Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday. My name is Graeme Codrington and come with me to the past. That’s right. We’re 30 weeks into Throw Forward Thursday, and as I’m recording this, we’re getting into December of 2021. So we’re going to do a little holiday miniseries over the next five weeks, and we’re calling it watching the future.
In a sense, I want to step back from what we normally do on a Throw Forward Thursday, which is to jump into the future and have a look at something going on there. And I want to help you to use our Throw Forward Thursday videos with your team to develop the skill set of being able to look into the future of your business, your industry, your function, and to do that for yourself and to do it for your team to develop not only the skill set, but also the interest and desire of your team to be future focused.
I think this is absolutely essential for any team, any organisation, if you are going to be able to survive the disruption that’s coming our way in the rest of the 2020s. So today I want to take you to the past because back in 2014, Amazon announced a new project. They called it Amazon Go, and the idea was that they were going to create physical stores and experiment with what the Amazon technology might be able to bring to a physical store.
At that point, everybody said, But Amazon, you’re crazy. You are an online store. Why would you go into the physical space? But Amazon and I’m in the background here playing one of the early promotional videos. I think this is from 2018, when they did a full launch of a number of Amazon ghost stores around the United States of America.
The idea is that it’s a store that has no people in it, that you activate your Amazon app that gives you access to the store. The story is filled with different sensors and AI, they say, AI. I’m not sure exactly that it’s artificial intelligence. I think it’s more like IA intelligent assistance. But anyway, you basically take your shopping bag, you put everything you want into the bag and you literally just walk out of the store.
The store systems have identified what you’ve taken, and as you leave, it, charges all of it to your app. Very simple concept at least, obviously it took them quite. It took them four years, at least to get from kind of thinking they wanted to doing it to actually doing it, and it working. But at the time, our team at Tomorrow Today Global, and this is what we do for a living.
We don’t have a Crystal ball. We can’t predict the future, but we try and understand disruptive forces and change and in particular, we look at the systems that’s really key for watching the future and that really is what watching the future is about. So instead of getting caught up in the hype, getting caught up in what we sometimes call the shiny things of the future.
Look, Amazon Go has launched a store that doesn’t have cashiers in it. Interesting, shiny thing, and you can talk about it and say, wow, that looks interesting. You need to go a step further than that. And that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with throw forward Thursday. We’re not just trying to shine a spotlight on a shiny thing in the future.
We’re trying to unlock your imagination about how that shiny thing becomes an example of systems change. And then you can use that example. You can extract the principles and you can apply it to your own industry. So what we said a few years ago about Amazon Go is the Amazon Go technology is not the interesting piece. The question is, what can you do with that technology if you transfer it to a different part of the system?
In other words, we didn’t think that Amazon Go was the end product of Amazon’s innovation. We thought it was just a milestone on the way to something else. And we were right. Just a few weeks ago, I saw the news, the news that I was expecting to come. So if I can take you back four years, I can point to the future and now we’re living in it.
What was that future? We genuinely believed that what Amazon was doing was not trying to start its own stores. They were simply using their stores as an experiment to develop technology that they could then licence to other people. This is what Amazon is all about. Amazon started selling books, but they very quickly worked out that you could make a lot more money by letting other people sell books.
So Amazon didn’t have to sell their own books. That was really sort of 15 years ago where Amazon really started to unlock its potential, where it didn’t say, you don’t have to buy books from us in our warehouse. If you’ve got a book to sell, you can sell it. Just sell it via Amazon. The language we use is that they built a platform.
They’re not a traditional business. They are a platform that enables business, and they don’t care who they’re enabling. They’re very happy to sell their competitors products. And so what were they doing with those physical stores? They were trying to develop technology that they could licence to every retailer on the planet.
So when they’ve done all of the experiments, when they know that they can take the cashiers out of their own physical stores and they’ve got the technology that allows them to do that. What can they now do? They can take that technology and they can licence it to other people. I read about Sainsbury’s in the UK purchasing this technology to remove cashiers from the system, but not just remove them and then give you the self checkout line that you’ve got to cheque out yourself, which maybe wasn’t really ever an improvement for the customer.
But to actually take the cashier out and all you do is you fill your trolley, you fill your bag and you literally walk out of the store and everything you’ve bought is scanned and paid for in 2 seconds.
If Amazon can get that right and that technology can be transferable, then every retailer in the world might licence that technology from them and just using round numbers. I don’t know the business model in the background, but imagine Amazon gets even 1c from every transaction that happens in every store in every country, in every part of the world. Well, Jeff Bezos might not just be going into space. He might own the moon if he’s able to get that right. And that is what Amazon was always planning to do.
We predicted it four years ago, and we were right. That’s actually what Throw Forward Thursday is about. And over the next four weeks from now, we’ve got another four episodes of this miniseries. We’re going to show you five or six principles that you can put in place with your team to help your team to not just imagine the shiny toys of the future, the new technologies, the new things that are emerging, but to understand the principles that are in play and apply them into your own organisation today, so that as you set yourself up for the new year as you set yourself up thinking about what you need to be doing in terms of your strategies and what you do in your organisations that are little.
Throw Forward Thursday videos each week can be a key component of making you future proof and ready for whatever comes your way.
Join us every week over the next few weeks, and if you’re taking a holiday, they’re available on the archives. You can come back later in January and pick them up. Then, as always, make sure that you subscribe and get the notifications so that you don’t miss any of our Throw Forward Thursday videos and come back next week when we talk about how to make sure that you get your whole team involved, that we look backwards from the future, that we entertain ridiculous ideas. And I’m not going to tell you everything that we’re going to talk about in the next month.
Come along for the ride.
I’ll see you next week. Bye.
Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.