Monday, December 26, 2011

HBR forecasts and saving the world through Human Factors.

At this time of year, everyone and their cousin puts out their Top Predictions for Next Year.  Most of them are hardly worth a second glance.  Or maybe one of them is worth reading, but the others put you to sleep. 

This article from Harvard Business Review only lists six.  Just that should tell you that they aren’t going to waste your time.  But some of them are really insightful.  Here are the three I like best:

Slacktivism.  We are all getting lazier and lazier, but we also care about more and more global and local causes. So how do we reconcile our desire to do the least amount of work possible but also help the most causes?  It’s easy.  Just hit the share button.  See an article on world hunger?  Just share it with all your friends on FB, contacts on LI, tweet it, etc. etc.  If you have a social media dashboard, you can do this all in one click.  And then you can feel really good about yourself for doing your part to solve world hunger and only spend a few seconds doing it.

What can we do about this trend to make it stronger and more effective?  That's what human factors is all about, right?  Well, we can make the sharing easier and more powerful and make it actually work towards solving the problem not just talking about it.  I have a million ideas for this, but I will let you think about it for a while first and go on to the next one . . . .

Self-quantification.  We hear all the time about identity theft and privacy concerns.  And yet the iGeneration puts more and more of their personal information online.  Last year, they used their GPS phones to check in from every restaurant, museum, airport, or event they attended.  A few niche markets emerged as well to record food eaten, TV shows watched, miles ran, and more.  As these grow in ease of use and popularity, we will know everything about everyone.  This can be used for good – by using population data to predict trends in public health, drug interactions, and other issues of national concern.  But it can also be used for microtargeting in insidious ways that are not obvious to the targeted consumer.  I am sure you have heard of neuromarketing, but it can get orders of magnitude more detailed than that when your whole life is available for full review.  What you ate, where you went, who you talked to, what brands you mentioned in conversation, and so on. 

What can we do here?  Well, we can  create some privacy platforms that facilitate the positive and prevent the negative.  Again, I will let you ruminate on this for a while before answering it myself.

Gerontabletification.  The world is getting older.  This is not new.  But how can we leverage 2011’s new technologies to address it?  How about using tablets like the iPad.  We can distribute all kinds of apps that help older people remain productive members of society, or at least minimize the burdens when we lose our health.  Medical apps to make sure older people stick to their medication regimen.  Mental games to keep away Alzheimer’s.  eReaders to present books and news in large print.  Easy multi-media communication with the grandkids.  All of these would be better presented through a tablet.  I am sure you can think of (and develop) your own ideas.  And become a millionaire while also saving the world from crushing health care costs.

The next three are good too.  I will leave you to read those on your own.