Keystone keynoter asks: ‘What does the future hold?’ |

Keystone keynoter asks: ‘What does the future hold?’

summit daily news
Summit County, CO Colorado

KEYSTONE ” Most people believe the future is unpredictable, but that’s not the case in Daniel Burrus’ world.

Burrus was the keynote speaker at the Fourth Annual Economic Summit Friday afternoon at the Keystone Conference Center. The Summit Chamber, Breckenridge Resort Chamber, Frisco Chamber of Commerce and Copper Chamber presented the summit.

Burrus pointed out that there are plenty ” more than 300, as a matter of fact ” cyclical patterns that can help predict the future, such as annual ski seasons. But what he focused on were hard trends, or those that drive permanent change.

A hard trend is something like the fact that 78 million baby boomers are aging. It’s predictable and fully measurable, and it has economic impacts. For instance, when the first of the baby boomers born turn 71, their shift to a more conservative stock portfolio will impact that stock market, Burrus said. The question then becomes: What will they want to invest in, and what will they need? Retrofitted elevator systems for homes may be one need.

Another hard trend has to do with government regulations. When the government called for retention of company e-mails, a need for storage arose. Based on that regulation, Burrus can predict that within the next four years, all phone conversations at work will become company property.

Ultimately, hard trends are the most powerful because they change reality. People who regularly use iPods, e-mail or cell phones are not reverting to the old ways, Burrus said.

He focused on technology-driven trends, such as networking, dematerialization (making things smaller) and virtualization (test runs before building, say, a car), among others.

He said the way businesses can get ahead is to use technology in ways the competition isn’t. One way to do this is through decommoditizing a product, which means simply not basing it on competition. The soft drink 7UP did this by making all of its ingredients natural. The next step in decommoditizing it would be to make all of the ingredients organic. Surprisingly, this tactic can be used even with electricity. Electric companies now sell “digital electricity,” which costs more but never fluctuates or flickers off ” a quality important for companies that store a lot of data.

Burrus also said that in times of uncertainty, people can still list what they are certain of. After he spoke, audience members got a chance to make that list, and here are some of the things they came up with: technology will become such a part of the landscape that it will become unobtrusive ” you won’t even think about it being “technology”; population growth in Summit County will continue and housing will not keep up; there will be greater international competition; there will be a change in age demographics; the cost of living will increase; older people will populate Summit County; and telecommuting will be predominate. See, it’s not so hard to predict the future.

In order to see the future, he said it’s important to think in a “both/and” way, rather than “either/or.” Think about how there will be direct mail and e-mail, or full service and self service ” an integration of the old and the new.

Burrus also pointed out that relationships based on trust are becoming more and more important in the economic world. He cautioned businesses to make sure that whatever they do increases ” or at least doesn’t decrease ” trust.

Finally, he drove home the point that it’s not the technology that makes the biggest difference for businesses, but how they use it ” and there are always innovative ways to use it. Technology develops faster than most people can keep up with it, and as such, there are a lot of options out there.

For example, nurses at a hospital spent five of their 13-hour shifts on the phone updating patients’ relatives, who constantly called. But when the hospital started handing out pagers to family members so that nurses could page them when there was a change in patients’ conditions, the calls decreased and nurses spent only 45 minutes per shift on the phone.

His main objective during his talk was to stimulate “ah-has” in people’s minds, and that he did. One man said he learned more during Burrus’ keynote than he did in the last six months, and, by a show of hands, several people agreed with him.

He encouraged people to take an hour a week to look into the visible future, asking what they’re certain about and what hard trends they see. This can allow people to use technology to change the rules of doing business.

“If you don’t do it, someone else will ” so why not you, why not now?” he said.

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