Business models looking back and forward

Everybody’s making predictions at this time of year, but I want to look back a bit. In 2004 Seth Godin made these predictions (and others) for 2009, and asked, and what then?

  1. Hard drive space is free
  2. Wifi like connections are everywhere
  3. Everyone has a digital camera & everyone carries a device that is sort of like a laptop, but cheap and tiny
  4. The retirement age will be five years higher than it is now
  5. Your current profession will either be gone or totally different

Given all those future predictions we read each year, it’s good to see that someone got it right.

In 2007 I examined these predictions from the perspective of business planning and made these recommendations:

  1. Don’t try to build another #$%* portal, because people have lots of places to put their stuff and they are getting information from a whole bunch of sources. Think small pieces, loosely joined.
  2. Anywhere can be a hotspot so adding wi-fi just might get some interesting people to gather around you and that’s what’s really important.
  3. All of those digital pictures are looking for a place to be shared. They might even improve your organisation’s learning about itself and its environment.
  4. Remember those folks that you thought would leave with all their knowledge? Well, they’re not leaving, or they’re probably interested in a new relationship, so get them while you can.
  5. Job? What’s a job?

In early 2010 it is pretty obvious that nobody needs an other Web portal. Even the project for the Pan-Canadian Online Learning Portal that I was working on in 2006 was finally canceled. Wireless is becoming ubiquitous though it’s still too expensive in too many places. Of course, almost everybody has a digital camera, usually combined with a phone or other smart mobile device. So, would your business have made different decisions five years ago if these predictions were heeded?

I find the last two points most interesting today because we’re just starting to see their impact. The recession and financial crisis pushed many retirements back several years, if not decades. Mandatory retirement ages have been successfully challenged in courts in several countries. There is a real business opportunity in older adults who are not fully retired, still have money and have time. It’s also becoming evident that new jobs are being created just as older ones are obsolesced.

How’s your business model for the next five years? Which predictions and trends are you following? Of course, I’m staying out of the prediction business 😉

4 Responses to “Business models looking back and forward”

  1. virginia Yonkers

    While wifi might be limited, the new upgraded mobile phone systems are meeting this need. I just read an article in the Financial Times that the newest technology to be introduced at the International Technology fair is the “smartbook”, a combination notebook computer and smart phone. The smartbook will allow access to the internet either through mobile phone technology or wifi with the ability to communicate, access and transmit information, and access/transmit multimedia. In the US, at least, the 3G network is much more developed than Wifi, especially in less populated areas.

    The other trend that I see is moving from a central place to hold information to multiple places to record the location of information (delicious, facebook, cell phones) and the communication of where those places can be found (again delicious, facebook, but also twitter).

    I think also that there is a battle going on between “legitimate” information and “flawed information”. You can read the rest of my predictions here.

  2. Dave Ferguson

    Seth was right, in terms of metaphor, in saying that hard disk space would be free. I heard the somewhat less popular Bill Gates say something similar in the late 1980s: when you think about the future, assume that storage, memory, and bandwidth are free.

    None of that’s quite true, of course; it’s only the relative cost that’s fallen. Some people with smartphones may not be able to accurately state the total cash outlay over two years (often close to US $3,000) for hardware, voice and data services.

    Clearly cost is only one variable in the equation, but it’s not one to ignore.


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