Effective Execution

January 9th, 2013 | Posted by John Kapeleris in Action - (2 Comments)

Effective Execution“Success comes from transforming thoughts, ideas and opportunities into action”. John Kapeleris

Despite the emphasis on taking massive action and getting things done as the cornerstone of success, we continue to make new year’s resolutions that dissipate within a few weeks of starting the new year. Individuals and corporations find it difficult to effectively execute personal and strategic initiatives. Although we have clear goals and objectives, detailed plans and the commitment to achieve the results we want, we continue to struggle with effective implementation. Therefore, what can we do to implement effective execution in our personal and business lives?

Gilbert, Buchel and Davidson in their book “Smarter Execution: Seven Steps to Getting Results” identify seven steps to achieving effective execution:

  1. Focus first – Focus can provide clarity and at the same time magnification of the tasks we want to achieve. If we focus on the high value tasks that will make the difference in our work and personal lives, then we can easily execute our plans.
  2. Pick the best possible team (resources) – You need to have the right skills and capabilities for effective execution. If you are assembling a team of people ensure that you have the correct alignment of skills with the tasks required. If the skill set is not available internally then it should be outsourced.
  3. Set the course – You need to set a clear direction of where we want to go and develop clear execution steps that remove confusion.
  4. Play to win – The team and its members need to possess a winning spirit. Strong personal motives can drive projects and tasks to successful completion.
  5. Think it through – You need to think through the foreseeable future steps and have in place alternative courses of action. Mental rehearsal provides a clear pathway but at the same time can anticipate potential impediments that can be overcome in advance. It is important to think through the resources required, reviewing the key success factors and being prepared for any risks for the upcoming execution steps.
  6. Get all aboard – Every team member must be committed to the vision and direction of the project. Communication will be an important factor to ensure the team is informed of the progress against the agreed vision and direction. Any deviation should be evaluated, agreed and communicated to the team.
  7. Follow through – One of the critical steps in achieving effective execution is the follow through. The lack of follow through could certainly guarantee failure.

Wishing you a happy, prosperous and successful New Year 2013!

Dr John Kapeleris

 

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Entrepreneurship is defined as the process by which a new venture is created when an entrepreneur identifies a new opportunity in the market to create economic products and services. An entrepreneur is therefore someone who is willing and able to convert a new idea or invention into a successful innovation in the market. The innovation could be in the form of a product, a service, or a novel business concept or model.

The typical characteristics of an entrepreneur include:

  1. An enthusiastic person with a vision
  2. The ability to identify new opportunities
  3. Calculated risk-taking
  4. Responsible in decision-making
  5. Overwhelming urge to succeed
  6. Discipline and persistence
  7. Confident and persuasive communicators
  8. Driven by the sense of accomplishment
  9. The ability to coordinate and manage scarce resources (time, money and people)

Studies according to Arthur Cole (1959) have identified four types of entrepreneurs:

  1. The innovator
  2. The calculating inventor
  3. The over optimistic promoter
  4. The organisation builder

Entrepreneurship is a very difficult undertaking, where many new businesses fail. Only a very small percentage (approximately 1%) of people who go into business succeed. Entrepreneurial activities range from solo businesses, many now being created online, to establishing large businesses, such as mining, employing large numbers of people. Entrepreneurs can also exist within existing organisations who identify new opportunities able to grow the existing organisation or alternatively are involved in spinning out new businesses. These entrepreneurs are referred to as intrapreneurs. An innovative high performing organisation should nurture and support the development of intrapreneurs as this activity can create significant growth for the organisation, either through the internal development and commercialisation of new ideas or through the creation of subsidiary businesses. If organisations do not identify, nurture and support intrapreneurs then many will leave the organisation and create their own businesses.

Entrepreneurship has been identified by many economists, including Joseph Shumpeter, as a driving factor that creates value in the economy through the following benefits:

  • Creating new jobs
  • Expanding new markets
  • New products and services
  • Satisfying domestic consumption
  • Developing new and existing industries
  • Income generation and economic growth
  • Healthy competition creating higher quality products
  • Supporting the existence of government and their budgets

Dr John Kapeleris

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In a previous blog I introduced Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats technique. The simple approach that encourages parallel thinking within a group or team environment has been useful in solving complex problems but can also increase productivity in meetings where decisions need to be made. Unfortunately, the tool is not used widely because many people don’t feel comfortable in using the technique (could be due to a number of reasons) or they don’t value the tool’s ability to deliver enhanced outcomes.

Having used the tool for over two decades I have seen the power of parallel thinking in a meeting environment. Unfortunately, I have also seen the tool challenged by a number of senior managers who don’t support the use of the tool because they don’t believe in it. The key to experiencing the power of the tool is to start using it and developing a deeper understanding of the power of the Six Thinking Hats. The best approach for applying the tool is to firstly understand the sequence of the coloured hats to use.

When I used the Six Thinking Hats in a workshop to work on the global problem of “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” I used the following sequence of coloured hats and associated questions:

When considering a specific problem or topic it is best to start with the WHITE hat as this allows all the background information to be presented and documented. Once the problem or topic is fully defined then the RED hat is used to ask participants how they feel about the problem or situation. Participants’ feelings are documented. The general tendency for a proportion of people in a meeting, at this stage, is to present the negative aspects of the problem or situation, however in this process I like to encourage the use of the YELLOW hat to capture the positive aspects of the problem or situation from all participants. Sometimes we can identify the positive elements of a problem or issue. This step is then followed with the BLACK hat when everyone considers the negative aspects of the problem or situation. The BLACK hat is then followed by the GREEN hat where everyone is encouraged to use creative thinking to overcome the negative issues but also develop new alternatives to solving the problems or resolving the situation. I then encourage the use of the RED hat again to gauge the feelings of participants after considering the problem or issue. Generally, most participants who were previously concerned about the problem or situation now feel more positive after having gone through the process of using the different hats. Finally, it is always appropriate to use the BLUE hat as this allows participants to develop conclusions or to evaluate and summarise the solutions to move forward on the issue or problem. The BLUE hat also provides process control to ensure the right technique or approach was used by participants. If a solution or resolution was not identified then another approach or process would be suggested as more appropriate in solving the problem.

An example using the six thinking hats to solve the problem “Declining supply of petroleum fossil fuels” can be found below (summary extract of the workshop).

Dr John Kapeleris

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The state of the global economy is finely balanced with the current situation in Europe and the state of the US economy. Although Australia’s economy seems to be stable, many businesses in the retail, manufacturing and tourism sectors are hurting. Could the trends of the recent past provide the insights for our future direction? Futurists have developed a range of techniques to study the future and predict general trends that can help individuals and businesses make the right decisions for their future. These insights also provide the power to design or create your desired future.

Following are a few techniques that futurists use to spot new opportunities and potential problems (extracted from World Future Society website www.wfs.org). These methods can give you and your organization an essential edge to help you succeed in a fast-changing world:

1. Systematically Scan the Media — Futurists often conduct ongoing and systematic surveys of news media and research institutes. These surveys help spot significant trends and technology breakthroughs. Futurists call this environmental scanning.

2. Analyze and Extrapolate Trends — After the trends are identified, the next step is to plot the trends to show their direction and development into the future. Trend analysis and extrapolation can show the nature, causes, speed, and potential impacts of trends.

3. Develop Scenarios — Futurists often describe the future development of a trend, a strategy, or a wild-card event in story form. These scenarios paint a vivid picture that can help you visualize possible future developments and show how you can prepare effectively for future risks and opportunities. Scenarios help you to blend what you know about the future with imagination about the uncertain. Scenarios help you move from dreaming to planning and then to accomplishment.

4. Ask Groups of Experts — Futurists also conduct “Delphi Polls,” which are carefully structured surveys of experts. Polling a wide range of experts in a given field can yield accurate forecasts and suggestions for action.

5. Use Computer Modeling — Futurists often use computer models to simulate the behavior of a complex system under a variety of conditions. For example, a model of the U.S. economy might show the effects of a 10 percent change in taxes.

6. Explore Possibilities with Simulations — Futurists create simulations of real-world situations by means of humans playing different roles. For example, in war games, generals test out tactics they may later use on the battlefield, or corporate executives can explore the possible results of competitive strategies.

7. Create the Vision — Futurists help organizations and individuals systematically develop visions of a desirable future. Visioning creates the big picture of the possibilities and prepares the way for goal setting and planning.

We need to be proactive, open our minds to study the current trends, and invest time to vision our desirable future.

Dr John Kapeleris

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Innovation is a highly interactive, multidisciplinary process which increasingly involves cooperation and partnerships between a growing and diverse network of individuals and organizations. We find increasingly more organisations innovate through partnerships and collaborations.

Collaboration is defined as the process where two or more people or organizations work together towards achieving mutually beneficial goals and objectives. Collaboration extends over a range of activities, including the provision and transfer of skills, sharing of information, conducting research and product development, accessing channels to market and creating new market opportunities.

The aim of collaboration is the co-creation of value through sharing, creating new insights, and leveraging existing resources. The diagram below outlines a continuum of collaboration intensity from traditional business approaches of engaging customers and suppliers, to a shared destiny of creating new competitive space.

Collaboration in Australian firms has been comparatively low as reflected in the 2010 OECD Working Party of National Experts in Science and Technology Innovation (NESTI) project data outlined in the graphic below. The graph shows the percentage of innovative firms with national and international collaboration on innovation during the period 2004–06.

Therefore, what could be the causes of the low percentage of collaboration. A number of issues and barriers can occur in pursuing potential collaborations, including:

  • Lack of professionalism on both sides of the collaboration, including poor project and intellectual property management
  • Diverging interests and cultures, including impulsive relationships
  • Problems over speed of negotiation, ownership of results and intellectual property, including exclusivity
  • Compensation for indirect costs and background knowledge
  • Equitable returns in the event of successful commercialisation

From a government policy perspective, a lack of incentivisation and program support for collaboration could also be a factor of low level collaboration in certain countries.

The concept of open innovation is worth re-visiting as collaboration plays a significant role. Open innovation implies that an organization has the willingness and desire to source and utilize external knowledge, ideas, intellectual assets and technologies, in addition to its internal capabilities, to identify solutions to problems, capitalize on opportunities, develop new technologies, create new products and services, improve processes, or design new organizational systems and business models. A great example of an organization practicing open innovation is Proctor & Gamble, where many of its products have been developed with external partners providing research, development and cross-licensing of intellectual property.

A number of benefits can be gained by firms and organizations through collaboration and open innovation:

  1. Reduced costs due to utilising others people’s experience, skills & equipment and sharing costs of research
  2. Higher quality research and development
  3. Accessing new and different skills, networks, contacts and distribution infrastructure
  4. Risk mitigation – collaboration can have reduced risk as it is shared
  5. Increased speed to market

How can we better collaborate to drive innovation?

Dr John Kapeleris

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“Dealing with complexity is an inefficient and unnecessary waste of time, attention and mental energy. There is never any justification for things being complex when they could be simple”. Edward de Bono.

In today’s complex world many people are trying to simplify their lives but sometimes it becomes very difficult as we have built layer upon layer of interdependent complexity. Edward de Bono, creator of the Six Thinking Hats, stated at a recent seminar that simplicity is more innovative than complexity.

We are living in a world that has become more complex and we need to somehow make it simpler to allow us to focus on the more important aspects of business and personal life. The only way we will do this is through innovation. Edward de Bono in his book “Simplicity” outlines Ten Principles of Simplicity, summarised below:

  1. Assign a high value to simplicity. To get simplicity you have to want to get it. To want to get simplicity you have to put a high value on it.
  2. Continuously pursue simplicity. People quite like simplicity if it does not cost anything but are usually unwilling to invest resources in making something more simple.
  3. You need to understand simplicity. If you do not seek to understand a situation or process, your efforts will be ‘simplistic’ rather than simple. Simplicity before understanding is worthless.
  4. Design alternatives and possibilities. It is not a matter of designing the ‘one right way’. It is more a matter of designing alternatives and possibilities, and then selecting one of them.
  5. Challenge and discard existing elements. Everything needs to justify its continued existence. If you wish to retain something for the sake of tradition let that be a conscious decision.
  6. Be prepared to start over again. In the search for simplicity, modify if you can or start afresh if you cannot.
  7. Work through concepts. Concepts are the human mind’s way of simplifying the world around. If you do not use concepts, then you are working with detail.
  8. Break down problems into smaller units. The organisation of a smaller unit is obviously simpler than the organisation of a large unit. The smaller units are themselves organised to serve the larger purpose.
  9. Trade off other dimensions for simplicity. A system that seeks to be totally comprehensive may be very complex. You may need to trade-off that comprehensiveness for simplicity.
  10. Know for whose sake the simplicity is being designed. A shift of complexity may mean that a system is made easier for the customer but much more complicated for the operator.

What are you doing to make things simpler in your business and work life, or are you happy working in a complex world?

Dr John Kapeleris

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You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.” — Gandhi

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

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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.

Geoengineering

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.

Smart grids

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.

Radical materials

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.

Synthetic biology

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.

Personal genomics

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.

Bio-interfaces

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.

Data interfaces

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.

Solar power

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.

Nootropics

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.

Cosmeceuticals

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

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And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.  It’s the life in your years“.  Abraham Lincoln

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:

  1. Invest quality time with family and friends
  2. Exercise regularly, by simply walking or riding a bicycle
  3. Eat healthy foods
  4. Remove the physical and mental clutter from your life
  5. Free yourself from the things that are holding you back
  6. Be the best you can be in anything you do
  7. Read books that stimulate your thinking, knowledge and creativity
  8. Make a list of the important things that you have been putting off and start working on them today
  9. Plan your time wisely to focus on the high value activities
  10. 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

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The “butterfly effect” refers to the idea that a small flap of a butterfly’s wings in one location could set off a chain of events in the atmosphere that could lead to large scale alterations or consequences, such as a tornado, in another location. The butterfly effect concept relates to the sensitive dependence on initial conditions as applied to chaos theory. In simple terms this means that a small change or activity in one location within a complex system results in large effects or consequences in another location or situation. Chaos theory is used to study the behaviour of dynamic and complex systems such as the weather, the changing landscape, the environment, medicine and biological evolution.

The concept of the “butterfly effect” can also be applied to our work and personal lives to provide insights about:

  • Considering how everything is interconnected
  • Understanding the law of cause and effect
  • Knowing the impact of the choices and decisions you make
  • Accepting the results you create
  • Achieving significant outcomes through small actions

Your personal and business life is part of a larger network of connections. You generally find that an action made (or not made) in life can have multiple influences and effects. For example, in the recent Brisbane, Australia flood, if water was released from the dams progressively as the dam levels were rising, could this have avoided the flood that Brisbane experienced? Related to this observation is the law of cause and effect which states that for every action there is an effect or reaction. In other words, “You reap what you sow”.

Your pathway in life and the decisions you make can also create ripples in life just like a “butterfly effect”. We are continuously faced with decisions that we have to make in life. The decisions could relate to education, career, lifestyle, personal development, opportunity and investment, that can change your pathway to higher prosperity. Of course making the wrong decisions could lead to a negative outcome. These inflection points in your life path will create your future destiny. You therefore have the option to influence your own destiny or allow your destiny to be dictated by external influences. In summary, “The decisions we make and the action we take today will determine our future results and outcomes”.

To achieve significant outcomes you need to reduce activities into small manageable tasks that require action. By mastering each of the small actions and disciplines, you build momentum that allows you to achieve the bigger outcomes that are linked to the actions.

A simple approach that can be implemented to achieve results is outlined below:

  1. Goals – Set your S.M.A.R.T. goals and objectives.
  2. Beliefs and Emotion – Establish a positive mindset and remove any limiting beliefs.
  3. Decision – Develop a plan of activities and tasks by making the right decision. Take into account all the impacts and influences the decision will produce.
  4. Action – Take small incremental and disciplined actions based on the activities and sub-tasks that you document in your plan.
  5. Results – Achieve the results and successful outcomes that you deserve.

Dr John Kapeleris

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