Facing a fast changing and complex future: how we equip our business for change

GN News

Sep 12, 2019

We live in a world that’s volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA). Look back over the last decade: the Financial Crisis of 2008/2009, impacts of climate change, Brexit, trade war uncertainty, the emergence of a new wave of authoritarian leaders and events that seemingly came from nowhere, without warning and with significant impact. Now ask yourself this: is the world getting any less complex? Does it feel like the world is slowing down?

Between digitalization, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI), our users, technology and world will continue to change – fast. How do we transform our business, to stay continually relevant and support people’s needs for the next 5 and 10 years, and beyond? 

How does GN equip itself for the future? Go behind the scenes and find out exactly what that process looks like.

People at train station

Customer needs first

First up, staying relevant is fundamentally about staying attuned to customer needs. What people need – things like convenience, fair prices, and good design – tends to stay fairly stable, while it’s the user behavior and technology around those needs that changes.

From that foundation of meeting core consumer and business needs, the process of scoping out new opportunities and potential threats to our business means being explorative, curious, open, and proactive. 

How new tech and trends change us: The case of Jabra PanaCast

Take Jabra PanaCast as an example. People need to work, and companies need employees to work for them. This involves people working with each other. But as our world is becoming more globalized and companies are more geographically dispersed, collaboration at the office in 2019 looks very different to how it did 10 or 20 and certainly 150 years ago. As meetings are becoming shorter and less formal, we’re moving from meeting rooms to huddle rooms. And as millennials enter the workforce, they’re accustomed to and expect a video approach to communication, from their immersion in mass platforms like YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram, and video calls on FaceTime or WhatsApp. What do these trends mean in the future for a company like Jabra, whose core offering has been audio solutions for business collaboration and productivity?

As part of exploring the potential impacts of these trends, the opportunity to move into a new market – video – emerged, in the form of a unique camera technology sprouting from Silicon Valley. Altia Systems’ PanaCast, the world’s first 180-degree field of view, plug-and-play video solution, when combined with Jabra’s audio solutions, opened up an opportunity to expand from being the ears of a meeting room to being the eyes and brain as well. With an exceptional technology offering and vision for the future of intelligent collaboration that synchronizes with GN’s, Jabra acquired Altia Systems earlier this year, and we’ve been working together since. Soon, we will open a new office in Cupertino (more details to come). 

PanaCast in use image
With the acquisition of Altia Systems' PanaCast, GN has moved into the growing video collaboration market

Creating the right options for the future

Being open and explorative also means carefully considering what role we choose to play in meeting people’s needs in the future. Do we start up in-house technology projects in this area, or work with the technologies we have access to via our strategic partners, or deliver components of a larger system? Do we need more insight studies first? 

Essentially, the process is about exploring the potential impacts of emerging technologies and trends, to create a knowledge and experience base that prepares us for the future. While we know what core needs are likely to stick around for the next 10 or more years, what no one can predict with certainty is exactly which technologies will dominate. That’s why the work of creating the right options is key.

How it looks, who decides, and how to proceed

At GN, this scoping work could look like a VR meeting demonstration to the Board of Directors. Earlier this year, bedecked in VR headsets, three directors split up around the office (as if they were in different countries) in order to experience a virtual meeting. Via an early-stage demo software developed by a Danish start up, they got a glimpse of where it’s heading and what it could deliver. Would there be less distractions? If you can place post-its on the walls for a brainstorming session, then return to them a week later, is it easier to maintain than a physical room because you don’t have to clean up? Down the track, could it be almost impossible to tell the difference between a person’s avatar and their real self?

We can’t say. And we can’t say to what extent this type of solution would be adopted in the market. But the process of inviting the top decision makers to experience future technologies for themselves lets them to see what some of these solutions may enable in the future, and the role GN could play in that – or to set them aside, if it’s not the right fit for our business.

Not just “Show and tell”, but driving real revenue and growth 

Whether it’s the VR meeting demo to the board or showcasing another emerging technology, the process isn’t about glossy show and tell. The point of bringing forward a range of options is to get decisions made on which technologies to develop or invest in, or future markets to operate in, and then get concrete projects moving which drive business growth and revenue.

In such a complex and fast-changing world, scoping out opportunities and threats to a well-established business like GN is an area of particularly weighty responsibility. But by staying on our toes, being open to new and emerging technologies and business models, we’ve adapted and evolved our business to remain relevant for 150 years, and will do so again tomorrow, and the day after tomorrow, and the day after that.