The future has arrived, and it’s not going away

Albert Einstein once said, “I never think about the future. It comes soon enough.” Not to disagree with one of the world’s best minds, but I think we need to think about our future or we will be victims of it.

The genie is out of the bottle, and over the next short period our very impressive technologies, combined with the way we socialize them into our lives, will begin to change the way we approach everything – from a redistribution of power to every function we perform. The advantage will go to those adopting and adapting to these changes.

The argument will remain that these sweeping changes may shape a generation differently and create unforeseen risks. That is true, but the possibilities for advancement, improvement in the quality of life and the ability to shape a better future exist too.

This past November, the original Apple-1 computer, which debuted in 1976 with its tape cassette interface, sold at auction for $213,000. Now, in a very short period of time, most of us are walking around with smartphones, tablets, Kindles – all wireless and right out of a science-fiction novel. These new technologies are changing the shape of how we communicate, socialize, market, work and play in our world. We are about to see even more accelerated change because these tools are becoming increasingly useful. What comes next can be so exciting – perhaps.

When I asked this month’s panel about these future shifts, they were optimistic, perhaps because they are young leaders, or because they champion the new technologies. Maybe they are just savvy business professionals hoping to maximize their advantage.

To the panel members it was not a question of if, or why, or even how. They had no questions or concerns about the pace of things. They were excited.

Technology in all forms provides a new piece on the chess board which can be used, and the sooner we begin using it, the better we will meet that future, whether we want to think about it or not.

Use it or lose it

In 2011 we should all take stock of how to use technology to our benefit, and the benefit of our businesses, customers and communities. Consider these three approaches:
• Evaluate how your customers use technology. If they are buying, collaborating or engaging their own customers on the Web, should you be there in a more powerful way?• Hire, develop and support your teams to be technology literate, not just to get by, but to drive your business and industry. Things are changing so fast that it’s not just a matter of waiting for some of these trends to fade. They will not fade, they will evolve, and to evolve with it you need people who will take you there.• Don’t try to recreate the wheel. There is no need to develop your own internal Facebook-like tools. There are so many useful technology products that will continue to evolve, so you won’t have to start from scratch.Leadership is about change, and future change is about embracing and leveraging technology. Steve Jobs sold a computer kit for $600 to a tribe of hobbyists. This Christmas I bought my daughter an iPad for the same price. Between the Apple-1 and the iPad, the history of business takes form. What will be the future of business and what will your role in it be?
You should be asking yourself these questions.

Dr. Russ Ouellette, managing partner of Sojourn Partners, a Bedford-based executive leadership coaching firm, is project manager of the Future of Everything. Project participants on this topic included Jeremy Hitchcock, chief executive of Dyn Inc.; Melissa Albano, president of Grapevine Marketing; and David Roedel, partner of The Roedel Companies. For more information, contact 603-472-8103