in the construction industry; I’ll be doing a talk on the use of AI in the sector. And I keep on going back to my description of AI in the industry to remind myself that the trends are sweeping, vast, and pretty profound – because everything we build, and how we build it, is going to change.
AI will enable more constellations of connected solutions around established use cases, such as 3-D printing, modularization, robotics, digital twin technology, drone overflight insight and more.
The undercurrent of my talk, then, will become part of a broader theme: we live in a transformational period of time, in which people and organizations are making big bold decisions related to major trends (AI and related stuff), in order to discover and establish success in the next part of our future. So what should someone do to discover to get in the right mindset to align with the next wave of transformative opportunity? Here’s a list, that takes us into a bit of a broader theme of transformation.
- Align to tectonic shifts – Right now, there are many other new companies and people reinventing our world. There are a massive number of new disruptive trends (such as detailed in my blog post, Disruption: There’s More to It Than You Think There Is! Each of these trends can provide big opportunities, massive industry shifts, and the establishment of new companies which could emerge as competitors. Watch those disruptive trends, and understand where future growth with occur – and new challenges.
- Think trends, not fads. It’s all too easy for people to focus on the fad of the day: think, for example, of the interest in generative technologies like ChatGPT. While the short-term impact might be fun, you probably need to chase opportunities like this, don’t let it make you forget about other trends that are charging the future forward – which is why I keep focusing on the AI Megatrends.
- Challenge assumptions on speed. The future is happening faster than you think! Consider, for example, how quickly digital twin technology has come about, and the push to virtualize parts of the construction process. Challenge yourself on velocity: be prepared to accelerate your efforts.
- Align to fast science. All trends are based, at their heart, on the result of scientific discovery – and my BIG trends piece of materials science defines a lot of the BIG opportunity in the world of construction. There is going to be a lot of economic growth, investment, and new industry established around this one single aspect of our world of science.
- Know when to jump. When should a company align with a trend? In the IT world, many of us rely on something called the Gartner HypeCycle. It’s a useful tool to understand when any particular trend might become real and have a major impact. Make the hype-cycle part of your overall process — jump in and get involved with any trend in order to understand it.
- Focus on ‘smart’. There’s a lot of hype about smart cities and the future, and some of it might be overplayed. But clearly, organizations in the future will choose to place facilities in locations that have smart infrastructure, smart highways, fast bandwidth, and all the other attributes of being at the forefront of trends. AI plays a role in that, and so to get to the future, you need to get beyond the basics of your own industry.
- Don’t be afraid to fail. Be prepared to make some mistakes along the way. There are opportunities unfolding with architectural design involving AI image and video generation – try them out. They might not work though, and it could be a wasted investment of time. Is that a bad thing? Is failure a bad thing? Not necessarily so, since when it comes to aligning to the future — you win some, and you lose some.
- Be like Fiji. Fiji doesn’t have a potato industry, but no matter. They’ll build one. For a great future attitude, read this post.
- Think skills. Focus on the new job categories that are emerging. For example, in the world of construction, think of the powerful role that drones can now play, and how the data they capture can be fed into an AI for use in digital twinning, virtualization, and more. Go into any industry, and watch the new careers coming about – and then think about what you need to do to align to those trends.
- Go global for ideas. Think big trends. Vertical farming mentioned above? Already there are 800 million ‘city-farmers’ according to UN statistics – including 25% of the population of Burkina Faso, 35% in Cameroon, 63% in Kenya, and 68% in Tanzania. Fast fact: 90% of the fresh vegetables in Accra, Ghana come from farming within the city. So vertical farming is a major trend and has implications for the construction process. Assess what it might mean in terms of opportunity, infrastructure, and new companies – and the facilities that are being put in place.
- Get distributed. Make sure your infrastructure is aligned with the new decentralization. Consider local renewable energy generation, or “distributed energy resources.” It’s growing 3-5x faster than centralized energy — one California utility estimates investments in DER in solar and micro-grid is now growing faster than its own main new-energy & basic grid investment. Distribution is happening in every industry, resulting in fascinating new companies establishing wonderful new companies based on concepts that didn’t exist just a few years ago. And it is going to change the architecture of the buildings we put in place.
- Watch for clues. We live in the era of the ‘grand challenge” — initiatives such as the XPrize Foundation, which challenges the global scientific community to solve some of the biggest problems of our time having to do with energy, healthcare, the environment, and transpiration. The XPrize led to SpaceX; the Darpa challenge led to the emergence of the self-driving car trend. Other challenges are leading to the birth of other new billion-dollar industries – and right now, an initiative involving carbon capture could spell opportunity and challenge for construction.
- Ignore those who are playing defense. Doomed business models fight losing battles to try to protect their future, and most often, fail. What’s happening right with automotive dealer associations as they try to protect a dying business model in the face of rapidly changing consumer behavior, and upstarts like Tesla dare to do something different with automotive stores in shopping malls. The same holds true for record companies in their battle against Mp3 music — we now live in a music-streaming world. Watch for the disruptions in your own industry – and place your bets on the disruptors, not the disrupted ones.
- Align to the bold changes. For example, take a look at how Saudi oil giant Aramco is realigning its business to petrochemicals and away from oil. That parallels other big shifts — from carbon cars to electric vehicles; from coal to renewables; from car-buying to car-sharing. Better to align yourself with those who are making big bold moves as opposed to those who are stuck in the status quo.
- Look for exponential trends. WE sequenced 1/10000th of the human genome in 1990, and 2/10000 in 1991. It was only 1% by 2007 – but 7 years later, it was done. That’s exponential math: 1% is only 7 doublings away from 100%. The same type of trend is driving solar: we are at 2% solar today, but 2% is only 6-doublings away from 100%. We’re doubling solar capacity every 2 years, so that leaves only 12 years to 100%. Understand exponential industries, and you’ll understand economic growth.
- Be like the Jetsons, not the Flintstones. Coal isn’t the future. Get over it. Nor is the idea of constructing every single aspect of a building on-site
- Think long-term. Just like investing. Creativity doesn’t care about economic volatility Those who invent the future will keep doing so despite any economic uncertainty. Have a long-term success plan, and stick with it through the ups and downs
Some people see the future and see small opportunities. Transformative leaders see the future and see BIG ones!