Never before have the feasibility and visionary power of innovations been so closely aligned. True to the saying that nothing ages as fast as the future, serious work is now being conducted by research institutes, start-ups and technology companies on more and more daring product and service innovations. As a kind of metronome, they increasingly determine the global tempo of all innovation projects. This leads to the major trend developments having to leave their path of linear growth.

The journey of trends from their beginnings to their diffusion is more fast-moving, volatile and intermittent than ever before. For this reason, companies are expected to attach the right amount of relevance to trends along their entire innovation horizon.

At the same time, companies also have to quickly convert new trend phenomena into innovations and, over the long term, guide visionary concepts towards maturity.

The following three trends of Conversational Commerce, Blockchain Business and Space Colonization demonstrate the breadth of the innovation horizon. Transferring trends as quickly as possible into practice can be achieved by observing the Act – Think – Watch method. This makes it much easier to work out how to start dealing with the trends.

Trend #1 Conversational Commerce – Voice-first interfaces are revolutionizing customer interaction.

Digital conversations are the new form of customer interaction. Messengers, as central platforms, are becoming an ecosystem for retailers, brands and service providers. Whether by text, video or automated as a chat bot, natural language signalizes proximity and comfort. The command line is becoming the most important shopping channel. An emoji is all that’s needed to order a pizza. Smart-home systems like Amazon Echo and Google Home have completely done away with graphic user interfaces. With over 3,000 “Alexa Skills”, people can order food or taxis. “Voice First” is becoming the key component of service architecture for all providers.

With its abundance of global innovation examples, Conversational Commerce is a very recent but extremely dynamic trend. “Act” is the watchword here when dealing with this trend. What counts most is the smart and fast transfer into business. Take immediate action in order to prevent paralysis through analysis. Define a use-case for your company. Tools like Chatfuel.com make it possible to create chat bots in ten minutes without any code. Video tutorials will instruct you how it works. Test the prototype with colleagues. Collect the feedback. With the help of these experiences, you can now analyse which processes in your company can be enhanced by chat bots.

Trend #2 Blockchain Business – What the internet has done for communication, the blockchain will do for transactions.

The blockchain has the disruptive potential to turn decade-long domination by industry mechanisms and business models on its head. After all, the blockchain is more than just a secure, digital infrastructure for making transactions. The blockchain serves as a technically implemented form of trust between people so that there is no longer any need for trustworthy third parties. It can be used wherever security, fairness, distribution, accounting, verification and tracking are required. To begin with, the revolution is taking place in the background, in the back-end. End customers will first come into contact with the blockchain via smart contracts or dapps.

Blockchain Business is one of the trends that grows in dynamism in stages. For this reason, “Think” is the modus operandi here. Companies should now address the implications of the blockchain in order to build up advance knowledge and gain competitive advantages. Check out websites like Ethereum.org and Bitcoinmagazine.com. It’s important to keep an eye on the latest developments and their implications. Assess your observations for your company. Also start reading studies and papers on the subject. Give your developers sufficient time to come to terms with the blockchain. Based on the findings, draw up a strategic roadmap for your company.

Trend #3 Space Colonization – The human race is heading towards becoming an interplanetary species.

Is the privatization of space leading to an era in which the human race maintains a system of rocket bases in space and colonizes other planets? SpaceX, Boeing and NASA are working feverishly on this vision. They all plan to send the first manned mission to Mars in 2026. Beforehand, they will have to solve the corresponding technical problems and financial challenges. Reusable launch vehicles and space capsules will have to be developed for the 450-day flight. Besides enough food, water and oxygen, the first settlers will need clothing and accommodation. Terraforming could make Mars habitable over the long term. The visionaries agree on one thing: If the human race fails to establish itself beyond the Earth, it will become extinct.

Space Colonization can be categorized as a trend that gains significance in recurring cycles. When dealing with this phenomenon, it is important not to distort perspectives. We humans have a tendency to overestimate developments in the short term and underestimate them in the long term. “Watch” is therefore the recommended way of spotting innovations and opportunities at an early stage. Make sure that long-term future topics are present in your company. Start-up monitoring on Cruchbase.com or Angellist.com should become part of your routine. Google is already investing in satellites and geo-engineering start-ups. Take a look at reports or use globally available innovation databases. This will help you to keep an eye on disruptive changes, spot the dynamics behind them and take action at an early stage.

Many other trends, such as Mixed Reality, Retail Robots, 4D Printing and Quantum Clouds, can also be categorized along the innovation horizon. For a complete compilation of all the trends for 2017, please refer to our website.