A Decade of Change – and a Simple Message


Good morning, Happy New Year and welcome to the new decade. 

2020 sounds like a year when we should all achieve something significant. But – as we all know – a business career is built over far more than just a year. So let’s use this first blog of the 20s to look even further ahead. 

I’ve written about the pace of change any number of times. But one thing is certain: if you thought the pace of change was fast in the last decade then it’s going to be lightning fast in the next. 

If you want proof, just look at the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Every year the industry unveils the latest developments, and every year what we could barely imagine a few years ago is there on stage. Driverless cars are making the news again this year – will any of us even be driving cars when I write this blog in January 2030? 

Another product on show at CES was a TV screen that rolls up into your ceiling. It costs $60,000 and is – in theory – for people who are ‘short of space.’ I don’t know what it’s like in Las Vegas, but here in South Milford if you can afford $60,000 for a telly, you tend not to be short of space in your lounge…

So how might all this change impact our businesses? Let me take just one ‘industry’ as an example. 

What’s been one of the big growth industries (or professions) of the last ten years? Personal trainers. As most people know, I’ve got one – and [name of dog] really enjoyed finishing off the turkey and stuffing…

But now it looks as though personal trainers could be replaced by AI – much in evidence at CES this year. Thanks to AI, machine learning and motion tracking, fitness apps are already rivalling personal trainers. Very fit young men and women have enjoyed a boom over the last 10 years: could we see their industry wiped out in the next ten? 

Quite possibly – especially when you factor in the rapid growth of companies like Peloton. And it all illustrates how fast the pace of change really is. Previously industries might have evolved over 50 years and taken another 50 to decline. That time span is shortening rapidly – and it’s really going to hit home in the next decade. 

Change will affect all our industries. AI executive coaching? It’s already here. Meet Amanda.

Personality coaching? Here’s the YouTube video

And as we read over Christmas, AI is already outperforming doctors in the diagnosis of some cancers.

So don’t think it can’t happen to you. Burying your head in the sand – thinking, ‘it won’t happen in my industry’ – is the one approach that’s guaranteed not to work. It can happen and it will happen. 

That may all sound a little gloomy. It’s the first full week of a new decade: the glass should be at least half-full. AI and machine learning are going to bring enormous benefits as well – and huge opportunities. The vast majority of us just can’t see what those opportunities are yet – which is why an open mind, a desire to go on learning and adaptability are going to be the keys to success over the next ten years. 

And now let me turn to the UK – and specifically to the General Election. My last blog was published on Friday 13th December. The results were only just in as I finished writing.

As you know I didn’t vote for Brexit and I’m not a great admirer of the Prime Minister either. But let me give credit where credit is due. The Conservatives won a majority of 80 seats with a simple message: Get Brexit Done. As Boris Johnson said at the end of the Love Actually parody. “Enough. Enough. Let’s get this done.” 

Now the dust has settled, is there a business message we can take from that ad? Two, actually. The first is that we all have things we’ve wanted to do for a long time. They’re on the long term goals list and – somehow – they’re still on it at the end of the year. 

As I said in the introduction, 2020 sounds like a significant year. So let’s all make 2020 the year we take one thing – be it business or personal – that we’ve always meant to do and, somehow, never done. Let’s lose patience with ourselves: let’s apply those six words to it: ‘Enough. Enough. Let’s get this done.’ 

The second message is yet more confirmation that talent is evenly spread – and not just throughout the UK. Boris Johnson didn’t use Saatchi and Saatchi, a ‘global communications and advertising agency with 114 offices in 76 countries and over 6,500 staff’ for the Conservatives’ social media message. He used two young New Zealanders: Sean Topham is 28 and Ben Guerin is just 24. 

The talent you’ll need over the next ten years is all around you and all over the world – and very often it will be wearing a black t-shirt and a pair of jeans…

4 comments

  1. Donna Fernandez · January 10

    Great blog for the start of 2020. Thanks

  2. simonjhudson · January 13

    2020 will absolutely be the decade of AI; I have been predicting it for half a decade now. As you say, it will have profound effects on society, displacing skills (and, thereby, people) who previously thought their expertise unchangeable by the march of technology. Solicitors, lawyers, accountants and many more who make their living by what they do with their brains rather than their hands will, for the first time in history, find themselves superseded by technology. The same will affect the arts.
    Ironically, manual; jobs, especially crafts and trades, will be largely protected as general robotics is very much in its infancy (I love our shiny new robot vacuum, but it can’t do stairs).
    It’s going to be profound. However, amidst the tabloid headlines to come will be much more subtle stuff. Amanda, the AI coach, is interesting; however Microsoft have already quietly introduced an AI powered presentation coach into PowerPoint (if you must use slides). They did this with no fanfare or major publicity; it’s just there as a feature. Check the Slide Show menu in PowerPoint Online. Like technology revolutions throughout the age, while some technologies are making headlines, it’s the almost invisible stuff that really changes the world.

  3. edreidyork · January 13

    As ever, Simon, a knowledgeable and interesting perspective. Particularly that last para about the “almost invisible stuff” changing the world. Thanks for sharing

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