Amazon,

New math, touching the future and NFTs

Welcome to this 4th issue of our newsletter “Weak Signals and other Trends”. I am sending this one on a Saturday, let me know if you prefer this schedule to a Friday. Each week, I sift through hundreds of sources of inspiration to track where we’re heading. Your comments are welcome.

This is what I noticed this week, thank you for reading.


Business disrupted

Illustrations and examples that show our industries and business models are changing…

Amazon acquires Selz, a Shopify competitor, an e-shopfront and omni-channel becomes the next battlefield. The Emperor’s New Paintings, or how art is getting bankatized ( we wrote about this in our first issue – will this lead to Art-SPACs?). Automating the psychologist. Grocery Store on Wheels is a Food Retail disruptor in Canada aiming for a Spring 2021 Launch. Fortnite is hosting its own festival – another indicator that gaming and esports will take market share from entertainment companies.

The gig economy is getting organized: TikTok Stars and Social Media Creators Can Now Join Hollywood’s Top Union. Uber drivers are workers not self-employed, Supreme Court rules.


Our Future

Illustrations and examples that show our industries are changing…some trends are tech related, some not.

Machines Are Inventing New Math like we’ve never seen before. Status as a service. Ruth, the cookie coach by Nestle. A concept, this privacy ring is like an Incognito Mode for real life. Four disruptive, uncomfortable, yet inevitable martech trends. Netflix Forced A Bot To Make A Romantic Comedy – Netflix By Bots (YouTube). You’ve had your head under a pillow if you did not notice of the surge of discussions around NFTs ( Non-Fungible Tokens) , so here is a primer. 10 Breakthrough Technologies 2021 by MIT. Twitter announces paid Super Follows to let you charge for tweets. Why the ‘experience of things’ lies at the heart of digital transformation.

Touching the future( a long-read article, well worth your time to reflect).

AI is part of our cultural fabric. It is also part of a set of increasingly complicated systems – it is not one AI so much as many – and these systems encompass everything from the electrical grid and railway lines to mine sites, lift shafts and food-­supply chains


Competitive Intelligence

Sources: Digital Rights Archive, a treasure trove of essential research and analysis for digital policy-makers. We adore how this tool allows the user to search for images with similar energy: we think we could use it for moodboards. We already spoke about image searching, so here is DescartesLab a service for searching and locating landmarks ( bundle that with a good analytics software and you can guess oil reserves worldwide – also here). Access, download and analyze commodities worldwide from their shipment data to anticipate macro-economic trends.

Tools: since Flash was discontinued we lost the amazing newsreader Newsmap, but now it is back as an HTML5 web application. Nuzzel has pivoted and now offers a very friendly news-letter builder. Hyper-accurate positioning is rolling out worldwide. On forecasts & prediction error.

Our next course on Competitive Intelligence research techniques is here. We have a cohort starting in February ( 10am-12pm on March 29-30-31).

Weak signals

Weak signals are indicators of a change, a trend or an emerging risk that might become significant for the future. They allow us to run hypothesis, expand our thinking, and challenge assumptions. How will you interpret those in your industry? This week, we’re looking at the world with alien eyes and counter-intuitive facts

An illustration of looking at objects with an alien eye, this one spotted in a pub. Americans are consuming more foreign content than ever. Burger King hands out bags of potatoes to help French farmers (consequences of the shift from restaurants to at-home consumption, triggering a huge crisis for farmers). How Erewhon Became L.A.’s Hottest Hangout, particularly for influencers (supermarkets were among the few places where people could still see and be seen). A New Artificial Intelligence Makes Mistakes—on Purpose. A Literal Marketplace of Ideas (it reminds me of a social capital stockmarket Empire). Kids are turning to side hustles. The rise of digital books festivals.

We have been researching databases of weak signals, to give you a head start and here are a few pointers: We spotted an interactive map of weak signals ( in Finnish!). A database by Good Morning April.

Join us on Clubhouse at 9AM EST today to discuss how to interpret some of those weak signals.For those who missed it, we will have this 30mns morning discussion each Saturday at 9am EST ( look for @competia) .

On our radar

In this section, I will share some of the content I come across as I work on specific mandates for our clients. This week:

Analytical: I am preparing a keynote presentation for a client on what it means to build an analytical company: J.B. Hunt Enlists Google to Match Carriers With Shippers. How Harley-Davidson Used Artificial Intelligence to Increase New York Sales Leads by 2,930% . Uncovering the Potential of Advanced Analytics in International Price Management. How to build a data analytics dream team.

Social media crisis: I am always on the lookout for the next mishap or crisis in social media (I teach a class for the Institute of Canadian Directors on Boards Oversight of Social Media). Here is what I spotted this week: Structube and garbage can. Further, as I meet the board of a professional firm for a private training next week to discuss crisis response plans, one can’t miss McKinsey’s opioid – and more generally culture crisis splashed all over social media – fast becoming a business caseWhistleblowing is hitting social media — what is a company’s responsibility? (we will do an entire section about this next week).


Hodgepodge discovery

I am not sure why yet, but I feel like putting this new thermal imaging tech in my Xmas list. A 900 million backoffice error. LinkedIn is the latest tech giant to launch a creator program. Addicted to Clubhouse? These apps will make it even better. A study on reality and living in a market without IRL (pdf). Kids games that only use audio. This report reveals recent, current, and future cybersecurity issues impacting the globe, by Blackberry. If smiles are so easy to fake, why do we trust them? .


Feeling good

Generating fantasy maps. In case you are missing the urban vibe.

Hit me up at https://twitter.com/competia with feedback, pitches, or ideas for what to write about! Thank you for reading.

Did you learn something today? Share your favorite issues of the newsletter, or send friends:

Terrapy,meta-humans and the end of credit cards

Business disrupted

Illustrations and examples that show our industries and business models are changing…

Luxury’s Involvement in Resell. Nori, a crypto-currency for farmers. Carta launches an exchange to help employees and investors sell stock in private startups.
Inside The Billion-Dollar Plan To Kill Credit Cards. Paypal wants to be a super app. A sustainable ecommerce.

A perfect example of how innovation can be simple, and comes from challenging simple , yet unchallenged assumptions: Credit Card Design Is Going Vertical With Tap-to-Pay Booming ($).


Our Future

Terrapy, the new trend identified by Trendwatching. A micro SaaS meta trend: Videopeel. Inside China’s Warring Online Fan Groups (I draw a parallel here to what happened with Gamestop). Can a robot pray? Does an AI have a soul? Machines Are Inventing New Math We’ve Never Seen. The AI Girlfriend Seducing China’s Lonely Men ( you might want to follow-up this article with this one on the therapist chatbot). Microsoft patent shows plans to revive dead loved ones as chatbotsNasdaq Decodes: Tech Trends 2021. A sneak peek at MetaHuman Creator. The tattoo-like skin patch tracks blood pressure and heart rate while monitoring alcohol and caffeine levels. U.S. Navy Has Patents on Tech It Says Will ‘Engineer the Fabric of Reality’. Researchers Levitated a Small Tray Using Nothing but Light.


Competitive Intelligence

Sources: a new search engine to search ideas ( I love the structure described in the manifesto and can’t wait for the beta to happen). This ragtag crew are shaking up the world of earthquake prediction by analyzing orthogonal data such as ambient noises. Contify Launches a Competitive Intelligence Solution for B2B Marketers with Advanced Website Change Tracking. We are exploring this week thousands of relevant data sets. A good summary here about the retailer’s guide to marketing data, from zero-party to thrid-party.

Analysis techniques: Reporting Hacks for Your Next Competitive Analysis. How Cognitive Bias Can Explain Post-Truth. Alternative Data Adoption in Investment Management .

We also read with interest the 2020 State of Competitive Intelligence survey results by Crayon ( pdf to download here).

We have three spots left in the next cohort for our course “Advanced Analysis Techniques for Competitive and Market Intelligence” taking place on March 29-30-31, 2021. Details here.

Weak signals

Wood can easily be turned transparent to make energy-saving windows. TikTok Influencers Can Now Be Covered by a Union Agreement (I covered this theme of freelancers’ rights during a session on the future of work in a 2015 panel at the Women’s Forum). Microsoft supports a “links tax” in Australia. Facebook Plans Smartwatch With Focus on Messaging, Health. Churches digital divide.

We are launching in April a two-day training class on strategic blindspots where we explore weak signals analysis spotting techniques. Details here.

On our radar

It’s all about voice: as we hosted our first room discussion on Clubhouse to review weak signals, we discussed the surge of voice and the impact on industries, i.e. healthcare. This prompt me to dig into the subject: Why won’t brands stop talking to us? The future of augmented reality is earbuds, not eyeglasses. The therapist chatbot. Microsoft patent shows plans to revive dead loved ones as chatbots. New A.I. can identify the song you’re listening to by reading your brain waves.

Reputation building for direct-to-consumer brands: I am working on a training program early March for the board of a large Canadian direct-to-consumer brand to understand how to protect the company’s reputation and anticipate potential crisis emerging. This lead me to the following : Why Athletic Apparel Brands Are Ahead Of The Pack In DTC. We like Thingtesting weekly newsletter. Social Media’s Role in Crisis Management viewed from the legal department. 8 DTC trends to watch in 2021 . How 2020 killed the Instagram brand. Canadian furniture chain apologizes.


Hodgepodge discovery

What tools are businesses using? If like me, you love what fonts mean, this is for you. The warrior watch study. Optimize your Clubhouse event organization links. Aesthetics Wiki is Internet’s one-stop shop for figuring our whether your vibe is more “cactuscore” or “synthwave”. The Future of Team Leadership Is Multimodal. Aromas evoking journeys not yet taken ($). The state of battery report. Check if your Flickr photos were used to build face recognition .


Feeling good

Starlings in flight. A Journey Around Earth in Real Time. The art of doodling. A cultural teleportation: every green dot on the planet is a radio station you can listen to. And on the same theme as we all miss traveling, a game that catapult you some place on earth, and you have to guess where you are. Addictive…

Spinach cyborgs, Clubhouse and leaked smartphone data

Business disrupted

Illustrations and examples that show our industries and business models are changing…

The iconic motorcycle maker Harley Davidson announced this week that it would issue stock to 4,500 workers, including all of its hourly factory laborers – not far from the recent “retailization” of stock ownership we witnessed with the Gamestop fiasco. Ark Disruptive Report 2021 is listing new technological breakthroughs (pdf). Supply chains are breaking up everywhere, from chips to containers. Musk’s next disruption: accounting for crypto. The impact of robot taxi disruption, from insurance to energy. A house redivided: how the pandemic changed our homes. Nidec chief predicts a $3,000-car era with the spread of EVs.


Our Future

Unbundling 2021 by Benedict Evans. A summary of the future of packaging by Trendhunter. The future of work is through workforce ecosystems. The future of Asset management and the upside of disruption ( this is Twitterization 2.0). Nomophobia is the new phobia. Generation Z, You’re Adorkable. Scientists taught birds to sing songs by implanting false memoriesAutonomous Drone to launch satellites from airport runways and drone network being developed to transport organs, blood and meds in Scotland. Business cards are going online in Asia. The Cassandra of the Internet age. Nanotechnology allows chemical signals from spinach to send emails – DARPA already was engaging nature’s silent sentinels to detect security threats. Why Editorial Brands Will Dominate Retail’s ‘Long Tale’ . Authenticity, escapism, and imperfection are the design trends for 2021, as curated by Shutterstock. This is how we lost control of our faces. “Grocerant” , a growing trend illustrating the future of groceries and supermarkets.


Competitive Intelligence

Sources: Explore, select and download data on past reconstructions and future projections of the global population by age, sex and education. Advan provides data that localizes 1 out of 4 cell phones in the US: you can use it to see the number of employees seen at Amazon warehouses ( and deduct company revenue), or monitor factory traffic at Tesla ( measuring production…). A good example of orthogonal data: The Gray Market: How Public-Health Data Can Help Us Predict the Future of Art-Market Recovery (and Other Insights). Spoonbill lets you see profile changes from the people you follow on Twitter or other social networks and Fadeke analyzes it so well here.

New tools we explored: PimEyes is an advanced face recognition search engine, a reverse image search tool, and a photo search mechanism used to find out where your face appears. They Stormed the Capitol. Their Apps Tracked Them, and the NYT identified the individuals from a trove of leaked smartphone location data.

We keep you updated on those news tools and sources on Twitter.

Weak signals

Weak signals are indicators of a change, a trend or an emerging risk that might become significant for the future. They allow us to run hypothesis, expand our thinking, and challenge assumptions. How will you interpret those in your industry and connect the dots?

The Pandemic Has Erased Entire Categories of Friendship: what will this do to our ability to learn? The global fungi (mushroom) industry is forecast to double in the next five years to a staggering $86B and M&Aabound. Solarpunks and its movement. A selfie museum in Kuala Lumpur. Why are first editions prices skyrocketing? Blue check homes. A database of influencers’ mansions. We like to explore the Showerthoughts discussion group on Reddit to pick-up a different way to look at the familiar ( the latest conversation was about Apple juice and why it had only one flavor). The networking goats. The new urban rowers. The absurd logic of Internet recipe hacks. Teens are using these shopping apps to get rich.

We are launching in April a two-day training class on strategic blindspots where we explore weak signals analysis spotting techniques. Details here.

On our radar

Clubhouse: I have spent the week diving into Clubhouse , the drop-in audio chat, and I don’t think I have be as excited about a social media networks since I discovered Twitter 13 years ago at Davos. Many have tried before ( see Twitter spaces) but I believe that Clubhouse will disrupt the world of conferences for good, has huge potential in education, will be central to brand building, and will change Art and culture forever. Much debate so we’ll see how it unfolds.

“Clubhouse has some of the appeal of early Twitter”

Family businesses: as I contemplate joining another family business board, I dive again into the role: The surprising role of family feuds in German business ( 90% of German companies are family businesses). Asia’s Family-Owned Business Founders Seek Private Equity Exit. Only 27% of family businesses in Montreal have a succession plan, according to HEC (pdf).

Cybersecurity, an ongoing interest: Google says it’s too easy for hackers to find new security flaws. How Neurodiversity Can Strengthen Cybersecurity Defense. I also immensely enjoyed having access to cyber experts at the room on Solar Winds Cybersecurity, part of the discussion of Defense and International Security Club Clubhouse (it’s been going on for +30 hours… )

Future of banking: as I prepare the training curriculum for the board of a financial institution next March on digital transformation, I read: The future of Asset management and the upside of disruption ( this is Twitterization 2.0). Investors Value News Analytics. Equifax Acquires Open Banking and Transaction Data Analytics Company AccountScore . How European banks can adapt their operating models for open banking. Inside The Billion-Dollar Plan To Kill Credit Cards. Nasdaq Decodes: Tech Trends 2021. BNY Mellon Announces Crypto Custody and Spies Integrated Services.


Hodgepodge discovery

It’s all a matter of angle: earth at a cute angle. Since we are talking about maps, look at Data Visualization and the Modern Imagination by Stanfort University. Mozilla’s 2020 Internet Health reportMarchetti’s Motorcycles or the analysis of urban transportation. How Amazon writes memos. Candles Became the Lockdown’s De Facto Interior Status Symbol. Ever heard of Kuaishou? This TikTok rival hits $160bn valuation as shares surge after IPO.


Feeling good

Pixel Vermeer. Spotify offers the soothing sound of lego bricks. A visualization of how we grieved, found solace and moved forward during the pandemic. The best travel photos of 2020. The cat and the lawyer. An excavator ballet from Quebec.

Did you learn sometime today? If so, do share this newsletter with your colleagues and peers. Thank you for reading.

Conlang, farcical situations and derisking digital

Welcome to this first issue of our newsletter “Weak Signals and other Trends”. I am still fidgeting with the format and the content scope, so your comments are welcome, here, or on our site www.competia.com.

This is what we noticed this week – some new, some old ( who says an article written a few weeks ago is out of date?). Thank you for reading.

Business disrupted

Illustrations and examples that show our industries and business models are changing…

Leica, the 107 German camera company, survives. 11 sources of disruption. Furniture start-up Outer uses customer homes as showrooms. Amazon’s fitted T-shirts: it’s not about the T-shirt, it’s about your data. Marketing agencies are launching their own brands. Cooks are turning Instagram into the world’s takeout menuEquity financing for influencers. Hiring without resumes… or interviews. Technology is finally telling farmers things they did not already know. Nike taps into the “touchless” trend and launches a hands-free sneaker. Sotheby’s brought to you by Bulgari—product placement at auction has arrived, with limitless potential. Shopping On YouTube Will Soon Be Possible. How DTC brands will approach physical retail in 2021


Competitive Intelligence

Lots on privacy this week: Those apps that spy on your pasteboard. Facebook Ad Service lets anyone target military personnel. Kapersky’s cyberthreat real-time map.

Sources to test: Twitter opens it full tweet archive to academic researchers for free. The new social mediaPatent drop scans patents filed by big Tech and it’s giving you a head-start on the future. Search Elephind for the world’s historical newspapers. Asia’s largest database of B2B contacts and company data. Never say you’re restating anything, the machines will hold it against you. Hedge funds rush to get to grips with retail message boards ( it’s about time we pay attention to social media intelligence!)

New tools we explored: Roamresearch, a note taking tool for networked thought. Notability, to combine hand written notes with sketching. Obsidian, to mindmap your knowledge. Eventregistry organizes news and world events to analyze their impact, we like their news summary search engineAhmia opens the backdoor to the deep web, and in particular hidden services on the Tor network. Littlesis maps networks of power. A promising search engine for corporate data: time will tell how Iris will do. Oh, and if you want in the future to be the first when Reddit mentions pop up, install the app for Hootsuite.

Our next course on Competitive Intelligence research techniques is here. We have a cohort starting in February ( 10am-12pm on Feb 15-16 and 19).

Our Future

Robotic police officers. A collaborative flying taxi port. Automotive sanctuaries. The problem with prediction. Getting a fresh start from the press. How nothingness became everything we wanted. How Covid made car culture cool again. Dystopian Future Securities Fraud ($). Among many trends reports published each year, the 2021 Fjord Trends is worth your time. The dictionary of science-fiction: did you know what a conlang was? The healthy building surge. Liquid machine-learning systems adapt to changing conditions. Lab-grown plants. Are you using future intelligenceUnbundling 2021 by Benedict Evans. And you can download the latest 228 page 2021 trends report by Trendhunter. Zoom Launches Tools Focused on Post-Lockdown Health, Safety – such as remote receptionist – smart move.

We also shared a list of 30 trends reports for 2021 on our Twitter feed earlier this month.

Weak signals

Weak signals are indicators of a change, a trend or an emerging risk that might become significant for the future. They allow us to run hypothesis, expand our thinking, and challenge assumptions. How will you interpret those in your industry?

The wild world of trust funds for pets. The consolatory pleasure of jigsaws when the world is in bits. Ratatouille, the Tik-Tok Musical to become actual show. Farcical situations and culture clashes; when Japan met with modern Europe in 1862.  Meet Flipper, the Tamagotchi you feed by hacking stuff. Social media whistleblowing takes off and boards should pay attention. Wework and SPAC, what could go wrong? Walmart’s media business. Microsoft turned its sustainability report into a Minecraft mapCovid tourism is booming. TikTok is obsessed with rating NYC’s sinks.

Resources: since our favorite news scanner, Google Newsmap, does not exist any more as Flash support has been discontinued, you can new scan weak signals here, by reading the small boxesExploding topics shares the rapidly growing topics, a great glimpse at emerging trends and signals.

Join us on Clubhouse to discuss how to interpret some of those weak signals next Friday, Feb 12 at 9am EST.

In our radar

In this section, I will share some of the content I come across as I work on specific mandates for our clients. This week:

Silver Economy – as I work at how we take care of an aging population, I read: Seniors are the wealthiest age cohort in the world . Boomer creating a silver surge in the economy ($). Menotech ditches stereotypes for the menopaused generation. Thinkerbell, an Australia-based creative agency, launched Thrive@55: an internship program exclusively available to applicants over 55 years old. We ordered the book Prospective Longevity. Silver to Gold: The Business of Aging.

Future of the Arts – as I prepare for a series of webcasts in March for the Manitoba Arts Council that include a review of the future of arts and culture and the related blindspots, I read: the art of mixing images. Supreme and Nike are cracking the auction market. Venice Innovation Labs creates an app to read sentiment analysis before a song is released. Immersive arts centers take off. The bankerization of the Art Market. The use of artificial intelligence in the cultural and creative sectors. How the Invite-Only Social-Media App Clubhouse Is Making the Art World Fun Again. The resilience and innovation of the screen industry in a moment of profound change , an annual analysis by the Canada Media Fund.

Digital transformation – as I am finalizing this week my notes for a keynote panel taking place in Calgary on Feb 12 on digital transformation oversight for boards, I read: Derisking digital and analytics transformations. How’s your Data Factory? A guide for corporate directors to understand digital transformation oversight.