30 what-if questions to reimagine the future.

We have handpicked a selection of trends & shifts in technology.

"What if...?": find new ways to disrupt your industry.

Some of the most notable and disruptive inventions of tomorrow will require a paradigmatic change in the way we interpret things today, in the way we perform tasks, in the technologies and resources we have access to. In this page, we collected some future trends, technologies, possibilities, opportunities, that inspired us the most, with concrete examples of how small and large organizations are leveraging (when not creating themselves) these trends. Now, question for you: how can you disrupt your own organization by  

What if your whole memory is digitalized?

Lifelogging is the process of tracking personal data generated by our own behavioral activities. At our office, Manu is one of the early backers of the Narrative Clip. This small camera takes a picture every 30 seconds and stores them, in a smart way, in the cloud. This tracker is interesting because it combines big data management with a photographic memory. The Quantified Self movement takes the aspect of simply tracking the raw data to try and draw correlations and ways to improve our lives from it. Companies like Fitbit, Jawbone and Withings are playing in this field to give users insights into their daily activity and sleep.

What if everyone in your organization is an entrepreneur?

Intrapreneurship is responsible for a great deal of product and service innovation around the world today. At Board of Innovation, we’re strong believers of intrapreneurship. Our mission is to make “corporates innovate like start-ups to challenge the status quo”. In 2014, you could start by organizing your own intrapreneurship program. You could start with bootcamps – a great way of developing new concepts in a short time. More ambitious? You can even develop your own in-house start-up accelerator like Sanoma did!

What if all your customers have access to a 3D printer?

It’s likely that 3D printer prices will decrease over the next few years due to competitive pressure and higher shipment volumes. Gartner predicts that 7 of the 50 largest multinational retailers will sell 3D printers through their physical and online stores by 2015. So how can you re-shape your business model knowing that in 2015 more than 50% of your customers will have access to a 3D printer, either at home or in a special 3D print shop? Today, the P2P 3D printer network 3DHUBS (also called the Airbnb of 3Dprinting and covering 2400 printers worldwide) makes easy access possible!

What if people need to pay for privacy?

Privacy is a major global topic since many years now. A recent study by the University of Colorado Boulder found that average smart phone users are willing to pay up to $5 extra for a typical application – or ‘app’ – that won’t monitor their locations, contact lists and other personal information. As lifelogging devices like Narrative challenge this whole domain, the near-future scenario of people paying for their privacy doesn’t sound that crazy. Could you use this as a new opportunity in your company?

What if your industry is fully decentralized?

When talking about decentralized industries, people often refer immediately to energy. However, other industries are also challenged by this new ‘model’, often referred to as P2P networks. Airbnb recently reached over 650,000 listed rooms on their platform, conquering IHG and Hilton. Car-sharing services like ZipCar are mobilizing more and more users to collaboratively consume a car instead of buying a new one. Discover how you can start your own P2P startup from this inspiring keynote from Robin Chase (ZipCar) at the Lean Startup Conference.

What if people can ‘Pay What They Want’ for your products & services?

If you bought Radiohead’s 2007 album In Rainbows or a digital package at Humble Bundle, you’ve participated in the ‘pay what you want’ sales model. It’s pretty self-explanatory: content owners offer goods and let buyers decide how much they want to pay for them. We recently saw this model popping up in the creative services industry. The Web Agency 8K considers themselves the first agency in the world where you pay what you think the design is worth. The open platform Bundle Dragon brings the ‘pay what you want’ model to everyone. Try it for yourself today!

What if we pay with self-created virtual currencies?

Currency – the bills and coins you carry in your wallet and your bank account – is founded on marketing. And on the belief that banks and governments are trustworthy. In recent months, Bitcoins have been all over the news with people questioning this new kind of money – virtual currencies. Get inspired by Paul Kemp-Robertson’s TED talk about a new generation of currency, supported by that same marketing… but on behalf of a private brand. From Nike Sweat Points to bottles of Tide (which are finding an unexpected use in illegal markets), meet the non-bank future of currencies!

What if power naps are allowed at your company?

We recently installed a ‘Power Nap Space’ at our office where people can take a power nap in the afternoon. Power naps of fewer than 30 minutes – even those as short as 6 and 10 minutes – restore wakefulness and promote performance and learning. A University of Düsseldorf study found superior memory recall once a person had taken a 6-minute nap, suggesting that the onset of sleep may initiate active memory processes of consolidation which, once triggered, remains effective even if sleep is terminated. A starting guide for power napping at work can be found here.

What if you could optimize the performance & private life of your employees?

It’s scientifically proven that good corporate wellness programs result in happier and healthier employees (read: save money on healthcare for both the employee and employer)! Virgin Pulse, Fitbit Corporate Solutions & Kinema Fitness are just a few examples of the many existing service solutions you can ‘buy’ as a company to boost your employees’ karma. But why buy a service if you could start small and design it yourself? This article outlines the 5 things to keep in mind as you design a wellness program for your company.

What if you own your own bank?

First there was crowdsourcing, then crowdfunding and then rewards-based crowdfunding models such as Indiegogo and Kickstarter. But perhaps equity-based crowdfunding is the model that will change the way start-ups raise money in the early future. At the Board of Innovation, we have already become a ‘shareholder’ via equity-based crowdfunding of the new Belgian bank NewB and the digital news agency NewsMonkey! What if your company starts using this model for launching new innovative spin-offs and getting market traction in a really early phase?

What if you would have invested in Apple or Google 10y ago?

If you did, and you still have it in your bank account, well, you have our respect.

What if every employee believes to be creative?

‘Creative self-efficacy’ is the belief that one has the ability to produce creative outcomes. Believing in your own abilities makes you perform better. This belief can be fostered not just through mastery experience, but also through managers’ expectations and the presence of creativity in the office. We designed several innovation posters to help you inspire your team and other people in your organization. Facebook even has a Minister of Propaganda who prints and distributes posters throughout their offices to shape Facebook’s innovative culture. Ready to start your propaganda? Download our innovation posters for free!

What if your product becomes available for free?

This is the time to question your business model! If someone is able to bring your product to the market for free, it means that they radically changed the business model you’re working with and found other ways to make sustainable profit. You might love it or hate it, but radical changes like this changes industries. Take Google which earns most of its profit from ads. An example that makes this tangible is the free peer-to-peer navigation app Waze that replaces GPS devices like Garmin and TomTom. Team Fortress 2 is a free-to-play game, allowing users to submit 3D models of items and hats, to potentially have them accepted and incorporated into the actual game. By the end of 2012, users had earned $5m by selling their own designs on the platform.

What if you make space available to incubate 1,000 start-ups?

A start-up incubator is a collaborative program helping start-ups succeed. Common problems of start-ups are taken care of: seed funding, workspace, training, mentoring etc. Over the last few years, dozens of incubator programs have popped up all over the world. The success of incubators lies in the mutual benefit for start-ups and big corporates. While entrepreneurs search for funding, economies of scale and a big platform for marketing, corporates could use insights in the next big trends, have access to young talent and be inspired by short decision cycles. No room for an incubator? Participate in an existing accelerator program. A great list can be found in this article!

What if a corporate with 300,000 employees launches a start-up every 3 days?

The crowdsourcing product company Quirky launches 3 new items a week. Some of them go from sketch to the store shelf as quickly as 3 months. The record is 39 days. What if this could happen with start-ups instead of products? Imagine a new startup every 3 days?… GE is working on it! Together with Eric Ries of the Lean Startup, they trained 80 FastWork coaches, exposing almost 1,000 GE executives to Lean Start-up principles. GE also launched 100 FastWorks projects in US, Europe, China, Russia and Latin America. They range from building disruptive healthcare solutions to designing new gas turbines. In 2014, GE plans to expand the program to 5,000 executives and launch hundreds of new projects next year!

What if you can control every device just by looking at it?

Eye tracking is technology that measures the motion of an eye relative to the head. Devices tracking eye movement have long been used in marketing research. At our office, Arne pre-ordered the Tobii Eye, the first accurate and affordable ($195) eye-tracking device. It enables fantastic new experiences in games and other programs, fundamentally changing the way you communicate, play and work.

What if every product & service is custom made?

Custom-made products have always been every marketeer’s dream. Being able to deliver on customers’ personal needs is what makes companies sell products. At the same time, it brings logistical and operational nightmares. Not working with standardized subparts or processes is simply impossible for many companies. Data-driven production techniques like 3D printing, laser cutting and CNC milling, make this possible. Although many 3D printers @Home are already on the market, downloading 3D models via Thingiverse, commercially this technology is still almost only used to make product prototypes or parts for healthcare. What if you could start selling personalized consumer products or services? Twikit is a Belgian start-up that allows customers to print anything personalized.

What if ‘Made in China’ becomes a quality label?

For the last century, China has been one of the runner-ups in this world. Low wages, cheap production and a supporting environment have attracted many companies in recent decades. Today’s graduates have received one of the finest educations available. And China is one of the few countries with both the raw materials and the production of end products in one country. The end of cheap China has arrived! Quality can no longer be a unique selling proposition in Europe and US. What makes your company unique?

What if you can pay public service with an exercise?

If you live in Moscow, your morning commute can now include a brief fitness session, as Russian subways now accept squats as payment. In Beijing, on the other hand, travellers can pay with plastic bottles. Governments are ‘paying’ users to recycle or be more healthy. So why shouldn’t you consider this within your own organization? Would this result in a win-win situation?

What if data becomes worthless?

Google was one of the first companies to understand that selling data on a large scale can be a valuable business model. For many corporations, large data is their main focus these days; monetizing the data available is the goal. Today, transparency is the new status symbol. The next-generation company will offer great service for everyone, all of the time, and maybe even without requiring data. How guilt-free is your company?

What if you have instant access to real-time health information of your employees?

The problem with health and activity trackers is that you have to wear them all the time. A good tracker is one which doesn’t bother you at all and which doesn’t disturb your life. OMsignal has a health tracker woven into textile. Together with their app, it gives you insights into your breathing, heartbeat and stress levels. Currently still in development, Manu was selected as one of the early beta testers. What if you could know the real-time stress levels of all your employees? What could you do with that data to improve their productivity?

What if everyone has a digital log book with data starting from birth?

Products such as a Fitbit bracelet and the Whithings Wifi bodyscale are widely available, quantified self devices for adults. These days, the same kinds of products are bought for infants. Anxious first-time parents who worry about every little movement can monitor their child more closely than ever. Apps could also improve infant health by telling parents the precise nap or changing time. This trend will be really interesting when these kids start working. The big question remaining is ‘who will own the data?’ Corporates will either pay for it or use it as a selection tool while recruiting.

What if external business angels can invest in an internal start-up?

When searching for business angels, a start-up needs funding and expertise. In the case of experts from other companies, we speak about a ‘partnership’. But the term ‘external business angel’ can mean much more. What if people from other departments offer their expertise as a volunteer or invest in the start-up (privately or with the department). For instance, IBM’s internal crowd-funding platform was created to do this. Trying to know upfront if, for new products or services, in-house demand exists. Existing clients can also be involved.

What if you use drones in your company?

Much commotion occurred when Amazon announced they were testing a drone delivery service ‘Amazon Prime Air’. Skeptical blog writers and customers shouted that this would never happen. According to them, drone delivery faces legal, privacy, logistic and other problems. All of these problems don’t occur when companies use drones in-house – in warehouses, for example. In the longer term, customer delivery services will pop up as well. In Australia, Domino’s has already been running pilot projects to make pizza flying in the Australian skies.

What if all your employees are freelancers?

Fueled by rapidly changing lifestyles and technology innovation, online freelance work is growing at a record clip, outpacing progress in conventional job markets tremendously. Our increasing desire for greater flexibility, freedom and control in our work lives is driving us towards a freelance economy, with predictions that one in three people will be working online, independently, by 2020. So, how to make freelancing work for you?

What if all devices in your office are connected to the Internet?

New ‘Internet of Things‘ products could make your office smarter. If objects could communicate with each other, helping us to deal with complex and urgent situations, we could focus on the essence of our job! Jobs would become more social and less logistical issues would occur. Distance monitoring and smart logistics are part of our future!

What if you launch your own competitor?

Sparks & Honey, a New York trend-spotting firm, has a wall in its office where staff post imaginative next-generation jobs. One of the new jobs people will have in 2025 is as a ‘Corporate Disorganizer’: big companies want to be more like start-ups, seeing innovation as vital to future profits. Young says they’ll want ‘corporate disorganizers’ who can introduce a little “organized chaos. The disruptor will be tapping into the new systems of the collaborative economy, creating greater fragmentation and a more distributed ecosystem.”

What if your unique heartbeat can unlock doors?

The fact that fingerprints are unique is widely known and used for decades. As long ago as 10y, IBM included a fingerprint scanner in one of their laptops and this feature was also recently added to the iPhone 5S. As face and voice recognition get some traction in the market, few people know that your heartbeat is also unique! All these biometrics combined will be the key to identifying ourselves in the future and passwords will be history. Not happening? Order Nymi, a small bracelet with heartbeat recognition. Which new business opportunities do you see in this field?