Three major signs that the future is now

Even at the dawn of a brand new year, I’m usually not one to make yet another list of predictions about what’s in store for us in the coming months...

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January 30, 2017
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#1 Time will become the new currency

Time is our most valuable ‘possession’ (if we can call it that, of course). We waste time making money that we will then use to buy other time. It’s insane when you think about it in that way. We only go through the trouble of buying stuff that we hope will make our limited time more valuable. Time is scarce by definition. It cannot be bought, only lost, wasted or… made valuable.

I am convinced it will soon become the one and only currency left. As a matter of fact, it always was, but we had to wait for this tipping point in society to really make that happen.

It’s individuals who are developing a brand-new perception of value. Not companies. Not governments. Not brands. People. It’s about true value. I absolutely love this quote from The Fight Club: “We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like”. But this will no longer be valid in this new digital age. More and more, people are sharing their possessions on platforms which run on our mobile devices. They care less about money and far more about the quality of their lives. It’s no longer about products and services. It’s about customer experience and how that is expressed in the currency ‘time’.

For instance, public transportation is still defined by moving people from point A to B for a certain amount of money. But in fact, their one and only value proposition is time. Public transport should enable a great experience while traveling from A to B, allowing travelers to invest their time in something else. The very same goes for the new type of auto-mobiles (which is what I call self-driving cars): it’s not the cars themselves which have value. It’s the extra time that they offer us.

It is crucial that public transport companies understand this and invest in the customer experience of their offering. If they don’t, self-driving cars will disrupt them, as both ‘sell’ the exact same thing: quality time. Just think of all the things you could do if you would no longer need to concentrate on driving yourself.

Not that long ago, I visited a cafe in Ghent where the owner told me how frustrating it was how some customers buy one drink and then stay for 4 hours to use his Wi-Fi. That’s when I suggested him to transform his business model. He should no longer sell coffee, but think in terms of customer experience and charge money for the time customers spent in his bar, all drinks included. I believe that this evolution will take place in every sector and the first movers will be able to take great advantage of this. My advice to all of you is to investigate if and how you can move from a product-centric approach to a time-based model.

#2 The sharing economy will create a different app for every single thing

The sharing economy is not new, but its growth keeps speeding up. Caused by that changing perception of ownership, we realize that we can avoid the burden of ownership without losing any of its benefits. Here as well, the very essence of this movement is time: why waste our time to make money so we can purchase expensive things that we could just use instead, … for a lot less money. With many start-ups jumping on the peer-to-peer bandwagon, we’re moving into an era when there will be an app for almost everything. That’s what technology does: it makes life easier and more fun for us. It saves us from performing repetitive tasks, giving us (yes ...) more time.

The emerging importance of use-value and the sharing economy also brings us to the matter of a basic universal income. As buying behaviors change, why would anyone still need all that money? I believe we are evolving to the ultimate form of the sharing economy. It will no longer be about money for value, but about trading time. Time for time. That’s exactly what sharing economy platforms enable: they help us share our time with peers, thus creating more time for ourselves.

#3 New kinds of communities will create a shift of power

With the omni-presence of the internet, I believe new forms of bottom-up communities will rise to the surface and replace traditional top down governments, states, countries, cities.... People are taking power back into their own hands. If this reminds you of the love and peace vibe from the hippie era, then you’re 100% right. Places driven by this type of alternative culture are fertile ground for creativity. It’s not a coincidence that some of the most flourishing companies in the world come from San Francisco, which is the birthplace of the hippie era and therefore home to many wildly original personalities able of extreme divergent thinking. But I’m side-tracking here. Back to the essence: society has only just begun to acknowledge the true power and value of the internet, because it is leading to a tremendous shift in power.

Many organizations are afraid of this new era of sharing and meritocracy, as it threatens their control over the very things they used to dominate. They are not equipped to handle this major shift in empowerment. They are worried what is going to happen with their revenue-models. Very worried. That’s why their resistance is very strong. This old order is fighting for its survival. But the New World has already won. Driven by technology the people have taken the power and are driving a new kind of society: a meritocracy, that thrives on extreme transparency.

Did you know that there’s a Spanish - Jun - that entirely runs on Twitter? Since the beginning of this project in 2011, founder Rodríguez Salas gathered more than 3500 people in this experiment. Now, everyone in town can use the Twitter platform to communicate. And they know that the person at the other end is who they say they are, because all identities have been verified. That’s the type of transparent meritocracy-like communication that will take over in the long term.

So. That’s my 2 cents about what will happen in the Day After Tomorrow, which will arrive a lot faster than you think. My advice: do not fight your Day After Tomorrow. Step into it. Be curious, open minded. Taste it. Feel it. Get to understand how it works. How society will work. Understand the new values. Understand the importance of time. Embrace it. Then go back to your actual business, take all elements that you can use, re-construct that business to fit into that Day After Tomorrow and scale it. Fast. Because time is running out. 

Rik Vera
Rik Vera
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January 30, 2017
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