DDB Stockholm's 10 'Un-predictions' for 2017
We don’t need to travel far back in time to remember when predictions fooled us last. The newly elected president of the free world serves as a daily reminder. Predictions are fascinating, maybe because they exist in all areas of our society - from the global economy to next year's colour of underwear. But what’s even more fascinating is the fact that often, experts are completely wrong.
This article isn’t gonna have any predictions. Not that we don’t love them. As inspiration, thought experiments, entertainment and when they’re truly great - a possible vision of the future. But there’s plenty of them to go around. This article is about what won’t change, the behaviours that helps us maximise the chance of success, no matter what next year holds. Because great visions are of little help if you can’t execute on them.
As a team whose job it is to help clients make bets for the future, change is a constant struggle. There’s very little control with emerging technology (don’t tell the clients), that means it’s easy to give up and turn back to things we already know well, instead of moving forward. Here are some of the things that help us, distilled into 10 applicable principles. We don’t take any credit for them. Everything is proudly stolen, paraphrased, and inspired by others. See them as friendly reminders for 2017.
1. Bet on earnest people
Even if the future is hard to predict, research shows what sort of people will make it. New ideas often come from earnest, energetic, independent-minded people that are put into diverse and small teams. Teams are also superior when it comes to predicting what comes next, consistently outperforming individuals by over 20%.
2. Be proactive
If you’re giving clients exactly what they want you’re not being proactive, you’re being reactive. Constantly experimenting, diversifying and looking for new opportunities in unexpected places, outside of briefs and meeting rooms creates a culture that is a lot more flexible and fun.
3. “Show me”
It is not what we don’t know that gets us into trouble, it’s what we think we know. Ideas are hypotheses to be tested, not treasures to be guarded and perfected in a vacuum. A “show me” attitude means focusing on building prototypes over stylish presentations.
4. Start small
Every big system that worked started as a small system that worked. Resist the urge to bloat everything you do. That of course doesn’t mean thinking small. Think big, start with the core, adjust and scale what works. It’s always better to have train wrecks with model trains.
5. Master the basics
It’s much easier to avoid stupidity than it is to create genius. Eliminating the mistakes that are preventing your success and slowing you down can be just as powerful as building new skills.
6. “Strong opinions, weakly held.”
Having strong opinions is good. Quickly changing your mind is also good. Passionate flexibility means that you can fight hard for what you believe in and still be ready to change your mind the second new information comes in.
7. Make input part of your daily routine
We all work in high output environments. Since ideas simply are the sum of our experiences filtered through our brain, no input means no output. Make sure you have routines for it. That might be 20% time, R&D, passion projects or a Ted talk with your morning coffee. Find out what works for you.
8. “Becoming is better than being.”
In his book “Creativity Inc” Ed Catmull talks about how Pixar has goals for internal learning and development with every new film they make and how fundamental that is for the company’s constant innovation. Make sure that you too become better with every project, no matter the outcome.
9. Learn to be a n00b
When experts are wrong, it's often because they're experts on an earlier version of the world. Change is constantly accelerating and the technologies that will dominate the next 20 years haven’t even been invented yet. Being a great beginner is becoming a crucial trait.
10. Don’t be so serious
There’s no correlation between being serious and being good at what you do.
Ps. If you’re as fascinated by predictions and forecasting as we are “Good Reads” has a great list of books, perfect for Christmas holiday reading.
Johan Olsson, Sebastien Otarola and Andreas Fabbe - Innovation & Prototyping, DDB Nordic