Why CEOs need to watch sci-fi movies

Opinion: One of the biggest issues CEOs face is breaking away from the way things have always been done.

by Igor Beuker
Last Updated: 12 Jun 2020

It’s March 1973. A popular TV show The Six Million Dollar Man makes its debut. The show was watched by millions of people and it began my life-long fascination for technology and science fiction. As I watched astronaut Steve Austin (played by Lee Majors) crash his space ship and be rebuilt as a cyborg, it planted a seed in my brain.

It showed me that technology can be a great force for good and social innovation. This moment was the first building block of my career. 

The future is about being imaginative, not about being right. Technology and innovation has changed marketing and business forever. Through technology, we can cure diseases, save the environment and our oceans, expedite education, exchange knowledge and create equal opportunities. We can now make science fiction a reality.

One of the biggest issues CEOs face is breaking away from the way things have been done in the past. For 70 years, the ‘Mad Men generation’ relied on advertising, consultancy firms, R&D, backward-looking market research and business cases and focused on short term profits. 

That is the reason why incumbent brands are slipping away every day. Many are still retailing like it’s 1999 or blaming Amazon. I believe the real reason for this happening is brands’ lack of customer centricity, lack of trend-driven innovation culture and decision power.

Meanwhile, new entrants, outsiders and outliers have taken over entire industries in under a decade’s time, which is unprecedented in the history of our world. They don’t rely on advertising but on a trend-driven opportunity-seizing innovation culture and mindset. They keep coining the unlimited trends of the 21st century. Advertising may win quarters, but innovation wins decades.

Changemakers are tenacious about the greater good. We live in this rapidly transforming, increasingly interconnected world – the Fourth Industrial Revolution, aka Industry 4.0. It’s a force that demotes all previous Industrial Revolutions - including the Internet - to warm-up acts. Industry 4.0 is moving 10 times faster and with 10 times more impact than CEOs can imagine. It will be shaking up and disrupting entire industries until as far off as 2050. 

For CEOs, it's exponential technologies versus our linear minds. The size and complexity of these significant global challenges needs a radical future vision and foresight. Brands need to discover trends, uncover patterns, reveal new opportunities, and generate evidence-based foresight. Trends and data have an important story to tell, CEOs must listen.

Hollywood sci-fi movies inspire us, fire up our motivation and drive us to take action. People who are able to see the future of society can accelerate their business. Watch Minority Report, Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg), Ex Machina… use their power to fire your imagination. 

But CEOs can’t do this alone. We need digital leadership and cyberpunks at the top. And throughout our whole organisations. We need to coin the business models of this 21st century and to be ready for disruption. We need to get access to the talent of Industry 4.0 now. 

We also need to remember that digital transformation is about digital-first, not digital only. Consumers live online and offline. This revolution is tech-driven but it is about sociology. Once customer was king, now he is dictator. 

Igor Beuker is a social entrepreneur and co-author of new book Fast Forward Files Vol.2: Changing Perspective. 

Image credit: NASA / Handout via Getty Images


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