The recent ground breaking WhatNext.nz TV series got 250,000 interactive kiwis engaged and thinking about what life could be like for them in 20 years' time.
Will their current job be replaced by robots? Would they choose to live to 130 if they had the choice? At what age would they retire? And many more great questions were discussed with audiences participating with live feedback via the web, FaceBook and Twitter.
As I live and work in a digital world I can see industries facing dramatic change and potential extinction unless they transform themselves.
And of course new ones we haven't imagined yet will be born.
So, I thought practically about a few businesses that have gone, are hurting, and are threatened within 20 years. Just my thoughts and observations but here goes...
What has gone?
Video stores. They've been replaced with on-demand instant delivery cheap digital services like Netflix, Lightbox, Neon, Amazon and Hulu.
Record stores. The recorded music publishing and distribution industry was killed by Apple's disruption with iTunes and the iPod, which is being subsequently dented by Spotify and others.
What industries are feeling pain right now?
Travel agents. On-line gives direct access to consumers and travel providers cut costs, by cutting out the middle-man, going direct to the end customers via the web and smartphone apps. I'm not saying travel agents don't add value. Their knowledge can turn an idea into a successful holiday. But direct bookings are making life really tough for them. An on-line tools are improving all the time. I think their days are numbered.
Taxi companies. Competition from Uber hurts.
Hotels and motels are feeling some heat from new competition, capacity and price pressure driven by their industry disrupter AirBnB.
Retail is loosing sales to on-line specialists. Shops are closing, malls are loosing custom. Look how Amazon announcing a distribution centre in Australia has shaken Aussy retail chains. And their forward looking purchase of Whole Foods presents is shaking up the competitors and their valuations.
Bank branches. We hardly ever need to go to a branch any more. Good for banks (reducing cost). Hard on banking staff.
Newspapers get thinner. Advertising has largely shifted to digital. We consume more news on-line. Printed news is stale news? Who places an ad in the classifieds anymore?
Reporters. The advertising squeeze is pressuring news organisations to cut costs hitting news reporting staff and putting reporters under more and more pressure.
Directory publishers. Why go yellow pages when Google's right there on your phone?
Post. Becoming redundant. We only clear our post box, largely containing only junk mail anyway, weekly.
Musicians. They're having to tour and hold live concerts as profits from music sales erode.
Book Retailers. I love books. But instant access via digital readers is cheap and convenient. And some of us are too impatient or maybe lazy to buy many books any more. Our book stores seem to be refocusing on magazines, cards and stationery much to book lovers disappointment.
Telcos. Our business used to spend $2-3k per month in phone company toll charges. Now it's luck to be in the hundreds. Cheap or free digital communications has cut this cost out. Lucky for telcos we need more data and mobile devices. They're changing business models, products and services rapidly. They have to. They also have a lot more competition.
Chartered accountants. Many self-employed and SMEs process their own accounts online with Xero. We only need specialist advice from chartered accountants now and a bit of compliance work for the IRD and Companies Office. Book keeping by accountants is a wasteland. They have to transition to become business advisors and broaden their offer into legal services.
And who will hurt in the future?
Plenty. Lets take a look at the arrival of electric vehicles, and ultimately driver-less cars. Like horseless carriages did, they're coming. What current vehicle related businesses will hurt if they don't change fast?
Gas Stations. Who’ll need them when we become a largely electric fleet re-charging our cars at work and home? And in the meantime have you seen the rise of innovative local companies like Waitomo, McKowen in Otago, New-World, and also Gull Drive-Thru disrupting the traditional gas stations with unmanned self-service stations cutting costs and prices?
Engine and transmission manufacturers. Electric cars only require a simple electric motor and a battery.
The car parts industry. Fossil fueled cars have thousands of moving parts that wear out. Water cooling, exhaust gas treatment, clutches, gears. Electric vehicles have only a few. Less complexity, less to wear probably means less replacements needed. We'll be down to replacing tyres, brakes, and window wipers.
The car sales industry. With driver-less cars and car-sharing, we'll own less cars. As an economy we'll need less cars to do the job of transporting us - especially in the cities. Car sales volumes will fall. Although cars will clock up higher mileages faster through shared use, with less moving parts, they'll probably last longer.
Television. What's the future for broadcast Television apart from news? Advertising shifts to digital. Audiences move to on-demand internet delivered content. Consumers prefer to watch when convenient with no ads.
Movie theatres. Currently supported by new movies being initially available only in theaters to maximise revenue for motion picture companies. When studios figure out how to make good profits from digital delivery will theaters suffer? Or will we committ to supporting the theater experience?
Will power companies ever be threatened? Energy efficient appliances and insulation should be reducing demand. Solar energy technology is a game changer. With cascading solar panel prices consumers may save money en-mass by generating much of their own power from their roof tops. What impact will that have for power companies?
I'll just leave this here…
There's opportunity knocking for forward thinking businesses to get a jump on the trends, disrupt their industry, innovate to out-compete rivals, reinvent themselves and get some good old "unfair advantage". So, what's next for you?