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Connection Revolution: The hyperconnected year ahead

  • Greater mobility and connectivity mean leaders need to be transformational and adaptable.
  • In a rapidly transforming economy, up to half of the people in NSW will need to upgrade their skill sets.
  • Technology is integrating into almost every element of our lives – think Amazon’s Alexa personal assistant.
  • Domino’s Pizza is developing and exploring the use of pizza delivery drones.
  • People are more likely to use technology if it has an emotive element.

From drones that deliver pizzas to speakers that stock your fridge – welcome to the connection revolution.

When addressing a conference in Sydney recently, Jeffrey Cole, analyst and director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, recounted a story of early disruption: “In 1999, Bill Gates was asked, ‘Who keeps you awake at night? Is it Intel? Is it Time Warner?’ And he said, ‘You want to know what keeps me awake at night? It’s two guys in a garage in Silicon Valley’.”

Sunset cityscape with nodes

This anecdote has come to be a favourite among futurists looking to highlight the agile thinking and responsiveness leaders need if they are to survive and succeed into tomorrow. And there’s no mistaking why.

If the rise of mobility and connectivity are any indication, there’s little room for leaders to be anything but transformational and nimble, says futurist and founder of think tank Thinque, Anders Sörman-Nilsson. Leaders need to grasp that we are at the knee of the “singularity curve” where biology and technology start converging – and expect exponential advances, he says.

“It’s a device – it’s a thing that’s going to help and assist your life, and if it’s emotive, you’ll put a far better value on it than if it’s just a functional thing.”

Don Meij, Group Chief Executive and Managing Director, Domino’s Pizza

From disruption to integration

Sörman-Nilsson predicts that change will come fast, in the form of the “transformation economy” anchored in automation. “In an age of machines, human skills have to be redefined,” he says, adding that half of all jobs in New South Wales are up for automation, meaning many people will need to upgrade their skill-sets to stay relevant.

Meanwhile, organisations should integrate the analogue and digital worlds seamlessly. This means ensuring that transitions between mobile and virtual reality (VR) are human-centric and friction-free, Sörman-Nilsson says.

Central to the connected era is technology that can integrate into almost every element of our lives, says Cole, who cites Amazon’s Alexa as the new frontier in artificial intelligence. A personal assistant with seven speakers and eight microphones, Alexa is designed with personalisation and integration in mind.

“You open the refrigerator and you say, ‘Alexa, I need eggs’, and it goes right on to your shopping list, which is on your smartphone,” Cole says. “Then when you’re in the market, you pull out your phone, you look at the Alexa app, and everything you told Alexa is there.

“And every week Amazon sends an email outlining all of her new powers, which are considerable: everything from tracking sports scores to more functions in the home.”

group of friends using a mobile phone

Digital breeds disruption

Of course there are those who argue that in the course of the digital revolution, disruption is inevitable. “It’s an intense environment,” says Don Meij, group chief executive and managing director at Domino’s Pizza.

“I always think it’s a bit like white-water rafting in that you’re always navigating through so many things,” Meij says, adding that what organisations should focus on is love or empathy, which can be baked into products ranging from pizzas to smartphones.

“Technology is emotive – you know, people think it’s wires, and plugs, and silicone, and glass, and aluminium and whatever, but it’s not,” Meij adds.

“It’s a device – it’s a thing that’s going to help and assist your life, and if it’s emotive, you’ll put a far better value on it than if it’s just a functional thing.”

Meij’s vision of lovable, emotive devices finds expression in Domino’s fleet of congenial delivery vehicles. The vehicles, or DRUs (Domino’s Robotics Units), roll along, equipped with friendly personalities designed to encourage customer engagement.

The company is confident that one day the four-wheeled devices armed with sensors that detect obstacles will deliver piping-hot pizzas to your door. DRU has now been joined by its aerial counterpart, DRU Drone by Flirtey, to reach even more customers.

While there’s no knowing for sure where this will lead, there’s little doubt this is the sort of technology that’s connecting us in the right direction. “The things that are worth the most are the things you end up loving,” Meij says.

“The word ‘love’ gets attached to it because you get the sensory things that have gone into it. It’s intuitive to who you are, it’s emotional to who you are. We hope our customers love DRUs as much as we do.”

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