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NEXT16: Bring your canvas (and raise expectations)

Before attending my first NEXT conference, I was a bit skeptical. What connected the motto “It’s me your digital ego” to talks and workshops mainly circling around product design, artificial intelligence and user behaviour? After witnessing some interesting talks (I will point out some highlight below) I have to admit that the organisers, curators and speakers did an excellent job in positioning the NEXT conference at the very heart of developments concerning users and society as a whole.

Here are my key takeaways:

1. Our connected world constantly raises expectations 
If you are a frequent user of Amazon and do happen to shop elsewhere on the net, you might get a very different shopping experience: The checkout is more tedious, your credit card details need to be verified and the checkout takes more than just three steps. Trend Analyst David Mattin explained this phenomenon in the NEXT16 opening talk: New trends are made when an external change helps to satisfy a basic human need (in this case: good online shopping experience) and results in an innovation (like Amazon’s 1-Click-Checkout). After a critical mass of users completed this new loop (or talk about their fab new experience online), new consumer expectations emerge. Not only for the single industry, in which the innovation happened, but for all industries. This means, whether you are buying a book online or groceries in your nearby supermarket you want to pay/check-out faster than before.

2. Virtual experiences as a new status currency
One of Mattin’s five hot new trends for 2017 was the virtual experience economy. 15 years ago a flashy sports car underlined your status as a cool person. 5 years back you had to own the newest iPhone and attend Burning Man to impress your peers. But now status has become a mobile experience – thanks to VR and new attractions like the “Ghostbusters VR Experience” at New York’s Times Square. This will soon alter the expectations for a cool trip to New York (see 1). Nils Wollny, Head of Digital Business Strategy and Customer Experience at Audi prolonged these thoughts when he explained the car manufacturer’s desire to shift from a driving experience to experiencing driving. An autonomous driving car gives users time and space to have a very personal VR experience while driving. We could see our city like it looked centuries ago through a Hololens, talk to business partners, shop fashion, learn a new language or lean back and watch the newest episode of our favourite series on Netflix.

3. Interfaces are about to go away
I can brush my tooth with the help of an app. I can run the fan in my apartment with the help of an app. I can call a taxi with the help of an app. Golden Krishna, now designer at Google, has had enough of this and advocates for a future without interfaces. Apps are lazy rectangles to him and the app download market has come to a halt. Users only download one app per month on average anymore, yet there are throw-away-apps like the NEXT16 programme app. It might remain on my phone, but I won’t use it after the event. Matthias Schrader, CEO of SinnerSchrader and among with Faktor3 host of NEXT16 believes that interfaces are only a transitory technology and will be replaced by services which will recognise the waving of our hand or run by our voice. It will be interesting to see if designers like Krishna find a clever way to implement these new developments in our environment. Otherwise, we will continue to use our smartphone like a remote control from the 80s or be seriously spooked, whenever a concrete wall starts talking to us about insurances and travel opportunities.

4. Blockchain about to change the world – in 2018
Decentralized systems like Blockchain will form the next evolution of digital business models. This change is fuelled by cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum and could erase middlemen on a state or commercial level. Imagine a world where houses are sold directly – without a notary. Or where your electric car can be charged on any socket. The Chinese automotive supplier Wangxiang is currently building this world: The now electric car maker opened its own Blockchain Labs in 2015 and has repeatedly invested in the new technology via its own VC Fenbushi. The increasing value of Ethereum just opened the opportunity to launch a $30 billion smart city project. Blockchain will be integrated into the city’s infrastructure and help to create new business products for the Internet of Things. It is believed, that any company which hasn’t implemented a Blockchain vision by 2018 will be left behind, as the new infrastructure is currently build by the likes of Wangxiang.

5. Bring your canvas
It looked a bit like pre-arranged, but at some point every workshop during NEXT16 drew the audience’s attention to their very own business canvas version. Whether David Mattin and his team wanted to explain new trends or Sven Laepple from Astratum aimed to help us with our Blockchain strategy – all could be done with a canvas! Even publishing partner t3n offered a canvas in a supplement to their latest edition. So forget your SWAT analysis and head for your own canvas version! The Medienlotse hasn’t found the time for designing one, but this might change…


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