In June, 2010, Steve Jobs introduced the latest version of the iPhone. During his presentation of the new
device's video chat function, he mentioned a memory of his childhood; watching The Jetsons. This, he said,
was what he envisioned the future to be like. He dreamed of technology like the iPhone 4 that would allow
us to video chat in the palm of our hands. And now, it's a reality.
That got me thinking.
We all dream of the future. Usually these dreams
are fantastic visions of flying cars and Rosey the Robot.
But how often do you sit down and think of the future
of your business and your industry? Once a year?
Once a month? How about every day?
Steve Jobs and Apple have experienced wild success
— and massive profits — because of a keen eye
on the future. Think about the leap the iPhone made.
Before it, phones were just phones. Now, the expectations
we have for “mobile devices” is much higher. We
expect them to help us communicate, locate information
quickly and efficiently, help us preserve our precious
memories with photos and video, and keep us
connected with the physical world around us. These
expectations are real — and so are consumers’ expectations
of your business.
We live in fast times. It can feel overwhelming to
try to stay one step ahead. But it doesn’t have to be.
What we need is a plan — a method to keep things in
perspective while focusing one eye on the future.
Start by looking inside your industry. Subscribe to
your competitors’ RSS feeds and check in once every
day to see if any innovation is bubbling up.
But don’t stop there.
As an online retailer, Amazon.com and eBay are not
likely your closest competitors. But they are proven
leaders in the online retail industry. You might never
come close to the success of these two enterprises but
there is much to be learned from them. You might be
surprised how often what seems to be a complex innovation
can be adapted to your business and website.
As a publisher or online news source, CNN.com
might seem light years ahead. But look at a couple of their “revolutionary” ideas. They launched iReport
several years ago; encouraging readers to submit their
own news stories, videos and photos. Can you do this?
Of course you can. In fact, you could have done this
before CNN.com. What’s more, as a small business
you often have the luxury of innovating at a much
faster pace than “big business.” Take advantage of that.
But let’s take a step back.
Just as important as it is to dream big is to know
what’s attainable and realistic. If you pay close attention
to the business of the Web (and by reading Website
Magazine, I can only assume that you do) it can
be very easy to get swept up in every latest, greatest
trend and technology hacked together by every college
dropout and supported by over-eager venture
capitalists. Remember, this is your business. Just because
mobile or the social Web is discussed ad nauseam
by the “thought leaders” of the Web doesn’t
mean they are the future of your business. They
could play a significant role but might there be more
pressing issues? Is there room for innovation outside
of these areas? Of course — there always is.
You know your industry better than anyone else.
You will help decide the future of the industry. But
remember, so will your consumers. They are empowered
more than any other consumer generation
prior. So, while deciding the future, look in the present
and listen to what consumers are saying. “If you
build it they will come” works sometimes but not
What will your business look like in 2020? That’s
up to you and your consumers. But one thing is
for certain — the future is right around the corner.