“All the tools for a more positive future are there, we just need to make the most of them”.
Tim Antos, Kokoon Technology
Which prediction stands out to you as the most appealing or exciting, and why?
"Without a doubt, it would be the cobot revolution! This will be huge, and will result in a tremendous amount of physical and mental health benefits. All coming from the fact that in a nutshell, it will be the end of the mindless, menial task.
Any employee of almost any business can attest to having to carry out mindless tasks as a part of their day job, so having these taken off of our hands should be exciting for everyone. No longer will we be stuck doing jobs that don't need us to be 'there' or 'present' and can instead focus on adding value.
At Kokoon, we work on cross-engineering and computer aided design, and at times, these tasks almost require you to turn into a robot yourself, and grind through until it's finished. It would be great if a machine could take care of this and in turn, reduce the human error that can come with tasks like coding, in addition to the need to trawl through lines upon lines of code to identify a single mistake.
Tasks like this can currently take five days a week, and within that, there will be half a day to code and create whatever is needed, and the rest of the week fixing bugs. Cobots could make things twenty times easier!"
How would these predictions affect your own business?
The Cobot Revolution:
"While I've already touched on what I potentially find the most appealing about the cobot revolution, there are many other ways this will affect my business in particular. First of all, at Kokoon we are always looking to rapidly create new prototypes, and the main thing that enabled us to grow and get where we are today, was the 3D printing revolution – as we could begin to create and test new prototypes quicker and easier than was previously possible. For me, cobots are an extension of that.
Currently prototypes take us 2-3 months, a cobot would make this process much quicker.
Beyond that, we also want to be able to rapidly talk to our customers, however of course as you grow, this can become harder, and it doesn't feel like any company has quite mastered faultless customer service on a mass scale. The cobot revolution will make that possible, by taking care of the more straightforward, basic FAQ based queries – again freeing up humans to deal with more in-depth customer service and support wherever needed.
All in all, this would affect our and other businesses by enabling us to offer a better product in every sense of the word".
The 4-Hour Work Day:
"As great as this sounds, it's a prediction I personally have to challenge, because while I feel this is entirely possible, we're victims of our own competitiveness. I work because I want to work. Human competitiveness, especially in higher placed roles, will fight against only working 4-hour days. Because if I have a competitor that is innovating and doing new things, I'm going to keep working to make sure we're not losing ground.
Where the current 9 to 5 world is concerned however, it will be amazing, and people will finally get their lives back. When looking at this prediction alongside the cobot revolution, it seems entirely natural that a 4-hour work day will happen.
This also heavily ties in with a personal passion of mine, and a big reason for Kokoon: the need for everyone to get enough sleep. This is so essential, and shorter working hours will allow that to happen, and that will have a huge knock-on effect with productivity.
I was previously a banker and was working all hours, however after a period of time would be completely ineffective. A shorter working day would actually improve productivity across the workforce".
The Reputation Game:
"For the most part, the huge importance and focus on reputation has already happened, however there are some industries that still seem to get away with it and that needs to change. I won't name any names, however I'm sure most would agree that the customer service with companies dealing with phone contracts or utilities leave a lot to be desired.
What I'm most excited by is companies that have a purpose, and predict more start-ups will emerge with a clear mission being their focus, and we won't simply have big corporations trying to make as much money as possible. More businesses will be set up on a higher purpose, from furthering human performance to aiding with health through technology – key drivers here at Kokoon".
The Experience Economy:
"I think this prediction is spot on, and is one I like a lot. In the future the experience economy will become more and more commoditised, as brands follow companies that are leading the way, with Apple being the best example of this - with their entire success being based in experience.
The move to this focus on experience has happened in cycles – from mass customisation, to mass uniformity, it will now all be about what motivates you as a customer, and will result in more niche experiences and heightened creativity.
For example, some pop-up experiences are incredible, however in their current form, they're just not scalable. What will happen in the future, is that we will find ways to capture what are currently large scale and cost experiences, capture what they offer and bring them to the masses – resulting in more commercially viable experiences".
Are you already looking at ways your business can progress with these trends – or do you feel some would benefit your business?
"Yes – experience is everything for us. Right down to the unboxing experience. I always remember a story a good friend of mine told me about when their Mother got a Fitbit. She exclaimed "it’s fantastic", but she hadn’t actually used the product yet. It was just down to the experience around it. The customer service, the speed of delivery, the unboxing, the feel and look of the product. A lot of the time when you look at reviews of products on Amazon, the bulk of the review isn't actually about the product itself, it's about the experience that ties around it.
50% of a great product is what is around it. The other 50% is the great product. It all adds up to the experience".
Do any of the predictions scare you, make you nervous or alternatively, fill you with positivity about the future – and why?
"While I have mentioned how excited I am about the cobot revolution, there are of course some concerns that come with that too. Currently, there are jobs that exist to take care of more 'menial' tasks, so there would need to be some upskilling. I’m positive and excited about what collaborative robots will do for us, however a potential loss of jobs is of course worrying.
There is also a side of the rise in importance of reputation that is concerning, because sometimes, a complaint or story could break that is not fully justified, however before a brand can have their say on the matter, the damage can already be done. Being judged on this mass scale, and some of it not being justified, can mean that ten years of work can be undone in a second.
That aside, how could anyone possibly be scared of a 4-hour work day – that’s brilliant!"
Do you agree with James that reputation today is paramount, with reviews, and good or bad word of mouth on the likes of social media/review websites making a big difference to sales and brand reputation? What action do you take to keep this as a key part of your offering?
"Absolutely – this is so so important to our business. The action we, and other businesses should take, is to test, test and test some more. In addition to that, it’s a necessity to be transparent with your customers.
Being a crowdfunded business, we have to keep this transparency every step of the way, because we have multiple investors and a lot of eyes on the product. With this in mind, and with customer satisfaction such a focus of ours, we slowly release product to understand any kinks in the technology, and update as the rollout and testing goes. It takes time and costs money, but we’ve been able to test prototypes very widely – and this commitment to testing helps us create the best product possible. Reputation and positive reviews come hand in hand with great products and experiences".
In addition to these trends, is there anything else you predict happening, from your own hands on experience and what you are seeing on a daily basis? What do you predict to happen by 2050 where businesses and consumers are concerned?
"My main prediction is that we will be able to live on our own terms a lot more – with many different elements making this possible. It is already starting to happen with the rise in popularity of flexible working, and the idea of being able to work from home. I remember years ago, the idea of being able to work from home sounded absurd, however in many industries now it's an accepted norm.
This will only happen more and more, and we will only be measured on results and achievements, rather than other factors such as attendance/punctuality levels. This will be a great thing for performance. It doesn't matter if you're working on a beach if you get the job done!
In addition to this, and something that goes hand in hand with the idea of being able to finally live on our own terms, is the self-driving car. This will mean that we'll also be able to live where we want to live, and not just somewhere that is convenient for the office.
Both self-driving and flexible, collaborative working will come together, as we'll be able to work whilst travelling, completely changing how we currently view the commute. Currently it's dead time, and there is no point in it. The rise of the self-driving car will reduce traffic, the current problems with commuting and again, boost productivity. All the tools for a more positive future are there, we just need to make the most of them".
Keeping your own predictions in mind, but placing yourself in an ideal/dream world, what would you want to happen by 2050?
"I love the recent trend of people wanting to start their own business and following through on it. I feel this has been brought on by the current generation dealing with student loans, fewer opportunities and the likes of Mark Zuckerberg showing us the way. I hope this continues, as this entrepreneurial spirit is so exciting for creativity.
In a dream world, I would also like to see a future iteration of the gig economy, that doesn't have the negatives it currently does. The idea in its essence is really exciting: why shouldn't we be able to pick and choose what we do on a day to day basis if we're good at what we do? What I love about being a CEO is being able to dip in and out of various parts of the business – I hope for a future where anyone is able to do that.
Above all else though, what I want to happen by 2050 is for us all to live longer and achieve more. With these predictions made by James, this is entirely possible. The world should become more motivated by health and education, but we haven't yet tapped into what we can achieve. I'm excited and hopeful of that happening".
Having started a business in the digital world, do you have any advice for other business owners or budding entrepreneurs, on how to stay successful and make use of new technologies?
- "There is such an immense amount to learn, so my number one piece of advice would be to never ever think you know everything, and are simply smart enough to move forward without any advice. It's so easy to not listen, but this is the best thing any business person can do, especially with how fast technology is now changing the way we need to work, or how we can work.
This does come with a caveat though, because it's all about listening to the right people. Everyone can have input on how to do something and run your business, but the ones you need to take notice of, are those you admire and have seen success in their own field. These might not be people you immediately know, but use the technology at your fingertips to read, listen and connect. My most valuable meetings are meeting with other start-ups as they're a great sounding board for ideas.
Put simply, the beauty of the internet is being able to listen – so use it!
- Aside from that and looking at the tech industry itself, my advice would be to start with an actual problem and work from there. It's very easy to be overwhelmed by technology, and there's many people that will use it to create something for the sake of it, and then almost work backwards in fitting some sort of purpose to their creation/business idea. This is the wrong way to go about a tech start-up. The real success comes from the solving of actual problems".
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