Embrace the Big Shifts

4 minute read

“Sorting everything at CES into "future botnet component" and "vaporware." Those are the only categories.” — @AthertonKD

This delightfully snarky tweet stuck in my mind this year having experienced CES 2017 in all its terrible glory. The world’s biggest consumer electronics Expo certainly doesn’t suffer from a lack of content and the hype is palpable at every turn.

What I’m especially interested in is the paradigm they represent (in this case digital immersion). Digital technology is on a perpetual hype curve. Individual technologies rise, but what remains more powerful are these underlying concepts, particularly when placed in service of a solid creative idea.

It was with this in mind, and my own immersion in the various future clamoring for attention in the disorientating halls of Las Vegas back in January, that I compiled a set of twenty paradigms for the next five years.

Here are the 5 most compelling for me currently:

1. Ambient Technology
In a world where digital experiences can be attention hungry, ambient technology will provide passive, background service directly at the point of need. There doesn’t seem to be anywhere else that screens can go other than thinner and lighter. Their final form will be a piece of glass. The next phase of digital evolution is, in any case, moving us away from interacting with screens and services and toward connecting directly to our lifestyles and environments. Post-screen and post-device digital will have a huge impact on brands used to thinking visually first. The code which drives them will be an encapsulation of your brand purpose.


2. Quality Interactions
The principle quality of any real world experience is the human interaction. Take the people out of a retail store and it just becomes a generic showroom for products and services. It’s the people and the way they transact with the customers that builds the relationship between customer and brand. The trend of the conversational application - Alexa, Siri, Google assistant - and the rise of chatbots, fuelled by machine learning, is at the heart of the need to get to the essence of the human experience and find a new interaction model which echoes it. The old quantity-based metrics of engagement - likes, shares, transactions - are replaced by qualitative measurements. The value is in the human relationship.

3. Digital immersion
If you think about it, most digital experiences have been by proxy. We use agents (browsers, computers, phones) to interact with digital services. It is something we utilise rather than something we truly experience.Virtual and Augmented realities might be grabbing the headlines (although with less regularity of late), but there will be many ways to provide immersion into these new digital worlds.

The most successful experiences will be those that don’t attempt to simulate reality, but instead give you a conceptual experience through deep immersion. Collective experiences have far more power than individual ones; human interactions have more power than human:machine transactions.

4. Context Adaptivity
AI is promising many things at the moment, as Big Data did before it. Perhaps the most interesting effect in the trend toward automation, however, is that digital experiences can start to be far more adaptive to our contexts. This is, in my view, the holy grail of digital design and it has been a very blunt tool up until now, relying on basic matching of tracked behaviours. Where machine learning will excel, however, is in the prediction of context on the basis of cross-referencing lots of data. We will need to think of digital design no longer as a singular optimum experience, but as one which readily shapes to our needs - the ultimate in responsive.

5. Connection with Purpose
The “future botnet component” of the tweet which opens this piece isn’t just snark, it’s a note of caution to ensure that there is purpose behind the digital connections we make. This subtle shift of thinking considers things ‘smart’ not by virtue of the fact they can be networked, but because of the utility which they bring us. That utility will not be about individual actions (“Alexa, dim my lights”) but instead about setting up the contexts we wish to find ourselves in (“Alexa, I’m feeling anxious”). Getting to the heart of the need is at the core of every successful digital disruption (“Uber, I want to go home”).

Andy Dobson is Technical Director at Wolff Olins London. Connect @andrewdotdobson

Daniel Keller wants
you to scare him

2 minute read

Daniel Keller’s life has been one long journey to find new, bigger and scarier challenges. Joining Wolff Olins as a Global Principal after 3 years as Director of Brand Strategy and Experience at Orange, and now working on our major financial services and industrial clients, gives him more than a bit of both.

And there have been many journeys. Daniel was made in Hong Kong, educated in Switzerland and Germany, and has worked in France, UK, and around Europe and the Middle East. And his travels have taken him across South East Asia, Oceania, the US and Canada.

Daniel explains: “When I travel, it’s the trains, boats and plane journeys that thrill me even more than the destination. I like to scare myself physically and mentally through mountain climbing and paragliding, and so maybe its not surprising that I like it when client challenges give us a new mountain each time. For me, figuring out how to climb the mountain is even more of a motivator than getting to the top”.

Daniel’s time at Orange gave him the best possible roadmap for navigating those challenges and dealing with the scary. As well as understanding the importance of building delivery into the brand journey.


“I hired Wolff Olins to work with us on creating an Orange Brand for a very different world. When your head is engaged in getting your board to buy in to your vision, and then locked in to driving towards launching that vision into the world, the detail of how you then roll it out and embed it in the business is ‘something to think about later’.

“The problem is that if you don’t have a strategy for how you make your new brand real in the world and in the business from the outset, all your hard work leading up to the launch can fall apart when the tyres hit the road on the day after. So it is importance to build delivery into the journey from the outset“

Daniel continues: “What I love about my work now at Wolff Olins is the opportunity to build on all this and help enrich our offer in a way which is uniquely us. We are living in fluid times, and businesses are equally so. Being constantly in transformation feels like home to me. The journey never ends.“

Want to chat with Daniel? Connect @dfkeller

Automation and
The Optimistic Leader

10 minute read

Automation, we’re told, destroys jobs. Big data gives unprecedented power to its owners, creating a new elite. Algorithms now shape what we see and how we think — and democracy is compromised by the filter bubble. And now artificial intelligence has invaded the C-suite.

Is this a threat to the very idea of leadership? Or could machines liberate leaders to lead? Following our wide-ranging report on how leadership practice is changing, here we continue the story, with three provocations from us, followed by three thoughtful responses from experts in our network.

You can read our report on the automated leader here

A Code of Conduct
in a Digital Playground

1 minute read

Who looks forward to Codes of Conduct? For too long companies have failed to engage employees with word-heavy handbooks. And let’s face it, they never get read. So how do we come at this to reach almost 26,0000 employees with a fresh new set of messages?

We helped Telia create a simple, informative – Code of conduct that layed the do’s and don’ts out in a fun way.

Read the full case study