Eight Ways IBM Develops a View of the Potential Futures

Last week I presented at the 47th meeting of the Technology Market Analysis Group.  The theme for the meeting last week was “Trend Spotting and Forecasting Market Disruptions”, a theme that was right up my alley.   I’ll blog more about TMAG and the meeting in the coming days. 

How IBM Develops Views of the Potential Futures - Aug2011The inspiration for my presentation came from a white paper “100 years of foresight: The importance of long-term thinking at IBM” written by my IBM colleague David Jarvis, Senior Consultant of the IBM Center for Applied Insights team.

This was a very timely topic as this past June IBM celebrated its 100th birthday…a major milestone in the company's history.  It’s important to pause and reflect how a company like IBM continues to survive and even thrive in an industry that experiences one disruptive trend after another.  The answer lies in a series of initiatives designed to help the company understand and prepare for the potential futures that lie ahead.  

During the presentation, I provided an overview of eight examples of ways in which IBM approaches the discipline of strategic foresight.  In each of the eight initiatives collaboration plays a big part in planning for the future.   If you scroll to the bottom of this post, you’ll see I’ve also embedded the presentation which I have loaded to HorizonWatching on Slideshare.

Eight IBM Foresight Initiatives

1.Global Technology Outlook (GTO).  The GTO is developed annually by IBM Research and identifies disruptive societal, technical and economic trends that might impact IBM and its clients.  The GTO is used to drive technical initiatives in IBM Research and to jointly engage with IBM in formulating these initiatives.  For more information, check out the 2011 GTO report.  A side benefit of the all the work that goes into the GTO is the annual list of Five in Five…which provides a list of five technologies that may have a disruptive impact on our lives in five years.

2.Academy of Technology. The IBM Academy of Technology is a society of IBM technical leaders across all IBM Business Units.  The academy’s mission is to advance the understanding of key emerging technical areas.  Groups of technical leaders voluntarily study, organize, synthesize and advance technical dialogue and innovation across business lines on important emerging technical topics.

3.First of a Kind (FOAK). The First-of-a-Kind (FOAK) Program encourages collaboration of early adopter companies with IBM Research and Sales.  The effort pushes early thought leadership and experiences with new technologies and results in the piloting of experimental solutions and working prototypes.  For more on FOAK see http://www.research.ibm.com/FOAK/index.shtml

4.Global Innovation Outlook (GIO).  The Global Innovation Outlook focuses more on broad issues impacting all types of organizations. This is an open, collaborative, multi-disciplinary process with external business leaders, academics, researchers and policymakers.  The focus on tackling broad and challenging topics – spanning geographies, generations, industries and interests.  Access past GIO reports via http://www.ibm.com/ibm/gio/us/en/index.html

5.InnovationJam. InnovationJams (https://www.collaborationjam.com) are online collaborative discussions and brainstorming sessions for focused audiences ranging in size from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands.  The brainstorming sessions are enhanced by real-time text analysis and data mining software that highlights hot discussions and possible solutions.  An example was the HabitJam.

6.Institute for Business Value.  The IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) is global team of 50+ consultants who conduct research and analysis across multiple industries and functional disciplines. IBV consultants author thought leadership papers, like “Future Agendas” and “C-Suite Studies” that provides an original, research-based point of view told from a client’s business perspective.  

7.Market Development & Insights.  IBM’s Market Develop & Insights is a global team of market research analysts and consultants that research topics of importance to IBM business leaders and strategists.   The team accelerates the understanding of new or emerging markets, and acts as a catalyst for future growth.  The team provides foresight from a marketing perspective, including market definition, opportunity analysis, market drivers/inhibitors, potential segmentation, and competitive intelligence.

8.HorizonWatch Community.  This is a cross-IBM community of 1900+ IBM employees from all types of functions, divisions and geographies that I have led since it’s creation in 2001.  The mission is to improve our collective ability to sense future disruptive technologies, business issues, trends and opportunities.  The community meets via monthly conference calls on an emerging topic, which are led by a subject matter expert.  In between calls, the community collaborates via an online community platform that allows the members to share and brainstorm ideas about how the future will play out.

Green Recovery?

 

A couple weeks ago, I discussed some trends in VC investments regarding Cleantech.  For the G20 summit early April, the Postdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the Grantham Institute on Climate Change and the Environment published a very interesting document about the potential for a green recovery from the current recession.  (Towards a global Green Recovery) 


The report shows that “Public spending aimed at stimulating private investments that help reducing greenhouse gas emissions can perform very well against criteria for an effective stimulus while providing the additional benefits of lower energy costs and increased energy security.  By focusing on correcting well known market failures in energy use and R&D, it can avoid crowding out private sector activity.  In fact, green recovery programs have the potential to stimulate private investment in low carbon technologies, thereby developing new opportunities for employment, innovation, and wealth creation.”  The report also highlighted key measures that the G20 could take, including physical infrastructure upgrades, energy efficiency increases, and potential flagship project investments. 


So what happened?  The G20 communique included $1.1B in plan pledges – $750B for the IMF, $250B for trade and financing – as well as motions for stricter regulations on hedge funds and banks.  While many groups are arguing that a larger GDP share should go towards green initiatives, others are satisfied that those notions have become mainstream.  Personally, I think that the economic situation is such that priorities will focus on the fastest way to accelerate the recovery, possibly at the expense, at least initially, of green.

IBM’s Next 5 in 5

Last week, IBM published the third annual "IBM Next Five in Five" list.  This is becoming an annual list (check out the 2007 list here) that describes innovations that have the potential to change the way people work, live and play over the next five years.  The Next Five in Five list is based on market and societal trends expected to transform our lives, as well as emerging technologies from IBM’s Labs around the world that can make these innovations possible.  

Here is IBM's 2008 list

  1. Energy saving solar technology will be built into asphalt, paint and windows.  The enabling technology for this will be “thin-film” solar cells, a new type of cost-efficient solar cell that can be 100 times thinner than silicon-wafer cells and produced at a lower cost. 
  2. You will have a crystal ball for your health.  In the next five years, your doctor will be able to provide you with a genetic map that tells you what health risks you are likely to face in your lifetime and the specific things you can do to prevent them, based on your specific DNA – all for less than $200
  3. You will have your own digital shopping assistants.  In the next five years, shoppers will increasingly rely on themselves – and the opinions of each other – to make purchasing decisions rather than wait for help from in-store sales associates.
  4. Forgetting will become a distant memory.  In the next five years, it will become much easier to remember what to buy at the grocery store, which errands need to be run, who you spoke with at a conference, where and when you agreed to meet a friend, or what product you saw advertised at the airport. That's because such details of everyday life will be recorded, stored, analyzed, and provided at the appropriate time and place by both portable and stationary smart appliances.
  5. You will talk to the Web…and the Web will talk back.  In the future, you will be able to surf the Internet, hands-free, by using your voice – therefore eliminating the need for visuals or keypads. New technology will change how people create, build and interact with information and e-commerce websites – using speech instead of text

As I have been researching and analyzing the cloud computing topic this year, I believe all five of these opportunities above will be enabled by the cloud.  All the data required by these services will be stored in the cloud and the services themselves will be cloud services. 

For more information, check out the IBM press kit Next 5 in 5 online press kit – 2008 where you can also download pdfs on each of the 'Five'.  You can also watch a Next 5 in 5 video on YouTube.

IBM’s 5 in 5

IBM has a list it calls the Next 5 in 5.  This is a list coming out of IBM research that provides a list of five innovations that are going to change the way we live in the next five years.  The next 5 in 5 according to IBM are

  1. We will be able to access healthcare remotely, from just about anywhere in the world
  2. Real-time speech translation—once a vision only in science fiction—will become the norm
  3. There will be a 3-D Internet
  4. Technologies the size of a few atoms will address areas of environmental importance
  5. Our mobile phones will start to read our minds

For more information, access the IBM 5 in 5 website where you can read up on each of the five and download a PDF.