Technology Renaissance Re-Enables Spirit Of Inquiry With Co-Innovation

Vasanth Kumar

Digitalization eases and complicates our business environments simultaneously. To tide these waves, organizations need to become capable of continuous innovation. Taking it one step further, the concept of co-innovation comes through as a disruptive force to help foster an ecosystem of open-minded and inventive organizations capable of creating game-changing solutions. So how do you become one of these?

In his 1997 commencement address at Morgan State University, President Bill Clinton encouraged students to “imagine a new century, full of promise, molded by science, shaped by technology, powered by knowledge.” The dawn of the 21st century brought newer challenges for companies.

Fiercely competitive markets and diminishing margins forced some companies to reexamine their strengths and competencies and revitalize the core of the business to remain relevant. Other conventional players chose to look inward and grow their core capabilities based on in-house knowledge and innovation. Ultimately, businesses with a high innovation quotient survived, and thrived. Those that made perfunctory attempts at acquisitions to sustain momentum managed to stay afloat, but still had difficulties in addressing their market needs.

Clearly, the realities of the new business economy are different. The business landscape has changed, and companies are tackling digital transformation as a way to meet customer behavior and expectations and to face new economic realities. Adoption of existing or emerging innovative digital technologies, such as the Internet of Things, blockchain, and artificial intelligence, is on the uptake. To do this today, it is prudent to join hands with co-innovation partners to accelerate this transformation journey in a strategic way. This means organizations once again need to revisit – and possibly reimagine – their digital transformation strategy and driving growth.

Today’s companies can either choose to grow organically, through acquisition, or a combination of the two. However, in the era of accelerated growth, it is imperative to also explore a new dimension – one of collaboration, as a way to create additional impact for revenue and profit growth through social and ecosystem involvement.

Co-innovation provides new dimensions for transformation

In today’s highly digitized and connected world, knowledge does not remain the asset of any particular department or organization. It has become a free, shared, and distributed resource. I believe that in today’s “knowledge and distributed intelligence economy” no single company, irrespective of its size, can claim dominance of the creative and skilled workforce.

It’s also important to consider that this widely distributed knowledge is not limited only to our employees, but could also reside with our partners, customers, competitors, and academia. While the changing landscape may compel companies to effectively harness in-house knowledge, it is also necessary for them to look beyond the company walls.

That’s why this integral approach of seeking ideas internally, and supplementing them with external innovation and concepts is becoming central to developing new solutions, addressing market needs, or even creating new ones. Quite simply, this calls for new ways to connect, collaborate, and innovate.

My advice, therefore, is for organizations to essentially deconstruct their existing mindset and transition to a new one that is driven by a strategy of enabling external collaboration.

 A need to transcend boundaries

The exercise of breaking down existing business boundaries and redrawing new ones is not a simple one. Connecting and developing means companies need to foster an open architecture that allows a continuous flow of ideas from anywhere and at any time. A good example is Procter and Gamble, which has set up a measurable target of achieving 50% of innovations from external ideas.

But here’s the wider challenge: While many organizations have experimented with the approach of innovating from within, the same readiness has not been evident for engaging with the external ecosystem. Often, the lag comes from the fact that developing ecosystems require clear leadership directive and an inspiring vision. Unless leaders spearhead a disruptive approach to innovation goals and reinvention, we will continue to see a mismatch.

Let’s also look beyond growth for a moment and consider another benefit of the collaborative approach: problem solving. By involving multiple partners in deriving a solution for a complex problem, organizations can reduce the risk of doing the wrong thing, or worse, doing nothing at all. Working on the problem from a variety of angles and perspectives and leveraging a diverse pool of experts, can result in unique, invaluable, and inimitable solutions.

Coupled open innovation is the new mantra of the corporate world

American organizational theorist Henry Chesbrough states that open innovation is a more profitable way to innovate because it can reduce costs, accelerate time to market, increase differentiation in the market, and create new revenue streams for the company.

Quite right. Many key companies, including names like Akzo Nobel, P&G, Lego, GE, SAP, and Unilever, are now reaping the benefits from their open innovation journey. Taking a cue from these leading organizations, it is pertinent for companies to ask themselves these key questions:

  • Is my organization ready to leverage co-innovation as a key performance lever in the growth strategy?
  • Can we potentially tap into the knowledge and insights of our external ecosystem, to advance technology and charter new routes to market?
  • Can we, as an organization, build trust and confidence, and inspire the ecosystem to make a success of the co-innovation strategy?

If your answer to these questions is yes, then your organization is poised to embark on harnessing the true potential of co-innovation.

Also remember, co-innovation was not born in a day. It has been part of an evolutionary process of innovation, transitioning from closed to collaborative architectures, including open and co‐innovation approaches. With digitalization playing a double role in our environments today, an inspirational and creative leadership approach can create an organization capable of co-innovating continually over time.

For more on the role of leadership in digital transformation, see Business Intelligence Emboldens Digital Transformation.


Vasanth Kumar

About Vasanth Kumar

Vasanth Kumar is the head of SAP Co-Innovation Lab, Middle East, for SAP. He is fostering co-innovation with ecosystem and bringing success in the region for SAP. Vasanth brings over 27 years of rich and blended experience with the manufacturing industry and enterprise business software to create value for customers, partners, and startups by driving strategy and achieving execution excellence.

Net Neutrality Lost: Smart Solutions For Small Business – Part 1

Brandon Lewis

Part 1 of a 2-part series

A few years ago, crawling Internet speeds claimed users as their victim when streaming on certain Web sites. Small businesses may once again be found in this lull with the overturn of net neutrality.

The “Restoring Internet Freedom Act” was passed by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on December 14, eliminating the FCC’s net neutrality rules. Opponents of the decision are seeking to use the Congressional Review Act to overrule the FCC. What’s more, lawmakers in several states are introducing state legislation that forbids Internet providers to block or slow down sites or online services.

However, these opponents still face several hurdles. In the meantime, it’s important to realize what this change in net neutrality means for consumers and small businesses doing business in the U.S.

Countries like Spain and Portugal don’t have regulations like net neutrality, and they’re experiencing major changes. Lisbon-based telecommunications firm MEO released data plans that place limits on specific apps. For example, users would pay for Internet, then add certain packages with additional charges to access certain applications and Web sites.

If you want The New York Times, you’ll need the news package. To stream Netflix, pay for the entertainment package. And to stay connected with loved ones through Facebook, add another few dollars to your bill and pay for the social media plan.

But think about how this will destroy small businesses. If a small business cannot afford to purchase premium data, they will need to find alternative ways to attract consumers and compete with big organizations.

Here is how to solve three major obstacles that may impact small businesses if net neutrality is repealed:

Slower Internet speeds impede sales potential

Every second counts when it comes to page loading times. The longer a user has to wait, the higher the risk of their leaving. Slower page response time results in an increase in page abandonment, and mobile users expect the same efficiency as their desktop.

In fact, according to a Google Consumer Survey conducted in May 2015, only 9% of users will stay on a mobile site or app if it doesn’t satisfy their needs. The report also found that 66% of consumers will take actions that have some negative impact on the brand, and 40% will be less likely to come back to the mobile site or app.

Providing customer support services is a great incentive for users, but if a company doesn’t have enough bandwidth to support their site and chat platform, then neither one will be effective. It is comparable to having several programs running at once: speed lags, and eventually the server crashes because it cannot handle it.

Other factors affecting slow Internet speeds are visuals and video. These remain an integral part of a Web site’s content, but can create a negative effect and weigh it down if not optimized.

Solution: Instead of embedded chat platforms, designate and train a team to stay on top of customer service issues through email and social media outreach. This way, customer support is still proactive, but does not have a negative impact on the customer’s online experience.

Adjusting visual aids on a website can help to accommodate slower data upload/download speeds and not compromise aesthetic appeal. Consider reworking image sizes to fit the width of your page. Use a standard image editor to crop and maintain the dimensions and avoid distortion. You can also reduce the size by decreasing the depth of color to a minimum level.

Before publication, test the quality to avoid pixelated images, and make sure the format is correct: “jpeg” is an image; “png” and “gif” are for assembling graphics. The format will affect the quality and overall outcome. Also, be aware of the size of the image, how many are present, format, and different tags.

Outsourcing video content is very effective. Consider video giant YouTube to publish videos and then simply include the link on your Web site. This will save you a ton of time in both the design and conversion phase.

The next blog in this series will explore how small businesses can use their inherent strengths to counter the weaknesses of their corporate competitors.

How is tech transforming the retail industry? Read Retail Tomorrow: How Today’s Technology Is Shaping Retail’s Future


Brandon Lewis

About Brandon Lewis

Brandon Lewis is president and CEO of Win More Patients.

Why Technology Alone Is Not Enough – Part 1

Bernd Leukert

Part 1 of a 2-part series

There is no doubt that the digital transformation is in full swing. Innovation and technology cycles have become significantly shorter, and driving innovation feels like being in the fast lane on the digital journey highway. Whenever time allows, it’s good to take a moment and think about the direction this journey is taking. I would like to share some thoughts about an important aspect of the digital age that is not only a priority for me, but also for many partners and customers I speak with.

Paradigm shifts don’t come and go overnight

The credo of modern technology is openness. The ease with which we can now switch between technology, software, and devices means we can all expect much greater flexibility going forward. This change requires new approaches to engagement for IT vendors and connectedness for all of us; the role of vibrant ecosystems will become increasingly important. And while new technologies and growing ecosystems boost digital businesses, they also create or increase complexity.

In addition, the move into the digital era is already impacting workplaces globally – since 2000, 52% of the Fortune 500 have either experienced bankruptcy, been acquired, or gone out of business entirely, according to Capgemini. The speed of innovation is continuously increasing, and making use of technological trends such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and blockchain allows us to optimize and reinvent business processes and introduce new business models. However, the ever-increasing levels of automation will also have an impact on the future of our work.

With these new technological and business opportunities come new or as yet unanswered questions – questions that are fundamental to all of us. How can we build trust in the digital economy? How can new ethical standards evolve and become the norm? How can we create meaningful innovation for a bigger purpose?

Integral aspects of new paradigms

These questions include three main topics that become increasingly important for any technological and economic development in the future: Trust, ethics, and purpose.

The ways in which we interact in our ecosystems are changing fundamentally. We are used to building trust with people, products, and organizations because we know them by having direct interactions with them. At its most basic level, trust means nothing more than believing in the reliability and loyalty of others. In the future, basing trust only on relationships won’t be enough, since networks will become too big and dynamic.

Digital trust – the “what”

We will need technology’s help to cope with the changes related to our ecosystems. Today, for example, people are increasingly trusting blockchain-based networks, such as cryptocurrencies. With blockchain, we already trust in the reliability and loyalty of the network because it delivers digital proof for physical documents and real-life transactions and events. The advantages of this technology are so notable that, according to Gartner, by 2022, a blockchain-based business will be worth $10 billion.

According to Gartner, “digital trust emerges to establish and manage trust in the myriad digital interactions and relationships between businesses, individuals, and things.” This means that trust is and needs to be everywhere to keep businesses running. But with an absence of personal interaction in the digital world, where does this trust come from and what is required to create this “ultimate currency”? What is the relationship between data and trust? How can we design and build technology so that it is fully trustworthy to all parties?

Digital information and information flows

Today, we see an increasing decentralization of raw data. This requires us to find new ways to create value from and manage the complexity and heterogeneity of these distributed data landscapes. We see this in various fields where Big Data is key, including IoT, blockchain, and machine learning.

What all these technology areas have in common is the fact that information flows between large numbers of people, things, and systems that potentially don’t know each other and consequently, don’t (yet) trust each other. Today and in the future, we need to rely on technology to verify the authenticity of data, documents, and processes and provide us with secure and trustworthy access to digitalized information and information flows. This has itself already become an invaluable asset for companies. In the end, it is not only a company’s technology that needs to be trusted, but also the company itself in its role as a product or service provider and partner of choice.

However, technology alone is not enough. Building new digital networks, for example, does not necessarily mean that mechanisms that help keep the system and network running smoothly can be eliminated.

Blockchain as an enabling technology

Going one step further, there is another dimension of trust that technology companies in particular must take into consideration: Their ability to enable their customers to be trustworthy organizations in the digital age. This is something we take very seriously at SAP. One example that shows how digital trust can be created is the blockchain-based verification of documents.

In a co-innovation project between SAP and the autonomous region of Bozen, South Tyrol in Italy, blockchain technology is being used to digitalize and verify the paper-based documentation process flow while the documents themselves remain unchanged. This results in less bureaucracy and increased trust in public administration and, consequently, in completely new organizational models.

Future innovations will require openness and connectedness across entire ecosystems. Trust in the digital world does not only imply trustful relationships between people, but also trust in ecosystems, with the help of technology. The more open and transparent the ecosystems and networks, the more trust they can gain and create.

In the second part of my blog, I will share some thoughts about the “how” and the “why,” addressing the topics of ethics and purpose-driven organizations.

This article original appeared on Business Trends in the SAP Community and is republished by permission.


Bernd Leukert

About Bernd Leukert

Bernd Leukert is a member of the Executive Board of SAP SE with global responsibility for development and delivery of all products across SAP’s product portfolio.

Why Strategic Plans Need Multiple Futures

By Dan Wellers, Kai Goerlich, and Stephanie Overby , Kai Goerlich and Stephanie Overby

When members of Lowe’s Innovation Labs first began talking with the home improvement retailer’s senior executives about how disruptive technologies would affect the future, the presentations were well received but nothing stuck.

“We’d give a really great presentation and everyone would say, ‘Great job,’ but nothing would really happen,” says Amanda Manna, head of narratives and partnerships for the lab.

The team realized that it needed to ditch the PowerPoints and try something radical. The team’s leader, Kyle Nel, is a behavioral scientist by training. He knows people are wired to receive new information best through stories. Sharing far-future concepts through narrative, he surmised, could unlock hidden potential to drive meaningful change.

So Nel hired science fiction writers to pen the future in comic book format, with characters and a narrative arc revealed pane by pane.

The first storyline, written several years before Oculus Rift became a household name, told the tale of a couple envisioning their kitchen renovation using virtual reality headsets. The comic might have been fun and fanciful, but its intent was deadly serious. It was a vision of a future in which Lowe’s might solve one of its long-standing struggles: the approximately US$70 billion left on the table when people are unable to start a home improvement project because they can’t envision what it will look like.

When the lab presented leaders with the first comic, “it was like a light bulb went on,” says Manna. “Not only did they immediately understand the value of the concept, they were convinced that if we didn’t build it, someone else would.”

Today, Lowe’s customers in select stores can use the HoloRoom How To virtual reality tool to learn basic DIY skills in an interactive and immersive environment.

Other comics followed and were greeted with similar enthusiasm—and investment, where possible. One tells the story of robots that help customers navigate stores. That comic spawned the LoweBot, which roamed the aisles of several Lowe’s stores during a pilot program in California and is being evaluated to determine next steps.

And the comic about tools that can be 3D-printed in space? Last year, Lowe’s partnered with Made in Space, which specializes in making 3D printers that can operate in zero gravity, to install the first commercial 3D printer in the International Space Station, where it was used to make tools and parts for astronauts.

The comics are the result of sending writers out on an open-ended assignment, armed with trends, market research, and other input, to envision what home improvement planning might look like in the future or what the experience of shopping will be in 10 years. The writers come back with several potential story ideas in a given area and work collaboratively with lab team members to refine it over time.

The process of working with writers and business partners to develop the comics helps the future strategy team at Lowe’s, working under chief development officer Richard D. Maltsbarger, to inhabit that future. They can imagine how it might play out, what obstacles might surface, and what steps the company would need to take to bring that future to life.

Once the final vision hits the page, the lab team can clearly envision how to work backward to enable the innovation. Importantly, the narrative is shared not only within the company but also out in the world. It serves as a kind of “bat signal” to potential technology partners with capabilities that might be required to make it happen, says Manna. “It’s all part of our strategy for staking a claim in the future.”

Planning must become completely oriented toward—and sourced from—the future.

Companies like Lowe’s are realizing that standard ways of planning for the future won’t get them where they need to go. The problem with traditional strategic planning is that the approach, which dates back to the 1950s and has remained largely unchanged since then, is based on the company’s existing mission, resources, core competencies, and competitors.

Yet the future rarely looks like the past. What’s more, digital technology is now driving change at exponential rates. Companies must be able to analyze and assess the potential impacts of the many variables at play, determine the possible futures they want to pursue, and develop the agility to pivot as conditions change along the way.

This is why planning must become completely oriented toward—and sourced from—the future, rather than from the past or the present. “Every winning strategy is based on a compelling insight, but most strategic planning originates in today’s marketplace, which means the resulting plans are constrained to incremental innovation,” says Bob Johansen, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future. “Most corporate strategists and CEOs are just inching their way to the future.” (Read more from Bob Johansen in the Thinkers story, “Fear Factor.”)

Inching forward won’t cut it anymore. Half of the S&P 500 organizations will be replaced over the next decade, according to research company Innosight. The reason? They can’t see the portfolio of possible futures, they can’t act on them, or both. Indeed, when SAP conducts future planning workshops with clients, we find that they usually struggle to look beyond current models and assumptions and lack clear ideas about how to work toward radically different futures.

Companies that want to increase their chances of long-term survival are incorporating three steps: envisioning, planning for, and executing on possible futures. And doing so all while the actual future is unfolding in expected and unexpected ways.

Those that pull it off are rewarded. A 2017 benchmarking report from the Strategic Foresight Research Network (SFRN) revealed that vigilant companies (those with the most mature processes for identifying, interpreting, and responding to factors that induce change) achieved 200% greater market capitalization growth and 33% higher profitability than the average, while the least mature companies experienced negative market-cap growth and had 44% lower profitability.

Looking Outside the Margins

“Most organizations lack sufficient capacity to detect, interpret, and act on the critically important but weak and ambiguous signals of fresh threats or new opportunities that emerge on the periphery of their usual business environment,” write George S. Day and Paul J. H. Schoemaker in their book Peripheral Vision.

But that’s exactly where effective future planning begins: examining what is happening outside the margins of day-to-day business as usual in order to peer into the future.

Business leaders who take this approach understand that despite the uncertainties of the future there are drivers of change that can be identified and studied and actions that can be taken to better prepare for—and influence—how events unfold.

That starts with developing foresight, typically a decade out. Ten years, most future planners agree, is the sweet spot. “It is far enough out that it gives you a bit more latitude to come up with a broader way to the future, allowing for disruption and innovation,” says Brian David Johnson, former chief futurist for Intel and current futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “But you can still see the light from it.”

The process involves gathering information about the factors and forces—technological, business, sociological, and industry or ecosystem trends—that are effecting change to envision a range of potential impacts.

Seeing New Worlds

Intel, for example, looks beyond its own industry boundaries to envision possible future developments in adjacent businesses in the larger ecosystem it operates in. In 2008, the Intel Labs team, led by anthropologist Genevieve Bell, determined that the introduction of flexible glass displays would open up a whole new category of foldable consumer electronic devices.

To take advantage of that advance, Intel would need to be able to make silicon small enough to fit into some imagined device of the future. By the time glass manufacturer Corning unveiled its ultra-slim, flexible glass surface for mobile devices, laptops, televisions, and other displays of the future in 2012, Intel had already created design prototypes and kicked its development into higher gear. “Because we had done the future casting, we were already imagining how people might use flexible glass to create consumer devices,” says Johnson.

Because future planning relies so heavily on the quality of the input it receives, bringing in experts can elevate the practice. They can come from inside an organization, but the most influential insight may come from the outside and span a wide range of disciplines, says Steve Brown, a futurist, consultant, and CEO of who worked for Intel Labs from 2007 to 2016.

Companies may look to sociologists or behaviorists who have insight into the needs and wants of people and how that influences their actions. Some organizations bring in an applied futurist, skilled at scanning many different forces and factors likely to coalesce in important ways (see Do You Need a Futurist?).

Do You Need a Futurist?

Most organizations need an outsider to help envision their future. Futurists are good at looking beyond the big picture to the biggest picture.

Business leaders who want to be better prepared for an uncertain and disruptive future will build future planning as a strategic capability into their organizations and create an organizational culture that embraces the approach. But working with credible futurists, at least in the beginning, can jump-start the process.

“The present can be so noisy and business leaders are so close to it that it’s helpful to provide a fresh outside-in point of view,” says veteran futurist Bob Johansen.

To put it simply, futurists like Johansen are good at connecting dots—lots of them. They look beyond the boundaries of a single company or even an industry, incorporating into their work social science, technical research, cultural movements, economic data, trends, and the input of other experts.

They can also factor in the cultural history of the specific company with whom they’re working, says Brian David Johnson, futurist in residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “These large corporations have processes and procedures in place—typically for good reasons,” Johnson explains. “But all of those reasons have everything to do with the past and nothing to do with the future. Looking at that is important so you can understand the inertia that you need to overcome.”

One thing the best futurists will say they can’t do: predict the future. That’s not the point. “The future punishes certainty,” Johansen says, “but it rewards clarity.” The methods futurists employ are designed to trigger discussions and considerations of possibilities corporate leaders might not otherwise consider.

You don’t even necessarily have to buy into all the foresight that results, says Johansen. Many leaders don’t. “Every forecast is debatable,” Johansen says. “Foresight is a way to provoke insight, even if you don’t believe it. The value is in letting yourself be provoked.”

External expert input serves several purposes. It brings everyone up to a common level of knowledge. It can stimulate and shift the thinking of participants by introducing them to new information or ideas. And it can challenge the status quo by illustrating how people and organizations in different sectors are harnessing emerging trends.

The goal is not to come up with one definitive future but multiple possibilities—positive and negative—along with a list of the likely obstacles or accelerants that could surface on the road ahead. The result: increased clarity—rather than certainty—in the face of the unknown that enables business decision makers to execute and refine business plans and strategy over time.

Plotting the Steps Along the Way

Coming up with potential trends is an important first step in futuring, but even more critical is figuring out what steps need to be taken along the way: eight years from now, four years from now, two years from now, and now. Considerations include technologies to develop, infrastructure to deploy, talent to hire, partnerships to forge, and acquisitions to make. Without this vital step, says Brown, everybody goes back to their day jobs and the new thinking generated by future planning is wasted. To work, the future steps must be tangible, concrete, and actionable.

Organizations must build a roadmap for the desired future state that anticipates both developments and detours, complete with signals that will let them know if they’re headed in the right direction. Brown works with corporate leaders to set indicator flags to look out for on the way to the anticipated future. “If we see these flagged events occurring in the ecosystem, they help to confirm the strength of our hypothesis that a particular imagined future is likely to occur,” he explains.

For example, one of Brown’s clients envisioned two potential futures: one in which gestural interfaces took hold and another in which voice control dominated. The team set a flag to look out for early examples of the interfaces that emerged in areas such as home appliances and automobiles. “Once you saw not just Amazon Echo but also Google Home and other copycat speakers, it would increase your confidence that you were moving more towards a voice-first era rather than a gesture-first era,” Brown says. “It doesn’t mean that gesture won’t happen, but it’s less likely to be the predominant modality for communication.”

How to Keep Experiments from Being Stifled

Once organizations have a vision for the future, making it a reality requires testing ideas in the marketplace and then scaling them across the enterprise. “There’s a huge change piece involved,”
says Frank Diana, futurist and global consultant with Tata Consultancy Services, “and that’s the place where most
businesses will fall down.”

Many large firms have forgotten what it’s like to experiment in several new markets on a small scale to determine what will stick and what won’t, says René Rohrbeck, professor of strategy at the Aarhus School of Business and Social Sciences. Companies must be able to fail quickly, bring the lessons learned back in, adapt, and try again.

Lowe’s increases its chances of success by creating master narratives across a number of different areas at once, such as robotics, mixed-reality tools, on-demand manufacturing, sustainability, and startup acceleration. The lab maps components of each by expected timelines: short, medium, and long term. “From there, we’ll try to build as many of them as quickly as we can,” says Manna. “And we’re always looking for that next suite of things that we should be working on.” Along the way certain innovations, like the HoloRoom How-To, become developed enough to integrate into the larger business as part of the core strategy.

One way Lowe’s accelerates the process of deciding what is ready to scale is by being open about its nascent plans with the world. “In the past, Lowe’s would never talk about projects that weren’t at scale,” says Manna. Now the company is sharing its future plans with the media and, as a result, attracting partners that can jump-start their realization.

Seeing a Lowe’s comic about employee exoskeletons, for example, led Virginia Tech engineering professor Alan Asbeck to the retailer. He helped develop a prototype for a three-month pilot with stock employees at a Christiansburg, Virginia, store.

The high-tech suit makes it easier to move heavy objects. Employees trying out the suits are also fitted with an EEG headset that the lab incorporates into all its pilots to gauge unstated, subconscious reactions. That direct feedback on the user experience helps the company refine its innovations over time.

Make the Future Part of the Culture

Regardless of whether all the elements of its master narratives come to pass, Lowe’s has already accomplished something important: It has embedded future thinking into the culture of the company.

Companies like Lowe’s constantly scan the environment for meaningful economic, technology, and cultural changes that could impact its future assessments and plans. “They can regularly draw on future planning to answer challenges,” says Rohrbeck. “This intensive, ongoing, agile strategizing is only possible because they’ve done their homework up front and they keep it updated.”

It’s impossible to predict what’s going to happen in the future, but companies can help to shape it, says Manna of Lowe’s. “It’s really about painting a picture of a preferred future state that we can try to achieve while being flexible and capable of change as we learn things along the way.” D!

About the Authors

Dan Wellers is Global Lead, Digital Futures, at SAP.

Kai Goerlich is Chief Futurist at SAP’s Innovation Center Network.

Stephanie Overby is a Boston-based business and technology journalist.

Read more thought provoking articles in the latest issue of the Digitalist Magazine, Executive Quarterly.


Dan Wellers

About Dan Wellers

Dan Wellers is founder and leader of Digital Futures at SAP, a strategic insights and thought leadership discipline that explores how digital technologies drive exponential change in business and society.

Kai Goerlich

About Kai Goerlich

Kai Goerlich is the Chief Futurist at SAP Innovation Center network His specialties include Competitive Intelligence, Market Intelligence, Corporate Foresight, Trends, Futuring and ideation.

Share your thoughts with Kai on Twitter @KaiGoe.heif Futu

About Stephanie Overby


Future Of Work 2018: 10 Predictions You Can’t Ignore

Steven Hunt

The start of winter is often referred to as the “holiday season.” But it might also be called the “prediction season.” When it comes to human capital management (HCM), most predictions tend to be variations of the same things.

A colleague and I even created a scale to rate HCM predictions based on whether they are new or just “old wine in new bottles.”  The reason HCM predictions do not change much over time is because the “H” in HCM is about people. People do not evolve as fast as technology. Consequently, the basic challenges of HCM are constant: getting the right people in the right roles and providing them with the right work environments while complying with employment laws.

The following are my “top ten” predictions about how these will change in 2018.

Workforce agility will become the most critical concept in HCM. It is often said that the only constant is change. It is now more accurate to say the only constant is an ever-accelerating rate of change. The only way companies can survive in the modern economy is to excel at adapting to changing markets, technologies, and business landscapes. This requires tapping into people’s innate capacity for learning, growth, and innovation.

Staffing will reach new levels of complexity. For over 100 years, most people interpreted “staffing” to mean hiring employees to work onsite in full-time or part-time roles.  This concept is changing due to shifting skill shortages, global labor pools, and a massive rise in virtual work and contract employment.  Staffing no longer means hiring employees.  It means finding the right mix of skills and matching them to business demands by tapping into an increasingly global, virtual, and contingent labor force. Companies will be forced to redefine workforce planning, recruiting, staffing, and management to work in this much more complex labor market.

The experience of work will greatly improve.  Technology has made a lot of things about our lives much easier and more enjoyable. Finding our way around a city, buying products, staying in touch with our friends, watching movies, and hundreds of other life experiences have been transformed by social and mobile technologies leveraging artificially intelligent interfaces and machine learning algorithms. We will see exponential growth in the use of artificial intelligence, chatbots, intelligent services, machine learning, mobile solutions, and social platforms to make work more enjoyable, simple, and engaging.

Performance management will become a solution, not a problem. People have hated performance management for decades.  This is changing thanks to companies rethinking performance management to focus on ongoing coaching and team based decision making.  We will soon reach a tipping point where the dreaded annual review will be nothing more than a painful memory, having been replaced by mobile technology enabled continuous performance management solutions that employees and managers both appreciate and like.

Re-conceptualizing compensation. Companies spend billions of dollars each year on merit increases, bonuses, and other form of compensation.  Yet few of them can confidently answer this question: “What is the return on investment you get from the money spent on compensation in terms of increased employee engagement, productivity, and retention?” Companies can tell down to the last penny how much is spent on compensation, but they cannot tell if that money is being spent wisely. The future of compensation will involve more continuous processes where employees receive different types of rewards throughout the year from different sources.  And analytics will be used to link investments in compensation to returns in workforce productivity.

Intolerance of inequity. For too long, companies have viewed inequity as a problem, but not a problem worth solving. With the workforce becoming increasingly diverse, particularly the rise of women who now represent 50 percent or more of the employees in many fields, society is reaching a long-awaited tipping point where inequitable treatment based on non-job relevant factors such as gender, ethnicity, and age is being openly acknowledged and addressed. Smart companies will proactively redesign their talent management practices to ensure bias is identified and addressed before it happens.

The rise of well-being tech. People are not meant to live in an “always on” 24-7 world.  The pace of work is literally burning people out.  Companies need employees to be highly engaged, creative, and service oriented.  But this is impossible to do if employees are tired, stressed, and distracted.  In the coming year, companies will continue to make more well-being tools available to their employees. With the explosion of well-being technology at the consumer level, such as smartwatches and fitness technology, many employers will be looking to bring these tools into the workplace.  However, successful organizations will be those who make such technologies accessible, enjoyable, and cultural for their employees.

Org charts will begin to phase out. There is a lot of talk about updating businesses for the digital age, and yet companies continue to manage work forces using a tool that has changed little since the Roman Empire: the hierarchical organization chart (“org chart”). Relying on org charts to guide workforce management decisions is both foolish and dangerous in a digitalized world. And while 2018 will not be “the year the org chart died,” some progressive organizations will begin to phase out traditional org charts for more modern, digital approaches.

Companies will ditch all-or-nothing retirement. 2018 will bring about a major shift in workplace dynamics with regards to older generations. Today, individuals are living longer, and thus working longer – past 60, 70, and even 80.  Forward-thinking organizations realize the need to keep this skilled talent in their organization, particularly as many industries face increasing skills shortages. However, this transition will also force companies to rethink jobs; for example, many positions that used to be full time will become part time.  In the coming year, organizations will begin to move away from the traditional, all-or-nothing view of retirement.

Growth in HR cybersecurity threats. Ransom ware made its main stage debut in 2017 with the WannaCry and NotPetya attacks.  In 2018, ransom ware threats will continue to proliferate.  HR systems have not historically been a major target of cyber criminals.  Unfortunately, this will change.  There will be a growing number of attacks against human resources departments, with cyber-criminals posing as potential applicants in the hopes of infecting the larger organization.

We should feel confident these trends will continue to evolve over the coming years. If there is one thing psychologists have proven over the years about predictions, it is that the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

For more on technology and HR, see Why (And How) Technology Is Bringing HR And The CFO Together.

This article originally appeared on Forbes SAPVoice.


Steven Hunt

About Steven Hunt

Steven Hunt is the Senior Vice President of Customer Value at SAP. He is responsible for guiding the strategy and deployment of knowledge, tools and process improvements that increase the value customers receive from SuccessFactors & SAP Cloud software as a service solutions.