Business Trends 2018

With year end at the doorstep its time to wrap-up 2017 and look into 2018. What will be the most important topics that will accompany us in our business life throughout the next year?

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Artificial Intelligence (AI) software gets input and optimises itself proactively. It learns on its own. Today, the technology is still in its infancy. What’s already in use is machine learning. Its software with behavioural algorithms which adapt to our likes and dislikes. These machines are not getting smarter, they just improve their skills based on experience and thus a larger set of data. Some examples of Machine Learning applications of today are:

  • Siri: everyone knows apple’s virtual assistant helping us to add calendar entries, write text messages or lookup information. She uses Machine Learning technology to improve her understanding of our natural language questions and requests.
  • Tesla: the car uses wireless software updates and machine learning to improve the way the car operates. The whole Tesla fleet works as a network. When one car learns something, all cars in the fleet learning it.
  • Amazon.com: the company’s Machine Learning software was refined over the years and has gotten smart at predicting what we are about to buy online. In the future, Amazon wants to get to a point where they ship products to us before we realise that we need them.

Digital Nomads, Remote Working and Social Learning

You are probably one without knowing it: Digital Nomads are not bound to a specified desk with PC, screen and keyboard. Instead, the use wireless internet, laptops and cloud based applications to work remotely. They work from home, in co-working spaces, cafes or shared offices. The ones living it to the extreme use the freedom of this new style of working to combine working with travelling. They sell a number of possessions in order to make travel easier and sell or rent their house – sounds like perfect work/life integration! But more about that later.

The trend seems unstoppable that more and more people work remotely. And for good reasons, here is why its attractive for employees:

  • commuting: less time is spent in traffic and on lengthy train rides. Commuting is inefficient, causes stress and consumes time.
  • health: the time saved by avoiding the traffic and commute can be used to get more sleep, cook fresh food or go for a run.
  • productivity: Imagine how productive you could be without colleagues tapping on your shoulder, people speaking loudly on the phone in the open office or unnecessary meetings. Remote work allows people to focus on their tasks uninterrupted thereby being more productive.
  • work/life integration: remote work provides the flexibility to integrate family life into a busy workday. For example, a 2-hour lunch break can be used to cook a fresh and healthy meal for the kids. There is the flexibility to pick them up at school or a the daycare at 5pm. And if some work could not fit into the busy day, remaining tasks can be done after 8pm once the little ones are asleep.

Does it not feel lonely working remotely? And what about the informal chat at the coffee machine? Even the productive remote workers need a break sometimes. Companies offering remote work have found virtual solutions and do promote casual talk.

Will remote workers never meet their colleagues? Collaborating remotely will never replace live meetings. And due to the fact that remote workers do not see each other physically every day, all participants are looking forward for all live meetings and do their very best about making the meeting a success.

With more people working remotely, its key to develop their talents outside the office through social learning. Traditional social learning happens for example at the coffee machine where two people run into each other and share ideas. A Bloomberg study on social learning says that “social learning can take place in informal one-on-one encounters, among teams in the course of a real-time problem-solving, communities of practice, through social software, expertise directories, and more”. According to the study, the most successful online learning programs include a digital community, where participants can share their experience, ask each other questions and engage in social learning.

I can very much recommend the following book to further deepen the subject:

Remote

 

Blockchain and Bitcoin

What is Blockchain? Blockchain is like a database software. It is consisting of several blocks of data stored in chronological order. Its only possible to add new data and existing data cannot be deleted.

What’s the difference between blockchain and bitcoin? Blockchain is the technical base based on which bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are run. Its like running Excel on a windows operating system.

So what can I do with Blockchain? Where is the connection to real life? Transactions in Blockchain are always correct and unchangeable. Therefore, nobody is needed to authenticate and administer them. So new business models without intermediary can evolve, for example securities trading without banks or real estate purchases without notary. Its the overall goal to establish peer-to-peer communication without intermediary. Blockchain could potentially make financial services and transactions quicker and cheaper. The banks would not need their own expensive IT-infrastructure any more.

A Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency. What are cryptocurrencies? Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies. They are not printed like dollars and euros and only held electronically. Bitcoins are held decentralized and not institution is controls the bitcoin network. Bitcoins are not based on gold or any other standard. Instead software programs that follow defined formula are used to produce bitcoins. The software is open source, everyone can look at it and check its code.

What is the advantage of cryptocurrencies? Transactions are fast. You can send money anywhere and within minutes the money arrives at the destination. Its also very cheap compared to transaction fees made through the traditional banking system.

Are Bitcoins entirely positive? Like everything, Bitcoins have their weaknesses. These are, for example: for the moment, not many businesses accept Bitcoins and some people are still unaware of their existence. In addition, its currently very volatile and almost impossible to predict in what direction it will go. Bitcoin software is still under development and is constantly being improved. As it matures, it will contain more features and tools, become more secure and will be more accessible to the masses.

If you want to dig deeper, you can find additional info here:

 

Live on Social Media

One might think that live streaming is just another form of entertainment. However, viewers are highly attracted by live streaming. Videos on Facebook Live are viewed for three times as long as pre-recorded video. Its currently the most effective way to engage with your audience.

Why is this the case? Because its more alive than a blog you have to read, and there is an unrivalled level of excitement linked to it as you don’t know what will happen next. This puts it even above static online videos.

Producing a professional video for a marketing campaign can be immensely expensive. This is why companies started to work with influencers. Influencers are these days what television hosts used to be. All they need is a stable internet connection and a quality smartphone. Via live streaming they offer instant access to their highly engaged audience. Their fans will actively participate in the action from a remote location.

So if you want to reach your audience in the most personable way possible, bring a trusted face and name into an authentic live video.

Generation Z

Generation Z is currently entering professional life. This generation was born from 1995 – 2005 with smartphones and ipads in their hands. Its the first generation used to the internet being available everywhere and all the time. They are also named the iGeneration or the post-millennials.

The generations before the Zers were called Generation Y (the millennials) born from 1980 – 1995. In stereotypes, generation Y is into self-realization and striving for freedom and flexibility. Generation X was born from 1960 – 1980. They work for financial security and to be able to afford a good life. Work-life balance is key for this generation, they are ambituous, individualistic and competitive.

And how is it gonna be working with Gen Z? The don’t consider diplomas and degrees to be of the same importance like the preceding generations. They are used to constantly inform themselves over the internet and lookup to learn whatever they do not know. Gen Z is inquisitive and motivated. They are adaptive, open-minded and audacious.

For employers its important to know that Zers want to have a say and actively express their opinion. They could never imagine working their whole work life for the same company and the idea of practicing various professions in the future is a common thought or expectation. This is their natural mitigation of the current job insecurity and fast changing work environments.

For forther reading, please refer to these articles in Forbes and Huffington Post.

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