New Decade, New What?


The trouble with predicting innovation is that the changes that people tend to foresee take a long time to materialise if they ever do. Think hoverboards, personal air transport, AI taking over the world, self-cleaning clothes, good-tasting rehydrated food, control of the weather. All of which have been almost constantly predicted for decades. The things that actually do happen tend to creep up on us in a banal way. Think video calls, cloud computing, self-driving cars, home working, online dating. 

 My observation is that the further in the future you go the easier it is to get it right. I attended the Stanley Kubrick exhibition at the Design Museum last year and learned that Arthur C. Clarke made one  bizarrely accurate prediction as two astronauts in the movie 2001 can be seen reading a newspaper on something that looks suspiciously like an iPad, that he calls a Newspad. Bulls-eye!

However unless you’re a sci-fi writer or pro futurologist, good luck predicting. If you’re still in any doubt, turn to the excellent and thorough book ‘Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction’ by Philip Tetlock and Dan Gardner. It’s a cautionary tale for those of us in innovation. And experts: 

“Unfortunately people tend to be terrible forecasters. As Wharton professor Philip Tetlock showed in a landmark 2005 study, even experts’ predictions are only slightly better than chance. However, an important and underreported conclusion of that study was that some experts do have real foresight.”


So I will confine myself to these ten 2020 predictions that our team has come up with based on the best predictor organ that humans have. Their gut! 

  • Open innovation will continue to grow as companies come under pressure for greater transparency, accountability and network-building
  • Open innovation platform technology companies will continue to rationalise, merge or disappear 
  • Innovation and design will move closer together, in part due to the rise of service design building a bridge and changing corporate mindsets  
  • Corporate startup accelerators will shrink in importance and public or VC run programmes will take up the slack but to a new more efficient model 
  • Innovation will continue to globalise as access to information, connections and online collaboration tools grows
  • The Coronavirus will impede China’s growth and force innovators to move online to collaborate – as will an increasingly vociferous anti-flying movement
  • 2020 is the year that professional services will start to be significantly performed by AI (accounting, law, auditing)
  • The uncertainty around trade negotiations in the UK will force major UK manufacturers and financial services organisations to innovate more open supply chains
  • Labour supply will become critical in the UK forcing up wages and prices
  • Open data will grow in strength and impact, enabling new value to be created for citizens and companies in the transport, energy and medical fields

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These are all predictions that we are involved in making happen.  And as Alan Kay, inventor and polymath who worked on world-changing inventions like the graphical interface, object-oriented programming and the personal computer itself said:


“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”   


Happy inventing! 


David Simoes-Brown


  1. Thanks David!

    I’m really intrigued by your observation that it’s easier to predict the far future than the near future. I wonder if a refinement might be that it’s the *middle* future that’s hard to predict; the near future (next year) being easy, and the far future (next century) being easy.

    I’ve always loved the comical definition of the word “technology”: it’s apparently anything that was invented since you were born. I further observe that the longer I live, the more I feel like I’m “living in the future” because I can remember when many of today’s normalities were in fact predictions for the then future (today’s present).

    What’s the pithy epithet that captures that second idea? 🙂

    • Great build, thanks. It leads to me think that it is perhaps the speed of travel as well as the destination that is important, not only in the arrival of innovation but one’s perception of the rate of change. As for pithy epithets, how about ‘Prediction Window’ or ‘Future Focal Length’? What would yours be?

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