Complex Made Simple

7 top trends that will impact business & technology in 2018

Analyzing the pressing forces acting internally and externally on organizations and society, Accenture has released Fjord Trends 2018. Its 11th annual report examines seven emergent trends expected to impact business, technology and design in the year ahead.

Rapid technological advancements are altering the world we live in today, provoking both wonder and angst about the possibilities. Whether it’s artificial intelligence, computer vision or blockchain, emerging technologies are uprooting the digital and physical experiences of our everyday lives.

These joint forces are simultaneously creating optimism and concern about the unprecedented wave of change that is unfolding.

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 “Each of our 2018 trends is born out of a fundamental tension – be it a shift, a collision or a parting of ways,” said Mark Curtis, co-founder and chief client officer at Fjord. “Digital versus physical, human versus machine, centralized versus decentralized, speed versus craft, automation versus control, traceability versus anonymity. Winners in 2018 will be those who best navigate these tensions and seize the opportunity to collectively design the world we’ll be living in.”

Fjord Trends 2018 suggests how organizations can navigate these currents and design for positive change. It examines seven trends expected to shape the next generation of experiences.

Physical Fights Back

Digital is no longer the centerpiece of brand experience, says the Accenture report.

Emphasis is shifting onto how best to use it as an invisible enabler of physical and sensory experiences.

As interactions with users evolve from periodic engagements via a screen to consistent, connected experiences, organizations must create new services that are deeply integrated in the physical world.

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Computers Have Eyes

As well as comprehending our words, computers now understand images without any help from us.

As computers get better at reading the emotions of people using computer vision, human behaviors and intrinsic features will need to be designed into services to fully interest and engage users, the Accenture report adds.

 Slaves to the Algorithm

We are looking at a new marketing environment, which is neither online retail nor a bricks-and-mortar store.

In this “third space,” algorithms are performing the role of gatekeeper between consumers and brands, and they are indifferent to the branding efforts that influence buying decisions people make for themselves.

Organizations must get a grip on these new algorithm gatekeepers and learn to navigate and engage with them. They will need to explore which aspects of their brand architecture to play up and play down.

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Brands dependent on visual cues in an auditory world where voice-enabled recommendations and transactions are the norm may suffer. Existing brands with strong names will have a massive advantage. New brands trying to establish themselves may face an uphill battle, the report adds.

 A Machine’s Search for Meaning

A.I. might change our jobs, but need not eliminate them. We can – and should – design our collaboration with the machines that will help us develop, maintains the Accenture report.

Algorithmic transparency should be central to your brand values. Staff and customers alike must have an understanding of how decisions are being made. Technology fails when it is not inclusive.

AI has the potential to fail on a grand scale. Ensure diversity of people, data, and AI-enabled machines to keep biases in check.

In Transparency We Trust

Blockchain has the potential to create transparency that will clear the fog of Internet ambiguity, regain lost trust, and repair relationships with the public, notes the report.

Organizations, therefore, must act now to understand and harness blockchain’s potential to deliver transparency and re-build trust — between organization and customer, and between organization and employee.

One immediate challenge will be to get people to understand it, another will be to encourage them to trust it. Both are issues that designers will be well-positioned to handle.

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The Ethics Economy

Organizations are feeling the heat to take stands on political and societal hot button issues, whether they want to or not. And consumers are speaking with their dollars, choosing brands that align with their core beliefs, argues the Accenture report.

Until recently, it’s been enough for an organization to be reactive, apologizing when they get things wrong, or — like The Body Shop and Patagonia — responding to customer demand for products that help them make “good choices.”

Now, organizations are realizing they cannot duck broader issues beyond the traditional Corporate Social Responsibility agenda — because customers and employees expect them to do so.

More recently, customers have demanded brands do the right thing — quickly owning up when they make a mistake.

Design Outside the Lines

Design’s rapid ascendancy and newfound respect within organizations is a win for all. But, in a world in which everyone thinks they’re a designer, today’s practitioners need to evolve – how they work, learn, and differentiate themselves – if they are to continue having impact, maintains the Accenture report.

Organizations must re-evaluate and refocus on three core pillars: depth in design craft; design processes, tools and team structures; and breadth of design skills.

Design is an important problem-solving tool, and it’s also capable of ensuring powerful market differentiation. Design craft is the factor that makes products loveable — essential for building the most compelling services and products, it concludes.