Author and futurist Michael Tchong will lead the 2019 Executive Summit held in conjunction with SOCAP International’s Customer Care Summit 2019 in Columbus Ohio, April 14-17. Tchong has launched four start-up companies in the fields of desktop publishing, customer relationship management, internet analytics and digital marketing.
Along the way Tchong leveraged his experience, research, and insight to become one of the most sought-after speakers on the business circuit. He has also authored seven books that culminate in what amounts to a grand theory of innovation, Ubertrends—How Trends And Innovation Are Transforming Our Future. One of Tchong’s first speaking engagements following the Spring 2019 publication of Ubertrends.
Tchong will lead the select group of brand executives through a high-level tour of the eight trends he has documented to include Casual Living, the evaporation of decorum; Digital Lifestyle, the marriage of man and machine; Time Compression, the acceleration of life; and Unwired, untethered and unfettered.
“Ubertrends are a massive wave,” says Tchong. “Think Tsunami, that cascades through society and leaves many sub-trends in its wake. They are disruptive—changing society. As consumer lifestyles adapt to these waves we can discern the difference between an Ubertrend and normal trends because they create fundamental changes in human values.”
“Trends don’t change values, they skim the social surface,” says Tchong. “In fact, most trends discussed these days are financial trends or fashion trends—these are just blips. They are fads that make temporary changes and don’t substantively contribute in a lasting way.”
Tchong will document his observations with case studies from diverse industries, noting the organizations that rise with these tsunamis of innovation, those who struggle to stay afloat, and those that founder. “We can observe IBM as a company that was ideally situated to leverage the emerging personal computer revolution of the 1970s, having invented the computer in 1924. But they were late to the party, not introducing their first personal computer until 1981. It was ground they never recovered.”
Like the personal computer, which is a contributing factor in several Ubertrends, the distinction becomes clear as Tchong lays out the case for how societal values, user habits, and industries are profoundly changed around us. “The iPod changes the entire music industry,” cites Tchong. “Innovation here changes lifestyles and with them the financial foundation of the music industry.” At the same time, the iPod lays the groundwork for the iPhone. “In 1997 Apple was on the verge of bankruptcy,” Tchong says. “Today it has become one of the most valuable corporations on earth—banking a trillion dollars last year.”
“Tesla in November passed Mercedes Benz in luxury car sales,” Tchong says. “Tesla shipped their first car in 2007 while Mercedes Benz has been around for one hundred years and developed an enormous dealer network.”
Artificial intelligence is one trend that is integral to the larger Ubertrends of Time Compression, Digital Lifestyle, and Unwired. “The brain of mankind is being mimicked by computer,” Tchong says. “We’re on a convergence path. At some point in time the rise of the machines—forecast by the science fiction writers—will lead to value changes.” Once these changes emerge, they are often impossible to resist. “Who makes an effective argument against greater convenience, against instant gratification?”
“There is broad consensus that we will self-driving cars will be mature technology within the decade. That means anyone who would make a living from driving is going to be out of work within 20. That’s happening,” says Tchong. “There’s no doubt in my mind.”
A careful reading of Ubertrends does not always mean a company should be adopting the latest technologies. As entertainment screens improved car dealers put video screens in the roofs of most high-end minivans and airlines installed screens in seatbacks. “What the wireless Ubertrend was suggesting—even as these companies adapted their manufacturing lines—was that travelers and even young children would soon be equipped with their own screens in laptops, tablets, and phones and would have little use for the shared screens. “That was a lost bet for most of the companies in those industries,” Tchong judges.
At the same time the complementary Ubertrend that began with Gen X and has only grown more prevalent is the importance of the experience,” says Tchong. What the customers want—and expect—are better experiences. “They are spoiled by the competitors that are rolling out the red carpet for them,” says Tchong. “They are spoiled by the organizations that are winning in your market—maybe eating your lunch.”
“This risk is higher for companies that have already invested a great deal in their products, services, and culture because the risk of operating at this level of excellence is that when that quality experience falls short of expectations that is serious for the brand reputation,” observes Tchong. “These reputations take a lot of time and effort to build, but they can be threatened very quickly by very acute problems—very predictable human problems among them.”
“Customer experience is going to be the number one determinant of competitive advantage,” Tchong wagers having taken all Ubertrends into account. Many technologies are essentially “flattening the market, putting the same tools in every competitors’ hands without the traditional capital investment burden.” When everyone has the same competitive advantages how you service your customer is going to set you apart.
At the same time, rudeness is increasing—"its creeping into the relationship between customer and brand with all caps” Tchong quips. “Just ten years ago people wouldn’t speak the way they often do to agents today. The need to handle customers who have no sense of decorum becomes a significant part of your recruitment, training, and retention practices.”
“You can see it in our society today, but we can anticipate that it is going to become worse. Social media is breeding this kind of behavior—people see others behaving this way and it gives them permission to do the same.”
In the Executive Summit in April,” Tchong promises, “we will deal with understanding these trends and Ubertrends in what will be a very fast-paced morning.” Each attendee will receive a copy of Ubertrends for getting more in depth. “But that is all really prelude to the afternoon where we focus on innovation.” “Innovation is in many ways the 9th Ubertrend that is roiling our future,” says Tchong. “In 2010 we had 700 Chief Innovation Officers—today there are more than 5,000. It is relentless innovation that drives success and it must be relentless. The massive wave of venture capital combined the flattening of the competitive market and rapid emergence of new technology means highly successful brands are not falling to companies they have competed against for decades, but to companies that didn’t exist just a few years ago,” says Tchong. “The bulwarks of infrastructure that used to protect mature businesses have been torn down.”
Tchong will lead the group in a pain point analysis. “In this part of the program, we will focus on the immovable objects, usually top management, that say they want innovation but in reality, resist implementing it.”
The day will culminate with a focus on building a culture of innovation in attendees’ unique environments. “This last part of the day is fluid,” says Tchong, “entailing both group collaboration and independent work.” There will be project management tools that anyone can sign up for at no cost and just a few toys to keep the learning fun and experiential.