As a company, we talk to customers and to prospective accounts daily. To a person, and in every instance, we talk about the utility of future forecasting. And every day we get similar responses, ranging from ‘That’s impossible’ to ‘How robust is that data?’ to ‘Really? Shit!’ By having these conversations, we are opening up the future of ‘the future’ as a readable commodity.

Most companies are unwilling to accept that the future is pretty predictable for quite a long way into it, and that their current prognosis may not be so great.

Let’s take: Pharmaceuticals. Study programmes can’t deliver a product within ten years. Launch plans are regularly five years out. Clinical trials often miss their designed outcome, so further delays to these timelines happen.

Even here, where product is being designed to sit in an unknown market landscape, the trend is not to look too closely at the reality of what’s coming. ‘The future’ is something that most people can’t envisage without help and an external perspective.

The most cursory examination of digital development suggests (strongly) that the use of personal monitors (activity, vital signs, caloric intake, nutrition, therapy compliance…) will make an individual’s awareness of their own health more prescient. Overlay genomic detail to highlight inclination towards specific conditions, and suddenly the ‘market’ can take mitigating steps to avoid health issues arising from lifestyle, environment or predisposition. Working towards the needs of an age-related target audience might not be completely straight-forward as life expectancy extends and the age of incidence moves out too.

Market segments less tightly tethered to regulation see this opportunity and are working on it. You want evidence? Look at how insurance companies are monitoring personal activity through wearable technology. It’s just the start.

This is a complex set of issues, but the trends that sit out in the future are readable. To see them, you must be able to ignore the tight focus of the short term and the factors that restrict the majority of company personnel.

Luckily, you’re not in that group. Being in a position to influence innovation strategy means you can be different and make disruption a reality. If you want to.

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