How to Predict the Future

The best way to predict the future is to ensure you’re part of crafting it, or so the saying goes.

Everyone dreams about reading the future, getting the right lottery numbers, choosing the ideal partner or job, even avoiding death. But that’s not what we are talking about, we are talking about predicting the upcoming technologies – because we live in a technological age – that will make a difference.

Most folks, even the very smartest in Silicon Valley, struggle to see far into the future in our 21st century service-software duality culture. That is, unless they are part of creating the future; so that includes the top level corporate predators (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook), the all-powerful shadow power of VCs, the new breed of disrupters, and what we shall call the serial early-adopters.

So, assuming you’re not Google or a multi-millionaire VC then if you want to see into the future you have to either invent it or get in really early. And that is where the first problem lies. Successful people are often too busy making money and growing businesses to find the time to invent new stuff or the effort to continually live in the edge of early adoption.

If you’re grafting 50 hours a week in an operational role then when will you find the time to look into new stuff?

The first lesson about predicting the future is that it’s not some stroke of luck or third-eye skill at spotting Unicorns before they’re born. No, it’s about investing the time, resource and money to create and play with new stuff. It’s about embracing a rich diet of exploration, learning, and networking with like-minded individuals.

This is probably oversimplified, in fact it most definitely is, as just jumping around playing with the latest fad (I’m looking at you AR) without understanding how it might intersect other emerging tech turns this process into a lottery. In fact, quite a number of VC companies and even corporate giants make this mistake, driven by desperate time-restricted FOMO.

As we all have exactly the same amount of available time in the week as, say, Warren Buffet, one needs to be smart about getting involved in new stuff. Building your network, including who you follow on Twitter and who and what you read needs careful consideration. But nothing trumps a curious mind and an attitude of continual learning – this is the greatest and most significant investment you can make in yourself and others. Oh, and time to be able to exercise said curious mind.

Finally, a key element is the ability to re-invent yourself, or at least evolve and quickly adapt to emerging opportunities. It’s key to develop a mindset that embraces the new, looks for chinks in what’s now and continually ask the question “what if”.

This is what we do, this is how we think – it is why we’ve prospered for almost a quarter of a century in the fastest moving, most disruptive industry the world has ever seen.

Our real-world track record

(and a little bit of trumpet blowing)

My co-founder and I were brought up in a Britain under going social change; Punk, Thatcher, mass deregulation, and wealth acquisition. Change was good, disruption was the norm, and everything seemed possible. Common folks didn’t own computers – Space Invaders was a miracle of modern invention. But the mass adoption of the computer was just around the corner, in the mid 80s.

We started Connected as an internet company in the mid 1990’s, years before the Internet became commonplace and just a decade after personal computers took off. Learning from working first-hand with the early network companies.

From the get-go we created one of the first content management systems (CMS) – 10 years before CMS became commonplace. We invented a way to create, profile and share data across the web and advertising platforms in 2004 – again years before Facebook leveraged similar technology to to drive it’s ad-based model. We moved to WordPress at a time when CMS system were poo-pahed as crap – templated content now drives 99% of the web. In the late noughties, we pivoted our development business into a service-driven culture, companies in our space are only now waking up to “customer-first” approach.

The list goes on and on: 25hrs weeks, gig economy adoption, nomad working, blockchain, small-giant business methodology, forums, platform as a service, behavioural profiling, social bots, mobile-first, function over form, conversion testing, big data, dynamic content, chat, agile methodology, collaboration apps, hardened security, carbon-neutrality & sustainability. And much more, mostly we were there right at the start or a super early adopter.

Throughout our history we have been instrumental in inventing the future.

But it doesn’t stop there. We’re still creating, evolving, and inventing the technologies that will drive our business for the next 25 years. We are 23 years young this year.