I help brands create digital strategies. What this really means is that I create a framework to help them make decisions about what they should be doing in digital. This framework is based on their goals, customers’ needs and opportunities in the category. I’m also always thinking about emerging uses of technology and how the brands my team represents can make better use.
I count myself guilty at times of being a “Digital Actuary.”
Actuaries try to predict the probability of outcomes, but it's based solely on an examination of the past, and their primary goal is to minimize risk. Many of us make sense of the world in the same way, looking at the past. However, a digital strategy that comes out of an "actuary" approach is inherently flawed in a few ways:
The future of digital cannot always be predicted by the past
Sometimes the digital future is easy to predict. Think about broadband. Ten years ago, we all knew that eventually everyone would have a broadband connection and this would change how we consumed media. Some chose to jump on this bandwagon too early, and others, like most of the music and movie industry, were too slow.
Some futures are much more difficult to predict. Think about the mobile industry. Even six short years ago, when the RAZR was king, no one could predict that the smartphones of today would have altered as drastically the way we communicate. The past is much sooner than it used it be, and less reliable.
Risk is how innovation in digital happens
Actuaries are all about minimizing risk, but risk is a key component in digital innovation. Risk in the digital age is a belief that people will try a new way of doing something. They will… we’ve seen it time and time again. If you’re a brand, stop thinking about your customers as people who won’t and start thinking about them as people who will.
Your risks must be calculated, but simply following a pattern from the past won’t result in anything new or noteworthy. There’s no easy answer. The only way to help create the digital future is to spend less time looking backwards and more time guessing forwards…