One step further at a time: Society and Technology

The Big Picture is a monthly PESTLE analysis taking you through key innovation trends for Society and Technology. You can find our first article on Politics and Economics here.

Society: defining new models

New ModelsThere is no debate on the fact that our societies need to change. They are changing. They need more inclusiveness, they need more open-mindedness, they need more social good. There are debates on the who, and the how. This debate is fair, and needs to take place. Starting an open-minded society is taking a closer look at “who” expresses needs, and “how” they are being expressed.

It may come families. Fathers, for examples, in search of a new balance with an (righteously) demanding feminine counterpart. How do we define new roles ? Jennifer Senior, from Science of Us, explains how “fathers who take paternity leave are far more likely to assume more household responsibilities further down the road, thereby helping to diminish the possibility of future marital strife”.  They are not the only ones asking for new roles. Young ladies are also redefining their impact in the science world and getting engaged for more recognition. As Rachel Swaby writes for Fast CoExist, “By treating women in science like scientists instead of anomalies or wives who moonlight in the lab as well as correcting the cues given to girls at a young age about what they’re good at and what they’re supposed to like, we can accelerate the growth of an entire new generation of chemists, archeologists, and cardiologists while also revealing a whole hidden history of the world.”

Driving change necessitates management tools, even on a society scale. Erin Mayer, from the Harvard Business Review, explains how she maps management styles across different cultures to anticipate potential conflicts in global teams.

Map Out Cultural Conflicts on Your Team – Erin Mayer – Harvard Business Review

The point is not to relate to the exact findings which may actually vary from industry to industry, company to company, individual to individual. The point is to ask: what will specific audiences expect, how will they react, what would they need in a given situation, with other sets of people? How can we generate value from combining all theses audiences together ? The point is to anticipate and better drive change, for there are many social changes coming ahead. Starting again with families and technology. As Alexandra Sifferlin points out in TIME, “A better understanding of the use of mobile media in young children and how it varies by population groups is critical to help develop educational strategies for both parents and health providers.”

Millenials are also challenging existing social models by aspiring for more entrepreneurship and independence. In her article for Fast CoExist, Ariel Schwartz explains how “Generation Z has no illusions about staying in comfy corporate jobs. Over four in ten respondents think they’ll work for themselves in their careers (that is, according to the U.S. Census, more than four times higher than the actual percentage of people who work for themselves). Some 63% of respondents also think that entrepreneurship should be taught in college.” It is about challenging existing rules, and some schools are developing educational programs to build individual able to challenge status quo. As Brian Foglia found out for Medium, “Instruction and “guided” experiences inhibit the natural learning processes of many children and introduce negative thought patterns. There is mounting evidence that non-intervention is extremely important in allowing children to learn, hence the importance of alternative learning environments.”

Meanwhile, some old and long predicted challenges remain. In her article for TIME, Eliza Gray reminds how “Though the problem of falling birthrates and aging population is particularly acute in Japan, a similar problem is also brewing in Europe and the U.S. The federal government’s data from late last year showed that 2013 birthrates hit a record low in the U.S. in 2013, down 9% from a high in 2007, as American women delay having children.” Yet some old and long predicted answers exist. In an interview given to Christophe Bys from Usine Digitale, Laurence Parisot, former head of MEDEF (French entrepreneurs network), states that “the digital transformation (of our economies) holds an enthusiastic and hopeful dimension. It accelerates changes in management models for generations and individuals with economical and political impact.”

Technology: knowingly racing to the unknown ?

A race to the unknownAs an opening question, Meera Chary and Kristofer Keefe explore the different strategies to make sure products we develop actually solve problems. As they explain, it starts with defining the right problem with the beneficiaries, trial, fail, re-iterate until defining the right solution. As they mention in their article from Fast CoExist, “In the world of technology for social good, such rapid prototyping creates a cycle of learning and continuous improvement that keeps up with changing business approaches and markets.”

This picture from The Next Web shows a certain number of product iterations that have led to the connected devices we hold with us a on daily basis.

For sure, drawing timelines on our ideas and realizations help understand what has become critical over the time. In the midst of a growing call for environmental-friendly technologies, innovation has gone green. As Kevin McSpadden explains in his article from TIME, “An Audi research facility in Dresden, Germany, has managed to create the first batches of diesel fuel with a net-zero carbon footprint — made from carbon dioxide (CO2), water and renewable energy sources such as wind or solar power.” For his part, Matt McFarland thinks golf cars will disrupt the auto industry. Why ? Because, as he describes in his article for The Washington Post, “Given their limited features, these low-speed vehicles aren’t classified as cars by the Chinese government. So the low-speed vehicles are exempted from the expensive licensing fees to make a car street legal. This is another advantage. Dodging regulations is a classic move of successful innovations.” As Sameer Bathia writes for, companies understood they had to break some rules and create new basics. “Companies are adopting socially enabled business processes “to create engaged and empowered organizations—teams that seamlessly work across traditional and organizational lines with an eye towards unleashing more talent, innovation, and efficiency across the enterprise.” On the science and technology side, this is what can happen when knowledge crosses new lines:

Science keeps having us think we can go further, in so many dimensions at a time.

On the business side, it seems technology has reached a no return point as well. In the Journal du Net, Claude Molly-Mitton wonders: “After years on digital revolutions, what will our digitalized world look like in 2025 ? What place will hold information systems and computing systems in this new paradigm ? More specifically, what will be their architecture type in 2025 and supporting business models ?”.  For sure, a lot of people would like to know. As Pauline Cantener explains for l’Atelier, “Roland Berger estimates that if the European industrial sector misses its digital transformation, it would loose more than 605 billions euros by 2025”.

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