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Agile’s so last season. What’s next?

Jenny Beresford | April 4, 2016
If you think many technology trends are as fleeting and fast as a CEO’s tweet, consider the fickle world of fashion.

Understanding volatile human behaviour is at the heart of fashion, and this is where technology starts to turbo-thrust trend forecasting, using predictive analytics and social media to read and try to predict consumer preferences. Technology delivers enhanced shopping experiences both online and in-store.

What we now see is technology starting to deliver advanced materials for ‘smart’ clothes. Surfing is taking off in Ireland because of new technology in wetsuits.

The SXSW conference in Texas this year explored the new era of fashion manufacturing, from 3D printed and sound responsive clothing, to washable batteries and smart textiles that generate power and capture physiological data to reveal emotional interactions.

When you compare the geeky reputation of technology compared to the elegant artistic trademark of the fashion industry, while obtuse, IT and fashion have uncanny synchronicity in both production pace and consumer capriciousness.

The pace of the fashion industry fascinates me and seems to mirror the shift in IT towards to higher levels of creativity, collaboration, customer empathy, design thinking and agile production teamwork.

So, what’s next after agile? As the fashion editor in the movie ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ said to the callow young intern: “You go to your closet and you select that lumpy blue sweater for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs.”

Similarly, we can trace the development of agile practices, high performing teams and adaptive leadership back to at least the 1980s, when it evolved from lean and productivity improvement approaches in Japan post-WW2. Today, agile is becoming mainstream as an alternate leadership and operational approach both in IT and business. Agile is the new black.

Instead of asking what’s after agile, try thinking bigger. What’s after IT? What’s after digital? What will enterprises do when the CIO is the CEO?

When presented with a problem to which you don’t know an easy answer, my advice is to gather a small diverse team, construct a few even more extreme scenarios and then work imaginatively with those hypotheses.

In the creative pursuit of solving it, you may find your own fresh new thing, to spark and transform and keep your enterprise not only ahead of the crowds, but rocketing ahead.

When the CEO next calls you and casually mentions the latest word on their hot list, you’d better be ready. Skinny jeans? So last year. Flares? So 1970s. Wrong – I live in the heart of hipsterdom near Brunswick St in Fitzroy and trust me, big high waisted denim flares are in this month. But please don’t try them at home if you are a CIO – you are inevitably too old for that now!


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