One of the most critical roles a manager has is to be the person who guides the team toward a future vision of success. You simply cannot focus solely on executing today’s game plan without giving some consideration to what the future playing field might look like. The ability to predict what will happen over the next few years so that you can help your team have the best shot at succeeding is the essence of leadership. Without a picture in your head of what will happen in the coming years, you have no way of making solid decisions today that will be beneficial tomorrow. You can’t merely oversee daily activities; you must also be constantly planning for the changes that are sure to come.
This plays out in the reality of setting budgets, hiring and terminating employees, training people for future needs, providing expansion capabilities for office space, and being aware of the latest tools that can help reach the organization’s goals. These tasks require you to have a clear picture of where your organization and industry will move tomorrow.
When it comes to social technologies, looking ahead becomes a must because technology tools can be fads that cool off after too much hype (e.g., Second Life). Or at other times, they climb slowly into full usage by everyone (e-mail). Still others will explode onto the scene and climb rapidly to millions and millions of users (Facebook and Twitter). You need a way to gauge what’s going to be an accepted tool. Otherwise, you’ll be whipsawed between concerns over the risk of putting effort into things that don’t work or waiting too long on social tools that become standard.
For this reason, you must consider flexing your visionary wings when making decisions on adopting new social tools or running pilot projects. Your skill at predicting what you should implement and experiment with today versus leave off the list could seriously impact how you’re viewed by your boss.
There’s no need to consult a crystal ball when trying to look into the future. We can extrapolate from current trends and predictions about some of the twists and turns that will likely be coming. It really isn’t that difficult to figure out what will happen in the future, it’s just tough to know exactly when it will go mainstream. Everything on the list below will surely come to pass. The question is whether it will happen in one year or three:
Standardization of social tools.
Standards are lacking in the social space at the moment. This causes us to waste time on tasks like having to enter new passwords on sites over and over. We have to connect with friends and contacts on every new site we sign up with. When we write mobile applications, we have to create versions for multiple operating systems. The list goes on. As this field matures, we’ll have organizations that will suggest and promote standards that when accepted, will make using new tools much easier.
We currently have to enter profile photos and information with every site we sign up for. Soon we’ll have a way to create one profile and supply it to all sites we want to use. This eases the maintenance issues of updating multiple sites when something changes, and will make it easier to belong to multiple eCommunities.
Virtual worlds provide a 3D interface to the Web.
Don’t let the fact that Second Life was overhyped fool you. Virtual worlds and the virtual meeting spaces that go along with them will be back with a vengeance. We’ll one day turn the entire Web into a 3D environment instead of the 2D world it is now. As bandwidth gets more plentiful and 3D graphic technology gets more realistic, we’ll see a resurgence of virtual world tools.
Crowdsourcing explodes in volume of use.
There are billions of people in the world who will become Internet-enabled over the next five years. As they do, they’ll be able to make more money over the Web than they can in their local neighborhood. They will flock to crowdsourcing sites where they’ll bid on work and perfect the art of making money in the knowledge economy. Crowdsourcing will generate 100 times the volume of work that outsourcing does today.
People-rating sites grow quickly and have serious impact.
We’re very close to having people-rating Web sites where all of us will be listed and people will have the ability to rate us. This capability really does not exist today at scale, but it will very soon. When this happens, it will radically change how we learn about each other and the impressions we form at the beginning of relationships.
Immersive and filtered, real-time rivers of information.
We’re overwhelmed today with the vast river of information that the Web and social tools bring us. The answer won’t be to turn off the spigot, it will be to learn to filter and ingest information faster and easier. This will take lots of new forms as we search for better ways to get exactly the information we need, where we need it, and when we need it. In addition, we’ll develop sophisticated ways to build alerts that fill us in immediately with critical information, and then organize the rest into categories that we can access at will. Having a powerful river of information won’t be optional, and skills in setting these up will be looked at as a serious differentiator.
Communication profiles assist with contacts.
One of the biggest holes in our ability to communicate with each other is that no one provides a central profile of our methods for connecting. Sure, most of us have a cell phone, e-mail, and a LinkedIn address; many more have Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, etc. Our mobile devices allow us to text and do video calls with each other. It’s wonderful to have all of these ways to communicate, but for the most part, we don’t know what people’s preferred methods are, what their current status is, or where they are physically. That will change soon because one of the major players will provide this type of profile. Then we’ll be able to look a person up, see what tools they use to connect, their preferences, and their status at that moment. Armed with this information, you’ll better know how to get in touch with someone.
Pay per mention becomes common.
With online reputations and eword of mouth becoming more critical to success, we’ll see an expanding list of ways to give incentives to people to say positive things about a person or entity. Whether it’s giving incentives to bloggers, twitterers, or Facebook powerhouses, the will to control your own public relations will drive this. Add to this the coming peoplerating sites, and we’ll see an explosion of methods for rewarding people for positive reviews.
At the same time, we’ll see an explosion of people who learn the power of the negative comment, and they’ll use it whenever they feel wronged. It will take years for us to sort out which comments are legitimate from those that are “sponsored” or coming from bitter people. We already have Web sites that facilitate people creating video advertisements and getting paid to send them to friends. Look for years of sorting out how we feel about being paid to leverage our networks as a sales channel.