Inventing the future

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The world has changed so rapidly over the past two decades that it is sometimes difficult to imagine how life, and business, will be in the future. For people like me, it is my job – and it’s a real job – to not just imagine the future, but to invent it too.

I say that futurists are reverse historians. Historians study the past and we study the future. We try to peer over the horizon so we can make better decisions today. We analyse trends, anticipate significant changes and help people create preferable futures.

Being a futurist is a real job, you can get a university degree in future studies even here in Australia. Our professional association has over 20,000 members that work in government, NGOs, academia and the commercial world – that’s where I come from.

Some of the trends that we are seeing right now include something that I call “Mobile Madness”. Mobile technology, specifically mobile internet technology, is changing the world in ways that most people don’t see. Mobile internet technology will have an order of magnitude bigger impact on business than desktop internet ever did.

There are seven billion people on the planet today, and six billion of them have mobile phones. Only one billion of those phones are really internet enabled “3G” phones or tablets, but very soon all of them will be on 3G or 4G networks. When that happens, in the next few years, the primary way the entire world will get on the internet will be on mobile devices.

In some countries, like Australia, we’ve already reached that future with over 50 per cent of mobile phone users owning an internet-enabled smartphone or tablet. This trend is especially important in the real estate market because your customers are out and about and therefore you must use mobile internet.

If you’re in real estate you must have a mobile strategy right now because mobile internet will be 100 times bigger than desktop internet ever was – just think how desktop internet changed your industry in the last 15 years and multiply that by 100!

I’d like to recommend my top apps for salespeople. All of the apps I’ll mention are available for iPhone, iPad and most are available for Android too.

First up is my favourite organisational tool that never forgets – even if you do. It’s called Evernote and it’s a digital filing cabinet that stores anything you don’t want to forget. It can capture from your email program, any website, any document on your hard disk, or picture from your digital camera in your mobile device. It does text recognition on any photos so if you’ve got good handwriting that means your handwritten notes too.

Evernote is an app that “changed my life” hundreds of my clients tell me. If you want to be a power user of Evernote, Google “50 Real Estate Uses for Evernote” for a complete run-down of how you can use it in your job.

The second app is a business card scanning app called Card Munch. Take a quick snap of a business card and it will send it up to the cloud where magical elves will type all the details in with perfect accuracy. Well, they’re not really elves, but actually hundreds of thousands of cloud workers that Jeff Bezos of Amazon has organised into a service called Mechanical Turk. They are just waiting for you to send data entry and other tasks that they’ll do for cents per task. Card Munch uses this service, and will return your business card right back into the app. It will also show you who you know in common on LinkedIn.com. Very useful for  salespeople.

Craig Rispin will be a keynote speaker at the Real Estate IQ conference in Brisbane on 31 August.