Reviewed by Ed Bussey, founder and chief executive, Quill Content
Published by FT Publishing
In years gone by, the term "disruption" might have had negative connotations – particularly in the context of the classroom – but today, it is the watchword of modern business, with almost every emerging start-up claiming disruptive qualities.
But, looking beyond this hype, what does the term actually mean? In Futureproof, co-authors Minter Dial and Caleb Storkey (who have backgrounds in brand, marketing and digital strategy) set out a bold definition – disruption isn’t just about technological innovation, but rather about larger changes in the way that people and businesses think, communicate and behave. In short, disruption requires a shift in thinking and mindset, not just the application of new technology.
Considering the sheer breadth of topics discussed, the authors do a great job
The book, then, is divided into two distinct parts: part one looks at the fundamental shifts in mindset that are vital for enabling and embracing disruption (namely, meaningfulness, responsibility and collaboration), whilst part two explores the disruptive technological forces that are already making a huge impact on society, business and industry – spanning forces as diverse as the sharing economy, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence (AI), 3D printing, big data, genomics and the dispersed, remote workforce.
Considering the sheer breadth of topics discussed, the authors do a great job of investing each section with useful insight, using a mixture of personal and professional anecdotes, credible research and real-life business examples to bring these complex themes to life. Each section rounds off with a "slice of PIE" – concrete, actionable suggestions of how to apply the principles discussed at a personal, internal (organisational) and external (customer, partner, stakeholder-facing) level.
Whilst many of the subjects tackled in Futureproof are so large that a really thorough analysis would fill a whole book rather than a single chapter, it is nevertheless an excellent read – demystifying the disruption buzzword with refreshing pragmatism.
If you only have time for this…. key points from the book:
- It’s not enough for a business to appoint a digital transformation officer and delegate responsibility for innovation to one individual. The senior leadership team must all be digitally focused agents of change.
- Digital transformation isn’t about keeping up with competitors; it’s about keeping up with the customer – who have constantly changing needs and expectations as technology continues to advance. Companies who stand still are destined to fail.
- 72% of highly engaged employees understand their importance or role, and how it contributes to organisational success. It’s vital that companies have a clear purpose and a sense of meaning – and that employees understand their value.
- The sharing economy is changing everything. Owning is being replaced by renting, fixed assets are losing their value and property is being democratised. Business models that are based around human networks and collaboration will soon overtake their traditional counterparts.
- The importance of data is not to be underestimated – it’s critical to formulating a single customer view. Considering the wealth of new data streams that are emerging (from connected home devices and wearables, in particular), the challenges of managing big data are only likely to increase, but it’s critical to address them to achieve customer-centricity.
- AI is likely to transform almost every industry, with enormous potential to increase productivity and efficiency. However, all evidence to date points to AI working best in conjunction with human intelligence – what I call a "humans in the loop" approach. Whilst AI will be instrumental in removing human error from repetitive, mechanical tasks, humans will still be needed to supply creativity, emotion and intuition – adding value in areas that machines can’t master.