Consumer Futures = Innovative Futures

February 12, 2020 at with Headspring, the partnership of FT/IE Business School, in London

How do you see the world around us?

We live in an incredible time.  More change in the next 10 years than in the last 250 years. New technologies transforming the ways in which we live and work. Digital platforms and blockchains, AI and robotics, 3D printing and nanotech.

At the same time people are fundamentally changing their priorities in more human ways. As businesses become more complex and global, automated and opaque, consumers increasingly question their role and responsibilities, their ethics and impacts.

In embracing the future, we need be driven by our consumers world, working as partners with our business customers, and embracing the new capabilities of technology.

0900 – 1230 : Consumer Futures … Exploring the changing consumer landscapes

  • How is our consumer’s world changing?
  • What are, and will be, the most dramatic changes?
  • Local and wellness, time and space, collaborative, experiential, and responsible
  • How does this differ by market, by sector or geography?
  • What are our customer’s businesses doing in response to this world?
  • How 3 companies embraced new insight – in food, beauty and healthcare
  • Which insights are most significant, why and what should we do?

1330 – 1700 : Innovative Futures … Responding to changing consumer landscapes

  • How are the most innovative businesses responding to this changing landscape?
  • Deep dives and human-centred design, concept fusions and new business models
  • How companies innovate – Amazon, ARM, Glossier, Nespresso, Tesla, Unilever
  • What drives innovation in our customer’s businesses. Could they do more?
  • How should we engage better with our customers, who and why?
  • Where are the biggest opportunities for us to innovate?
  • How should we change the way we lead, work and grow?

Here are some of the most interesting consumer trend reports of 2020:

And what do some of the companies delivering to theses consumers want?

Many of the world’s most innovative companies obsess over understanding their customers and figuring out new ways to make their lives simpler, easier, or more enjoyable. Here are some great quotes:


“In the end, fostering customer loyalty is about building trusted relationships. There is nothing more important than the trust you have with your customers, with your employees, with your partners, and with all your key stakeholders.”

Ask customers about their priorities says JOHN DONAHOE, SERVICENOW

“We have a systematic customer engagement process which includes executive briefings and hosting CxO (C-suite) councils and product advisory councils. We partner deeply with customers to collaborate and drive innovation. I have personally met with over 1,000 customers in my nearly three years at ServiceNow. In all my meetings, I ask about their priorities, what we can do to support those priorities, and how we are currently doing to help with those priorities. This open relationship with our customers and the feedback we receive is driving our priorities.”

Go where the problems are says GINNI ROMETTY, IBM

“Innovation works best when it’s undertaken in the context of our clients. That’s why we immerse our researchers in our clients’ businesses and industries, and why our technical leaders— fellows and distinguished engineers—work hand in hand with our business executives. Context also means going where the problems are. We have research labs all over the world because the world’s problems are too large to move.”

Avoid formulaic solutions says DAN SCHULMAN, PAYPAL HOLDINGS INC.

“While consumers around the world expect fast, affordable, and secure services, other needs and expectations vary based on regional regulations, local political uncertainty, or a country’s level of socioeconomic inequality. A formulaic approach would limit opportunity and hamper innovation.”

Task everybody with solving customer pain points says LOGAN GREEN, LYFT

“The job of every team here is to come up with creative ideas for the best way to solve problems and improve the customer experience. That is essentially almost everybody’s job description. And the teams come up with their best ideas, and then we ruthlessly prioritize, because you can only build so much.”

Put the consumer at the center says JAMES QUINCEY, THE COCA-COLA CO.

“Ultimately, we must stay curious about the consumer and put them at the center of everything we do. When innovation starts with the consumer, we see the best results. Almost 25% of our revenue is now from new or reformulated products, up from around 15% two years ago.”


“To design and iterate solutions that address key customer pain points and deliver tangible benefit requires empathy. Our employees participate in ‘financial immersion days’ to gain perspective on how the financially underserved navigate their daily lives. We assign participants a persona and set of tasks to complete with just a cell phone, an ID, a $50 check—and no bank account. They consistently walk away with new insights into our customers’ needs that they then creatively apply to the customer-focused problem-solving they do every day.”

Don’t let hype get between you and the customer says DAN SCHULMAN, PAYPAL HOLDINGS INC.

“It can be easy to be tempted by the possibilities of each new technology. And the speed with which technology continues to evolve makes it challenging to avoid the hype and remain focused on real customer needs. While we owe it to our customers to stay on the cutting edge of new technologies, we will only incorporate those that have the potential to lead to significant improvements and positive change. Our customers’ needs will always be the most important consideration when we think about how we adopt new technology.”

Get out of the house says JOHNNY MORRIS, BASS PRO SHOPS

“Sometimes, formal planning and a complicated process can kill innovation. We don’t form big committees or bring in lots of consultants. I read letters from customers and talk with our team members, spending as much time as I can visiting our stores and visiting with our people. The best ideas tend to happen when we’re closest to our customers and the team members who serve them, not sitting around board rooms.”

Leverage your customer support team says LOGAN GREEN, LYFT

“Innovation at our company comes from all angles. We have a phenomenal design team that leads our research activities and continually tests ideas with users. Our engineering team also leads on a lot of the innovations, because often it’s only when you’re in the details of solving a problem that you see opportunities. And we have a great data science team that is continually analyzing data, looking for opportunities, looking for trends, looking for insights that we wouldn’t otherwise see. But all these groups maintain a close connection with our support team because it’s the support team that’s hearing what’s important to the customer and what’s not working for the customer. That support team does deep-dive immersion sessions with all of our product, engineering, and design teams across the company in which they deeply immerse them in all these customer experiences.”

The most innovative businesses see the world differently.

They don’t just seek to imitate the success of others, to compete in the markets of today, to frame themselves by their relative differences to competitors. Instead they play their own game.

I call them “gamechangers”, and here in Dubai, I will be previewing the World Expo 2020, and taking inspirations from companies all around the world who are shaking up markets, embracing radical new ideas, and changing the game.

So what’s the “game”? Well, in simple terms, it’s the market.

These companies go beyond innovating their products and services, their customer experienes and business models. They seek to innovate how their markets work.

Think of it like a sports game. How could you change the game? It could be anything from the pitch dimensions to rules of play, the team composition to the measures of success, the role of the referee to the participation of fans. Even the name of the game.

Now look at today’s most disruptive innovators – 23andMe to Alibaba, Zespri to Zidisha – they reframe, reimagine and redefine the market on their terms – who is it for, why people buy, what they pay and get, and how they work.

I’ve met and profiled over 250 “gamechanger” companies on my travels, in almost every sector, and in every part of the world. Corporate giants and start-ups, from Dubai to Berlin, Colombo to Qingdao.

There is no one way to change the game, but there are definitely some common traits:

  • Audacious – Gamechangers are visionary and innovative, but also daring and original; they seek to shape the future to their advantage.
  • Purposeful – They seek to make life better, in some relevant and inspiring way; they have a higher motive than just making money.
  • Networked – Gamechangers harness the power of networks, digital and physical, both business and customer networks, to exponentially reach further faster.
  • Intelligent – They use big data analytics and algorithms, machine learning and AI, to be smart and efficient, personal and predictive.
  • Collaborative – Gamechangers work with others, from ecosystems to platforms, social networks and co-creation, to achieve more together.
  • Enabling – They focus not on what they do, but what they enable people to do; and thereby redefine their marketspace, find new opportunities and redefine value.
  • Commercial – Gamechangers take a longer-term perspective, adopting new business models, and recalibrating the measures of progress and success.

Do you have a future mindset?

Today’s business leaders need a future mindset. That sounds obvious, but isn’t.

Most leaders have a “fixed mindset”. They keep stretching the old models of success. They stay loyal to the model that made them great, seeking to squeeze and tweak it for as long as possible. They seek perfection – to optimise what they currently do – which leads to efficiency and incremental gains.

Instead a “future mindset” is prepared to let go of the past. To explore the future, to experiment with new ways of working and winning. Failure is a way to learn, and innovation becomes the norm. Change is relentless inside, as it is outside. Innovation is their lifeblood. Like Jeff Bezos loves to say “it is always day one”.

With a future mindset, the CEO needs new attributes:

  • Sense maker – to interpret a fast and confusing world, to see new patterns and opportunities, what is relevant and not, to shape your own vision.
  • Radical optimist – to inspire people with a stretching ambition, positive and distinctive, to be audacious, to see the possibilities when others only see risk.
  • Future hacker – they start from the “future back”, with clarity of purpose and intent, encouraging ideas and experiments, leveraging resource and scale.
  • Ideas connector – da Vinci said innovation is about making unusual connections;  connecting new people, new partners, new capabilities and new ideas.
  • Emotionally agile – whilst organisational agility is essential, emotional agility matters even more; to cope with change, to be intuitive in making sense, and making choices.
  • Entrepreneur at large – keeping the founders mentality alive, hands-on working with project teams to infuse the mindset, to be the catalyst and coach.
  • Having grit – “gamechanger” leaders need to go against the grain, to persist but know when to move on, to have self belief and confidence, guts and resilience.

The future is a better place to start

Start from the “future back”.

Trying to evolve in today’s complex and confused world is unlikely to lead you towards a bright and distinctive future. It will extend your life a little longer, but it will be tough and uninspiring, with diminishing returns.

Instead jump to the future. I tend to start with five years ahead, although it may differ by company. 5 years is long enough to change the world, but close enough to be real. Start by creating a positive, collective and inspiring vision of the future market. What will it be like? What will people want? Why? How? Where? Then consider how to win in this new world.

This is where “moonshot thinking” can be really useful. “Why be 10% better, when you could be 10 times better?” 10 times more profits, more customers, more quality, reduced cost, reduced time. Whatever. By giving yourself a “How could we do it 10x better” challenge you take a new perspective, solve problems in different ways.

Be inspired by ideas from other places.

Explore how ARM or GE, Inditex or Netflix, Glossier or Novo Nordisk have changed their markets. Choose any of my 100+ “gamechanger” companies! How did they do it? How did customers respond? (Remember, they often serve the same customers as you!). You can’t learn much from competitors, but you can learn a lot from relevant parallels.

Copy. Adapt. Paste.

Customer insight also matters. Deep dives and design thinking, exploring the emerging trends and deviant behaviours. This can enhance and validate your ideas, but the problem with most customer insight is that it is filtered by our current world. You need something to disrupt your thinking.

I have a great box of disruptive techniques. Some are really simple – like break then remake the rules, like imagine its free then find a way to make money, like reverse polarities and many more. The point is to disrupt your conventional thinking.

From this, ideas rapidly emerge. You need lots of ideas about the future. But these are fragments of the real answer. The real creativity comes in fusing together into bigger “concepts”. These could be customer solutions, or new ways of working, new revenue streams, or new business models, and new market scenarios.

Once you have a clear and collective ambition for the future, it’s time to work backwards.  “If this is how we want to be in 5 years, where do we need to get to in 3 years, and then in 1 year?  Therefore what do we need to start doing now?” You develop a “horizon plan” for your business; a strategy roadmap if you like, but developed backwards.

The important thing is that by working backwards, you have jumped out of the morass of today. You’ve avoided the assumptions, limitations, problems and priorities of today’s thinking. You have a more inspiring “gamechanging” future, and have started to map out the steps to get there. Most likely with different priorities in the short-term too.

Of course the steps on this journey might change, but it’s going to be an exciting adventure.

Change the way we think, resolve the conflicts

In today’s busineses, we have created artificial divides in how we think and operate. Digital and physical seem like two different worlds, global and local seem like alternative strategies that cannot combine, many still struggle to align value to customers and shareholders in a mutually reinforcing way, and short and long-termism continues to confuse our priorities.

Our thinking within business, has created separate and apparently conflicting approaches. The opportunity is to make the combination of both approaches world – “fusions” if you like – to be innovative in the way you combine apparent opposites.

Digital and physical are two sides of the same coin.

There is only one world, unless you believe Ray Kurzweil, and it is the real one. It’s human and physical. Digital technologies are incredibly powerful, enabling people to connect, to work, to learn, to play in new ways. From mobile phones to blockchains, 3D printing and augmented reality, digital allows us to do more, do it faster, do things we could never do before. But it’s still about humanity.

Start with people. How can you enable them to achieve more? To live better, to have more fun, to do better for the world. Whatever matters. I work closely with Richard Branson and his Virgin teams. Their mindset is to “start from the outside, and then work in”. Design a better customer experience. Built on your ambition and insight, and then explore how you could deliver it with new and existing capabilities.

Global and local are opportunities for every business.

I love Amazon’s “Treasure Truck” … Most of us have never connected with Amazon beyond the website and the delivery guy. Amazon is huge, global and anonymous. But the Treasure Truck is real. It travels around the country, bringing its pop-up store to local neighbourhoods, fun and games, bargains and demos. For Amazon, it’s a chance to make real connections, listen to people, and to be local.

We can all see a backlash in society against relentless globalisation, huge corporations, and social inequality. We see a lack of trust in brands, and know that authenticity matters. Etsy shows us that even the smallest and most local artisan businesses can also be global. For every business, local and global markets are within reach, however it’s also about combining scale and standardisation, with relevance and individuality.

Ideas and networks should be the core of your business.

Gamechanger businesses need a compelling idea, a core purpose, an inspiring proposition, that can spread fast and contagiously. In a digitally-fuelled world, the most innovative businesses embrace “ideas and networks” to drive exponential impact – like WhatsApp creating $19bn in three years, Airbnb $40bn in 9 years, Alibaba $476bn in 18 years, Amazon $740bn in 23 years.

Think about that concept of “exponential” … The power of networks – be it franchisees, or distributors, or customers and users – lies not in the number of members, but in the connections between them. Networks have a multiplying effect. Exponential. Consider, for example, Rapha, the sportwear brand that brings together people with a passion for cycling, who conveniently meet at their “Cycle Club” stores, and buy their premium gear. A fantastic “ideas and networks” business.

Finally this idea of short-term and long-term being in conflict with each other.

Jeff Bezos never has this problem, nor Elon Musk, nor Richard Branson. They focus on the long-term, recognising it will require some years of investment to get there. They all of course lead privately-owned companies. But every public company has the same ambition to innovate and grow. And so do most of their investors, actually.

The reality is that any company’s stock market performance is based on its future earnings potential, not its past. The better you can engage with equity analysts, journalists and investors themselves to explain why you will deliver a better future worth waiting for, then you get their support. If you don’t engage them in your future vision, plans and innovations, then they will default to looking for short-term evidence. It’s really in our hands, to work together to create a future we want to invest in. And to share the greater risk and rewards.

Time to embrace your future mindset

We live in an incredible time … More change in the next 10 years than in the last 250 years … remember? I know that sounds a little crazy, but think about Hyperloop in 3 years, a tipping point to electric cars in 5 years, Mars missions in 8 years. They are all real, and possible.

Digital platforms connecting buyers and sellers in new ways, blockchain having the potential to transform relationships and trust, 3d printing having the potential to transform value chains to deliver anything personalised and on-demand, AI and robotics giving us the capabilities to be superhuman in our minds and bodies.

These are just some of the fantastic new capabilities that enable us to innovate beyond what we can even imagine today. The future isn’t like the future used to be. We cannot just evolve or extrapolate the past. Today’s future is discontinuous, disruptive, different.

It is imagination that will move us forwards … unlocking the technological possibilities, applying them to real problems and opportunities, to drive innovation and growth in every industry, in every part of our lives.

Imagine a world where you press “print” to get the dress of your dreams, the food of your fantasies, or the spare parts for your car. Instantly, personalised and on demand. Think then what does that mean if we don’t need the huge scale of manufacturing plants, warehousing and transportation. Maybe we will even subscribe to the IP catalogues of brands, rather than buy standard products, in the ways we currently subscribe to Netflix.

Time to embrace your growth mindset … Unlock your Einstein dreams and Picasso passion … Embrace your Mandela courage and Ghandi spirit. Be more curious, be more intuitive, be more human. Ask more questions. Don’t be afraid to have audacious ideas, to challenge the old models of success, and turn future ambitions into practical profitable reality.

How else did Zespri reinvent the Chinese gooseberry as the kiwi fruit? How else will SpaceX reach Mars by 2025? How else did Netflix came to be, or NuTonomy, or Nespresso, or Nyx?

This is why 23andMe’s Anne Wojicki wont give up in her quest to make DNA analysis available to everyone, and to ultimately find a cure for cancer. And it’s why Jack Ma didn’t give up as he rose from $1000-per year English teacher to technological royalty.

The secret is the future mindset.

To realise that the future is malleable. So we need to grab hold of it, and shape it in our own vision. To our advantage.

This is what “gamechangers” do.

More about Aptar

Aptar is a leading provider of a range of packaging, dispensing and sealing solutions, primarily for the beauty, personal care, homecare, prescription drug, consumer healthcare, injectables, food and beverage markets.

Aptar has manufacturing facilities located throughout the world, including North America, Europe, Asia and South America. The company operates through three segments: Beauty and Home, Pharma, and Food and Beverage. It offers various dispensing and sealing solutions.

Primary products are dispensing pumps, closures, aerosol valves and elastomeric primary packaging components. Its elastomeric components also include pre filled syringe components, such as plungers, needle shields, tip caps and cartridges, as well as dropper bulbs and syringe plungers.

Beauty + Home segment primarily sells pumps, closures, aerosol valves, accessories and sealing solutions to the personal care and home care markets, and pumps and decorative components to the beauty market.

More ideas from Peter Fisk …