We are fast approaching Christmas and this is always a sign that we have once again reached the end of another calendar year. I always find the end of the year to be a time of reflection and review. It is also a time to evaluate the progress of your life purpose, goals and objectives that were set at the start of the year or the longer term goals set in previous years. Your life purpose, goals and objectives should be part of your Personal Development Plan.
The end of the year also offers a fresh start for activities that we had intended to do but never got around to doing them. Although I had previously stated that any day can be the start of the rest of your life, the end of the year can be a special time because it can provide closure to outstanding action items that may no longer be relevant, but also removing limiting beliefs by leaving them behind in the current year. The dawning of a new year provides the incentive to start a fresh action list and the motivation to get things done.
Many people make New Year’s resolutions, however, they quickly discover that the resolutions fade even before the first quarter of the calendar year is reached. It is not just about making New Year’s resolutions at the dawn of the New Year, it is about making a committed effort to set written goals and objectives for the coming year and for the medium to longer term timeframe. Numerous studies have shown only three percent of the population set goals and only about one percent actually write them down.
I challenge you to make a committed effort, that is, take ACTION, to review your previous goals and objectives, and/or to set new goals and objectives for 2012. Begin by identifying the major achievements and highlights for 2011. These could include work achievements, financial objectives, family highlights, personal development, educational achievements or personal success outcomes. Achievements should also be acknowledged and celebrated to ensure mental reinforcement and capitalizing on the motivation that this can provide to your subconscious mind. I try to reward myself when I achieve a particular goal or objective. For example, I will buy a gift for myself that reminds me of the success that I have achieved, or I will organise a special holiday trip for myself and my family. In early December of 2011 I took the family to Hawaii for 17 days to celebrate a very successful 2011. In previous years I bought myself a Tag Heuer watch to remind me of a successful multi-million dollar deal I had closed in the year.
I use a visual journal with white pages to document my goals and objectives for the new calendar year. Once I complete this activity I then develop Action Plans for the major goals and objectives. Throughout the year I periodically review my goals and revise any action plans that are not progressing as expected. You should also prepare a vision board which consists of a portfolio of visual material or a collage of images that portray your vision, goals and objectives. The vision board helps to stimulate your reticular activating system in your mind to reaffirm your subconscious.
Like most people I also identify a few missed opportunities or disappointments for the year. This allows me to learn from the experience so that I can strengthen my future plans moving forward. Go ahead and document the missed opportunities and disappointments. Ask yourself, “What could I have done differently to capitalise on the missed opportunities or overcame the disappointments?”, and document potential changes and actions for the future. Don’t spend too much time regretting the missed opportunities. The rest of your life starts now, therefore focus on your future goals and plans for 2012. Some of these goals could also be carried over from 2011. Particularly goals that were over ambitious, which is common amongst high achievers.
I had also previously posted a number of blog entries that can provide further detailed information on developing your goals and objectives (see below). Furthermore, I have included a Personal Development Plan Template that may also be used as a guide.
What are your key goals, objectives and action plans for 2012?
Have a merry Christmas and I wish you every success for the New Year in 2012!
Dr John Kapeleris
The Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, states that for many events or situations approximately 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The principle was first postulated by Vilfredo Pareto in 1906 when he noticed that a small number of the population owned a large percentage of the wealth.
The 80/20 Rule can be applied to almost anything, from science and management to the physical world around us. For example, 80% of your sales may come from 20% of your customers or 20% of your employees may take up 80% of your time.
By adopting the Pareto rule the important few tasks can be separated from the trivial many to focus attention on the key value ating activities. 80% of your time and energy should be focussed on the 20% of your work that is really important.
To begin using the Pareto principle the following suggestions will help:
Identify your key metrics for your products, processes and customers
Convert the measures into Pareto charts
A Pareto chart consists of individual values in descending order in the form of a bar chart
Determine what percentage of the products, processes and customers are contributing to the value of the organisation
Reduce, remove or isolate the low value elements of your products, processes and customers
The Pareto Principle is an easy tool to apply in your organisation, however, it involves some arbitrary decision-making to determine the 20% cut-off, which is more of an art than a science. The Pareto Principle has the potential to identify the more important activities within the organisation thereby providing clarity and focus.
Are you currently focusing on the high value-added activities in your organisation or are you getting overwhelmed with large numbers of trivial activities?
Dr John Kapeleris
Have you ever experienced a situation in your personal or work life when everything progressed according to plan and was working optimally? Were you also at the same time completely focused, motivated and immersed in the activities of the work you were undertaking? This state of being has been described by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi as FLOW.
Flow is the mental state in which a person is fully immersed in an activity, where they feel focused, motivated, in self-control and have a sense of fulfillment. Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Many people engaged in sporting activity who ultimately rise above the challenge of competitors to win an event or game usually state that they were in their flow or in the zone. Flow provides an ongoing state of satisfaction, exhilaration and fulfillment where success is achieved in the process of the activity.
According to Csíkszentmihályi, flow delivers personal satisfaction, happiness and satisfies our creative desires. To experience flow you need to gain a level of competency in the tasks you are performing (e.g. playing a musical instrument, engaged in a sporting activity etc) and be able to transition into a relaxed state of achievement. Getting into the right mental state of flow is a skill that can allow you to think creatively, solve problems and perform at optimum levels. The key to entering the mental state of flow requires the ability to transition your mind into the Alpha State which is the bridge between the conscious and subconscious.
Csíkszentmihályi identifies a number of factors that are associated with experiencing flow:
- Clear goals – goals align with one’s skills and abilities, however, the challenge level should be high, albeit achievable.
- Concentration and focus – a high degree of concentration on a limited field of attention (that is, deep immersion in an activity of interest).
- Loss of self-consciousness – the merging of action and awareness.
- Distorted sense of time – experience of time is subjected and altered, where time seems to pass by quickly.
- Immediate feedback – response is direct and immediate, therefore successes and failures in the course of the activity are apparent, and actions can be adjusted as needed.
- Balance between ability level and challenge – the activity is neither too easy nor too difficult for one’s abilities.
- Personal control – a sense of personal control of the situation or activity, therefore can influence the outcome.
- Intrinsically rewarding – the activity undertaken is rewarding therefore the actions seem effortless.
When in a state of flow the person is fully absorbed in the activity and their awareness is reduced to the actions of the activity, sometimes resulting in a lack of awareness for personal needs when undertaking the activity – not eating or taking a break.
What are some examples when you have experienced flow or have been in the zone?
Dr John Kapeleris
Leadership is a topic that continues to be of interest in the business world but also in government, particularly related to recent events around the world. Leadership should also be a relevant agenda item in your personal life. When thinking about leadership a number of questions come to mind:
- What exactly is leadership as opposed to management?
- Are leaders born or are they created? and
- What does the profile of a future leader look like for the 21st Century?
Leadership is defined as the process involving social engagement that influences people to work together towards the achievement of a common objective or task. Leadership involves creating an environment that inspires and motivates people to achieve extraordinary outcomes. Conversely, management is defined as the process of planning, organising, resourcing, directing and controlling a set of activities in an organisation. Management activities could also be applied to managing yourself or your business.
The misconception that leaders are born not made continues to influence modern-day thinking. Many studies have shown that leaders are created through learning, mentoring and personal experience. Experience being a significant factor to creating a successful leader. A leader must also be able to gain the confidence, support and trust of their team or organisation.
The business environment is constantly changing with new pressures, challenges and opportunities. The current leaders in today’s business environment will need to evolve into the leaders of tomorrow. To adapt to the changing business environment a future leader will need to develop a new profile with the following characteristics:
- Has developed leadership skills and experience, not just an MBA
- Is continuously learning – ongoing professional development and self-education through reading
- Is able to create and articulate a vision for the future
- Defines and establishes clear goals and objectives
- Constantly mentors and develops other leaders
- Has a desire to change – self and the organisation
- Possesses ethical and socially responsible values
- Will be part of a team as much as leading a team
- Will possess lateral thinking skills – creative thinking, innovation and problem solving
- Is able to generate new ideas and identify new opportunities
- Has excellent persuasive communication skills
- Possesses strong “selling” and negotiation skills
- Will lead by example and not be afraid to take action
- Able to represent complex issues in a simple format
- Will be both transformational and transactional
- Constantly monitors progress, reviews outcomes and celebrates success
Do you possess these characteristics to become a successful leader of the future?
Dr John Kapeleris
The “Red Queen Effect” refers to the Lewis Carroll (1872) story “Alice Through the Looking Glass” where we read that the Red Queen runs hard but never gets anywhere because the surrounding landscape is also moving. The Red Queen tells Alice, “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place”. The Red Queen Effect metaphor is very relevant to business – you need to run hard to stay up with the competition, otherwise if you do nothing you will fall behind.
Innovation speed (which is implied by the Red Queen Effect) refers to the length of time it takes for a product or service to move from idea to commercialisation. Many entrepreneurs and organisations struggle to quickly translate an idea to a successful product or service, and therefore are left behind. Some of the reasons may include lack of available early stage risk capital, lack of skills and experience, difficulty in aligning the product or service to the market need, fear of failure, difficulty in accessing resources or inability to manage risk. Improving innovation speed provides a number of advantages for the innovator, including:
- First to market advantage
- Reduced R&D expenditure and other costs
- Improved profitability
- Maximising value before patent expiry
The “Red Queen Effect” is occurring all around us; in new technology developments, increased competition through globalisation, climate change and the rapidly evolving business environment. We also find the “Red Queen Effect” impacting on our personal lives. Rapid and discontinuous change is the main cause of the “Red Queen Effect”.
To stay ahead of the competition organisations must take the advice of the Red Queen, “If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!” The metaphor implies that for businesses to be able to run at least twice as fast, they will require innovation to allow them to think differently and outperform their competition.
Does the Red Queen Effect apply to your organisation or personal life?
Dr John Kapeleris
Your personal belief system is made up of all the previous knowledge, experience and precepts that govern your thoughts, words, behaviours and actions. The current beliefs you possess have developed from an early age, many of which have been acquired through the teachings and learnings obtained from parents, teachers, other authority figures and our personal experiences. Having strong beliefs gives us a sense of why we exist and where we are going in life. Our belief system underpins our life purpose and influences our thoughts, values and behaviours. Many examples have been documented where people have risen above extreme adversity and suffering on the strength of their beliefs. Survivors of concentration camps indicated that they survived harrowing experiences and extreme hardship because they believed in the hope for a better life in the future. Some also visualised and believed they were living in a better life which removed the focus away from the suffering.
For many people their personal beliefs have been barriers to personal development and creating the life they desire. These beliefs are called limiting or damaging beliefs and have been acquired through life predominantly at a young age. For example, we may have been told by our teachers or parents that we will not amount to anything in the future or that we are not good enough to succeed. Limiting beliefs threaten the goals and objectives that we set. We may never be able to achieve some of our goals that we set because they are in contradiction with our limiting beliefs.
If your goals, objectives and life purpose are in conflict with your beliefs then you should change your beliefs to match your goals. This is not a simple task, however we must begin the process of reprogramming our thoughts and beliefs. Following is a process that can be used to modify our beliefs, however we must be disciplined to achieve the change we desire:
- What are the biggest problems or issues in achieving your goals and desires?
- Identify all the deep-rooted beliefs that may be limiting and write them down
- “I’m not good enough”
- “I don’t have what it takes”
- “I’m too tired to exercise”
- “I don’t have enough education to seek the new role”
- “I’m not lucky in life”
The problem and the solution lies within you!
Dr John Kapeleris
A personal development plan is an important tool that can help you achieve the life that you desire. It is amazing to find that the majority of people I meet do not have a personal development plan, yet many complain that they are not satisfied in life and that their life is meandering without progress or achievement. A successful personal development plan can take you from where you are now to where you want to be by filling the gaps in your journey. To develop a successful personal development plan you need the following:
- A vision
- A positive attitude
I have used a simple three-step process in developing my personal development plan that I would like to share with you:
- Identify where you are now. What have been your significant achievements? What have been your disappointments? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Do you know what is holding you back in grasping new opportunities in life?
- Determine where you want to be. What do you need to do to get to the next level i.e. your purpose, goals and objectives in your personal and working life? What are the weaknesses you need to address and the priority areas to focus?
- Develop a personal development plan. What are the actions you will need to take, when are you going to achieve them, and how will you achieve them? What resources and assistance will you require?
A personal development plan can include a number of different elements based on your specific needs. It can be a specific plan focusing on the important goals and objectives you want to achieve, or it could be a more detailed life plan that includes the following elements:
- Your life purpose or vision
- Your dreams and desires
- Your values and beliefs
- Your achievements and disappointments
- Your short, medium and long-term goals and objectives
- Your personal education plan
- Your action plan
To develop your personal development plan the following steps provide a good framework:
Step 1 Brainstorm your life purpose and your goals and objectives
- Take a sheet of paper or use a journal determine your life purpose or vision. List all your goals and objectives. They could also include your dreams and desires in life and a vision of the “Ideal You”.
- Some people have suggested you list 100 goals for this step, but if you can’t get to 100 don’t worry
- Once you have your list then prioritize and label each as follows: 1 = goals to be achieved in one year or less, 3 = goals that are two to three years out, 5 = goals that will take about five years to achieve, and 10 = your ten-year goals and dreams.
Step 2 Focus on your One Year goals
- Ensure your goals satisfy the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Time-based) criteria and rewrite if required.
- Group your goals under the following categories:
- Financial/Material Goals
- Business/Career Goals
- Personal Relationship/Social Goals
- Health & Recreational Goals
- Personal Development & Growth Goals
- Further prioritize your goals under each category. I usually have 4 – 5 goals for each category and I prioritize further by asking what are the more important goals that will have the biggest impact in my life.
Step 3 Develop Action Plans for each goal
- Write each goal at the top of a fresh page and develop the details of your plan.
- Break down the plan into workable individual tasks. Assign a completion date for each task.
- Some goals may require the assistance of other people. You will need to assign specific tasks to the individual people identified who can assist you with your plan.
Step 4 Repeat Steps 2 and 3 above for your 3, 5 and 10 year goals
- Some of your longer term goals may be dreams or desires. You will need to convert these dreams and desires into specific and defined individual goals with timeframes. The individual goals together with their specific tasks and actions, collectively will achieve your overall dreams.
- Long term goals require periodic review to ensure you are on track to achieving the outcomes that you have documented in your plan.
- You may need to revise your plans if you discover that you are not progressing as originally planned.
Step 5 Take Action
- You now have the winning combination of a goal with a plan.
- Take action immediately with the highest priority goals.
- Commitment and self-discipline will be needed to work on your goals and plans every day. Do something every day, no matter how small, to move towards achieving your goals.
- Document your progress in a journal or diary and make any adjustments, if required.
- Celebrate your success and achievements by rewarding yourself.
You can use the attached Personal Development Plan Template as a guide to assist you in starting and further developing your own plan.
Dr John Kapeleris
Recent global events are causing ripples of concern across many countries of the world. Globally we face many challenges (energy, water, food, climate change, economic stability, ageing population etc), but how are we going to solve some of these complex problems that currently exist. Many of these complex problems have networked dependencies, meaning that if we make changes in one domain this could cause a “butterfly effect” in other domains, which could make the current situation worse. There are numerous examples where government policy was implemented to solve one particular issue, but resulted in initiating or worsening problems in other areas – the result of many government agencies working in isolated silos.
In starting to consider some of these complex problems we need to understand what are the new emerging trends that can be utilised to leverage solutions for these complex problems. I came across the following article by Andrew Maynard posted in Dec 2009 that summarises the Ten Emerging Technology Trends of the Next Ten years.
What can we expect as we enter the second decade of the twenty first century? What are the emerging technology trends that are going to be hitting the headlines over the next ten years?
Ten years ago, at the close of the 20th century, people the world over were obsessing about the millennium bug – an unanticipated glitch arising from an earlier technology. I wonder how clear it was then that, despite this storm in what turned out to be a rather small teacup, the following decade would see unprecedented advances in technology – the mapping of the human genome, social media, nanotechnology, space-tourism, face transplants, hybrid cars, global communications, digital storage, and more. Looking back, it’s clear that despite a few hiccups, emerging technologies are on a roll – one that’s showing no sign of slowing down.
Here’s my list of the top ten technologies I think are worth watching. I’m afraid that, as with all crystal ball gazing, it’s bound to be flawed. Yet as I work on the opportunities and challenges of emerging technologies, these do seem to be areas that are ripe for prime time.
2009 was the year that geoengineering moved from the fringe to the mainstream. The idea of engineering the climate on a global scale has been around for a while. But as the penny has dropped that we may be unable – or unwilling – to curb carbon dioxide emissions sufficiently to manage global warming, geoengineering has risen up the political agenda. My guess is that the next decade will see the debate over geoengineering intensify. Research will lead to increasingly plausible and economically feasible ways to tinker with the environment. At the same time, political and social pressure will grow – both to put plans into action (whether multi- or unilaterally), and to limit the use of geoengineering. The big question is whether globally-coordinated efforts to develop and use the technology in a socially and politically responsible way emerge, or whether we end up with an ugly – and potentially disastrous – free for all.
It may not be that apparent to the average consumer, but the way that electricity is generated, stored and transmitted is under immense strain. As demand for electrical power grows, a radical rethink of the power grid is needed if we are to get electricity to where it is needed, when it is needed. And the solution most likely to emerge as the way forward over the next ten years is the Smart Grid. Smart grids connect producers of electricity to users through an interconnected “intelligent” network. They allow centralized power stations to be augmented with – and even replaced by – distributed sources such as small-scale wind farms and domestic solar panels. They route power from where there is excess being generated to where there is excess demand. And they allow individuals to become providers as well as consumers – feeding power into the grid from home-installed generators, while drawing from the grid when they can’t meet their own demands. The result is a vastly more efficient, responsive and resilient way of generating and supplying electricity. As energy demands and limits on greenhouse gas emissions hit conventional electricity grids over the next decade, expect to see smart grids get increasing attention.
Good as they are, most of the materials we use these days are flawed – they don’t work as well as they could. And usually, the fault lies in how the materials are structured at the atomic and molecular scale. The past decade has seen some amazing advances in our ability to engineer materials with increasing precision at this scale. The result is radical materials – materials that far outperform conventional materials in their strength, lightness, conductivity, ability to transmit heat, and a whole host of other characteristics. Many of these are still at the research stage. But as demands for high performance materials continue to increase everywhere from medical devices to advanced microprocessors and safe, efficient cars to space flight, radical materials will become increasingly common. In particular, watch out for products based on carbon nanotubes. Commercial use of this unique material has had its fair share of challenges over the past decade. But I’m anticipating many of these will be overcome over the next ten years, allowing the material to achieve at least some of it’s long-anticipated promise.
Ten years ago, few people had heard of the term “synthetic biology.” Now, scientists are able to synthesize the genome of a new organism from scratch, and are on the brink of using it to create a living bacterium. Synthetic biology is about taking control of DNA – the genetic code of life – and engineering it, much in the same way a computer programmer engineers digital code. It’s arisen in part as the cost of reading and synthesizing DNA sequences has plummeted. But it is also being driven by scientists and engineers who believe that living systems can be engineered in the same way as other systems. In many ways, synthetic biology represents the digitization of biology. We can now “upload” genetic sequences into a computer, where they can be manipulated like any other digital data. But we can also “download” them back into reality when we have finished playing with them – creating new genetic code to be inserted into existing – or entirely new – organisms. This is still expensive, and not as simple as many people would like to believe – we’re really just scratching the surface of the rules that govern how genetic code works. But as the cost of DNA sequencing and synthesis continues to fall, expect to see the field advance in huge leaps and bounds over the next decade. I’m not that optimistic about us cracking how the genetic code works in great detail by 2020 – the more we learn at the moment, the more we realize we don’t know. However, I have no doubt that what we do learn will be enough to ensure synthetic biology is a hot topic over the next decade. In particular, look out for synthesis of the first artificial organism, the development and use of “BioBricks” – the biological equivalent of electronic components – and the rise of DIY-biotechnology.
Closely related to the developments underpinning synthetic biology, personal genomics relies on rapid sequencing and interpretation of an individual’s genetic sequence. The Human Genome Project – completed in 2001 – cost taxpayers around $2.7 billion dollars, and took 13 years to complete. In 2007, James Watson’s genome was sequenced in 2 months, at a cost of $2 million. In 2009, Complete Genomics were sequencing personal genomes at less than $5,000 a shot. One thousand dollar personal genomes are now in the cards for the near future – with the possibility of substantially faster/cheaper services by the end of the decade. What exactly people are going to do with all these data is anyone’s guess at this point – especially as we still have a long way to go before we can make sense of huge sections of the human genome. Add to this the complication of epigenetics, where external factors lead to changes in how genetic information is decoded which can pass from generation to generation, and it’s uncertain how far personal genomics will progress over the next decade. What aren’t in doubt though are the personal, social and economic driving forces behind generating and using this information. These are likely to underpin a growing market for personal genetic information over the next decade – and a growing number of businesses looking to capitalize on the data.
Blurring the boundaries between individuals and machines has long held our fascination. Whether it’s building human-machine hybrids, engineering high performance body parts or interfacing directly with computers, bio-interfaces are the stuff of our wildest dreams and worst nightmares. Fortunately, we’re still a world away from some of the more extreme imaginings of science fiction – we won’t be constructing the prototype of Star Trek Voyager’s ‘Seven of Nine’ anytime soon. But the sophistication with which we can interface with the human body is fast reaching the point where rapid developments should be anticipated. As a hint of things to come, check out the Luke Arm from Deka (founded by Dean Kamen). Or Honda’s work on Brain Machine Interfaces. Over the next decade, the convergence of technologies like Information Technology, nanoscale engineering, biotechnology and neurotechnology are likely to lead to highly sophisticated bio-interfaces. Expect to see advances in sensors that plug into the brain, prosthetic limbs that are controlled from the brain, and even implants that directly interface with the brain. My guess is that some of the more radical developments in bio-interfaces will probably occur after 2020. But a lot of the groundwork will be laid over the next ten years.
The amount of information available through the internet has exploded over the past decade. Advances in data storage, transmission and processing have transformed the internet from a geek’s paradise to a supporting pillar of 21st century society. But while the last ten years have been about access to information, I suspect that the next ten will be dominated by how to make sense of it all. Without the means to find what we want in this vast sea of information, we are quite literally drowning in data. And useful as search engines like Google are, they still struggle to separate the meaningful from the meaningless. As a result, my sense is that over the next decade we will see some significant changes in how we interact with the internet. We’re already seeing the beginnings of this in websites like Wolfram Alpha that “computes” answers to queries rather than simply returning search hits, or Microsoft’s Bing, which helps take some of the guesswork out of searches. Then we have ideas like The Sixth Sense project at the MIT Media Lab, which uses an interactive interface to tap into context-relevant web information. As devices like phones, cameras, projectors, TV’s, computers, cars, shopping trolleys, you name it, become increasingly integrated and connected, be prepared to see rapid and radical changes in how we interface with and make sense of the web.
Is the next decade going to be the one where solar power fulfills its promise? Quite possibly. Apart from increased political and social pressure to move towards sustainable energy sources, there are a couple of solar technologies that could well deliver over the next few years. The first of these is printable solar cells. They won’t be significantly more efficient than conventional solar cells. But if the technology can be scaled up and some teething difficulties resolved, they could lead to the cost of solar power plummeting. The technology is simple in concept – using relatively conventional printing processes and special inks, solar cells could be printed onto cheap, flexible substrates; roll to roll solar panels at a fraction of the cost of conventional silicon-based units. And this opens the door to widespread use. The second technology to watch is solar-assisted reactors. Combining mirror-concentrated solar radiation with some nifty catalysts, it is becoming increasingly feasible to convert sunlight into other forms of energy at extremely high efficiencies. Imagine being able to split water into hydrogen and oxygen using sunlight and an appropriate catalyst for instance, then recombine them to reclaim the energy on-demand – all at minimal energy loss. Both of these solar technologies are poised to make a big impact over the next decade.
Drugs that enhance mental ability – increasingly referred to as nootropics – are not new. But their use patterns are. Drugs like ritalin, donepezil and modafinil are increasingly being used by students, academics and others to give them a mental edge. What is startling though is a general sense that this is acceptable practice. Back in June, I ran a straw poll on 2020 Science to gauge attitudes to using nootropics. Out of 207 respondents, 153 people (74%) either used nootropics, or would consider using them on a regular or occasional basis. In April 2009, an article in The New Yorker reported on the growing use of “neuroenhancing drugs” to enhance performance. And in an informal poll run by Nature in April 2008, one in five respondents claimed “they had used drugs for non-medical reasons to stimulate their focus, concentration or memory.” Unlike physical performance-enhancing drugs, it seems that the social rules for nootropics are different. There are even some who suggest that it is perhaps unethical not to take them – that operating to the best of our mental ability is a personal social obligation. Of course this leads to a potentially explosive social/technological mix, that won’t be diffused easily. Over the next ten years, I expect the issue of nootropics will become huge. There will be questions on whether people should be free to take these drugs, whether the social advantages outweigh the personal advantages, and whether they confer an unfair advantage to users by leading to higher grades, better jobs, more money. But there’s also the issue of drugs development. If a strong market for nootropics emerges, there is every chance that new, more effective drugs will follow. Then the question arises – who gets the “good” stuff, and who suffers as a result? Whichever way you look at it, the 2010’s are set to be an interesting decade for mind-enhancing substances.
Cosmetics and pharmaceuticals inhabit very different worlds at the moment. Pharmaceuticals typically treat or prevent disease, while cosmetics simply make you look better. But why keep the two separate? Why not develop products that make you look good by working with your body, rather than simply covering it? The answer is largely due to regulation – drugs have to be put through a far more stringent set of checks and balances that cosmetics before entering the market, and rightly so. But beyond this, there is enormous commercial potential in combining the two, especially as new science is paving the way for externally applied substances to do more than just beautify. Products that blur the line are already available – in the US for instance, sunscreens and anti dandruff shampoos are considered drugs. And the cosmetics industry regularly use the term “cosmeceutical” to describe products with medicinal or drug-like properties. Yet with advances in synthetic chemistry and nanoscale engineering, it’s becoming increasingly possible to develop products that do more than just lead to “cosmetic” changes. Imagine products that make you look younger, fresher, more beautiful, by changing your body rather than just covering up flaws and imperfections. It’s a cosmetics company’s dream – one shared by many of their customers I suspect. The dam that’s preventing many such products at the moment is regulation. But if the pressure becomes too great – and there’s a fair chance it will over the next ten years – this dam is likely to burst. And when it does, cosmeceuticals are going to hit the scene big-time.
So those are my ten emerging technology trends to watch over the next decade. But what happened to nanotechnology? And were any other technologies on my short list?
Nanotech has been a dominant emerging technology over the past ten years. But in many ways, it’s a fake. Advances in the science of understanding and manipulating matter at the nanoscale are indisputable, as are the early technology outcomes of this science. But nanotechnology is really just a convenient shorthand for a whole raft of emerging technologies that span semiconductors to sunscreens, and often share nothing more than an engineered structure that is somewhere between one to one hundred nanometers in scale. So, rather than focus on nanotech, I decided to look at specific technologies which I think will make a significant impact over the next decade. Perhaps not surprisingly though, many of them depend in some way on working with matter at nanometer scales.
In terms of the emerging technologies short list, it was tough to whittle this down to ten trends. My initial list included batteries, decentralized computing, biofuels, stem cells, cloning, artificial intelligence, robotics, low earth orbit flights, clean tech, neuroscience and memristors – there are many others that no doubt could and should have been on it. Some of these I felt were likely to reach their prime sometime after the next decade. Others I felt didn’t have as much potential to shake things up and make headlines as the ones I chose. But this was a highly subjective and personal process. I’m sure if someone else were writing this, the top ten list would be different.
And one final word. Many of the technologies I’ve highlighted reflect an overarching trend: convergence. Although not a technology in itself, synergistic convergence between different areas of knowledge and expertise will likely dominate emerging technology trends over the next decade. Which means that confident as I am in my predictions, the chances of something completely different, unusual and amazing happening are… pretty high!
Update: Something’s been bugging me, and I’ve just realized what it is – in my original list of ten, I had smart drugs, but in the editing process they somehow got left by the wayside! As I don’t want to go back and change the ten emerging technology trends I ended up posting, they will have to be a bonus. As it is, drug delivery timelines are so long that I’m not sure how many smart drugs will hit the market before 2020. But when they do, they will surely mark a turning point in therapeutics. These are drugs that are programmed to behave in various ways. The simplest are designed to accumulate around disease sites, then destroy the disease on command – gold shell nanoparticles fit the bill here, preferentially accumulating around tumors then destroying them by heating up when irradiated with infrared radiation. More sophisticated smart drugs are in the pipeline though that are designed to seek out diseased cells, provide local diagnostics, then release therapeutic agents on demand. The result is targeted disease treatment that leads to significantly greater efficacy at substantially lower doses. Whether or not these make a significant impact over the next decade, they are definitely a technology to watch.
How will these emerging technology trends affect your current business to help solve your problems, identify new opportunities, and help you develop the products and services for your future markets?
Dr John Kapeleris
The phrase “carpe diem” has been quoted by many authors, but it was Lord Byron’s quote “I never anticipate, – carpe diem – the past at least is one’s own, which is one reason for making sure of the present” in his 1817 work ‘Letters’ published in 1830 by Thomas Moore, which popularized the phrase in the English language.
Carpe diem means to seize the day, which translates to making the most of the available time you have in the day. This applies to both your work life and personal life. By focusing your time on the activities that will provide the greatest value or outcome, ensures that you maximize the use of your time. Generally 20% of the activities you engage in yield 80% of the value or outcomes you desire. It is therefore obvious that we should be focusing on the 20% high value-added activities. However, this is not always as easy as it seems. While we may be working on the high value activities, we may periodically become distracted with lower value activities or other people’s activities that may not necessarily be high value on our own agenda.
As we grow older time seems to pass much faster, therefore we must make every day count. Benjamin Franklin in his book “The Way to Wealth” stated that, “Once we waste time it’s gone. There’s no way to get it back“. What this means for me is that we must invest time rather than spend time.
Therefore how can we make better use of our remaining time on Earth? Following are some of my thoughts that can provide a much richer experience and also possibly extend the available time you have:
- Invest quality time with family and friends
- Exercise regularly, by simply walking or riding a bicycle
- Eat healthy foods
- Remove the physical and mental clutter from your life
- Free yourself from the things that are holding you back
- Be the best you can be in anything you do
- Read books that stimulate your thinking, knowledge and creativity
- Make a list of the important things that you have been putting off and start working on them today
- Plan your time wisely to focus on the high value activities
- Take immediate action – “Just do it!” and “leave procrastination for another day“
Carpe diem can also mean to seize the opportunities that present themselves or that you create. A prepared and open mind will be able to identify opportunities that could transform into the next new product, service or business opportunity. One approach to identifying opportunities involves capturing new ideas and recording them into an ideas journal, which provides the means to further process the ideas into new concepts or applications. Everyone has the ability to identify opportunities, however some people do it better than most. Identifying and seizing opportunities requires the development of your creativity, thinking and implementation skills.
I encourage you to seize the day, maximise the value in your available time and capture the opportunities in your work and personal life.
Dr John Kapeleris