Innovation Panels™ Series

How Digitization, Democratization & Disruption Will Transform Your Industry

By Scott Wilkerson and Scott Berman

“Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.”

– Walt Disney

Is your industry experiencing rapid change? Does it feel like your customers’ needs and expectations are quickly changing? Do you wish you could better anticipate what the competitive landscape will look like in 2-5 years?

Pictured: a city landscape with fast moving lights. The image symbolizes rapid change within industries.

Leading companies frequently wrestle with these kinds of questions, and we often hear our clients say they don’t have the right customer insights tools to address them. As a result, HawkPartners developed a unique methodology called Innovation Panels™ to generate forward-looking insights to anticipate market changes and future customer needs.

Innovation Panels™Offer Future-Oriented Insights

As explained in our related article, Innovation Panels™ bring together a diverse group of experts, intentionally from a variety of different fields with unique perspectives on a particular industry or topic area. It is a powerful methodology when you need a future outlook, radical thinking or an innovative approach to strategic issues – from future scenarios to competitive developments to changing trends and market dynamics.

Recently, we conducted a series of Innovation Panels™ to better understand the key factors driving rapid change across three industries – consumer healthcare, retail banking and digital media. Our goal was to understand how consumer attitudes, needs and behaviors as well as competitor dynamics would likely change in these industries over the next 2-5 years.

Our three panel discussions included experts across different fields, including a healthcare startup founder, venture capitalist, former CMO of a Big 4 accounting firm, SVP of innovation at a leading bank, senior writer for Vanity Fair, global digital strategy consultant and intellectual property lawyer, among others. We facilitated in-depth discussions among these experts about which future scenarios are likely to play out and why.

“In an age where sound bites and partial facts rule, having an opportunity to discuss topics and trends in depth from a number of diverse perspectives is priceless.”

– Bill Brodnitski, Managing Principal, Health Leads (Innovation Panel™ Participant)

How Megatrends are Driving Change

Although HawkPartners facilitated the discussions using an open-ended format, each industry panel conversation coalesced around the same three megatrends: Digitization, Democratization and Disruption. Although these megatrends will obviously impact each industry differently, a key insight coming from the panel discussions is that there are more commonalities driving change across industries than we had originally expected.

Let’s look at how our panelists anticipate that these 3 megatrends will impact key industries:

Megatrend 1: Digitization
Key Insight: “Whomever owns the data will have the power”

Digitization has been underway for decades, beginning with the adoption of the internet and e-commerce in the mid-1990s. It has since resulted in colossal change, transforming the way we get information, entertain ourselves and conduct relationships. But how will it impact us going forward?

Our panels envisioned a future in which:


  • Wearables, ingestibles and other biometric sensors will fully automate the diagnosis process, thereby shifting power from healthcare providers to consumers


  • One or more software platforms will collect and inventory all of our social media history making it permanently accessible to anyone. Information from social media platforms will bring about the downfall of more than one CEO, politician or world figure


  • Consumers will make payments using “virtual cards” or digital “tokens” rather than actual cards, and winning service providers will utilize vast troves of consumer spending data, AI and augmented reality to transform the customer experience in ways we haven’t yet imagined

Facebook’s recent scandal involving Cambridge Analytica is an example of how critical “ownership” of data is likely to be in the future. By losing sight of their users’ data (which was ultimately used by Cambridge Analytica for targeted political ads), Facebook lost a significant form of power, not to mention a major hit to its trust and credibility.

Megatrend #2: Democratization
Key Insight: “The need for intermediaries will die”

Democratization is a logical extension of digitization, where access to information and services dramatically expands beyond the privileged elites to a much wider spectrum of the public. Our panels discussed potential outcomes as democratization continues to advance, describing a world in which:


  • Medical services become “uberized” through on-demand apps and AI, such that a call center worker in Bangalore has access to the same medical advice as as a lawyer in New York


  • Platforms like GoFundMe and Kickstarter will eliminate the need for funding from studios and advertisers, rendering production studios obsolete


  • Similarly, crowdsourced funding platforms will replace banks and credit unions as the primary source of credit for consumers and investors, especially for Gen Y and Z

Democratization is already having a profound impact. Apple’s recent announcement that it will offer a feature for customers to see their integrated medical records on their iPhone will accelerate this trend. The app will bring together data from hospitals, clinics and other sources – making it much easier for consumers to see and port their medical data from multiple providers – thus becoming less reliant on traditional healthcare providers.

Megatrend 3: Disruption
Key Insight: “Today’s market leaders need to radically change or perish.”

Digitization and Democratization create fertile ground for emerging competitors. These disrupters often leverage a new technology to offer consumers a service that previously was not available. Witness how Uber transformed how we travel or how companies like Doordash have changed how we dine at home.

Our panelists shared their visions of a world in which:


  • AI and access to personal data will accelerate the pace at which Apple, Google and Amazon gain traction in healthcare, threatening healthcare incumbents more quickly than previously anticipated


  • With increased competition from players such as Netflix, YouTube and Sling, cable TV providers will be forced to offer customized bundles and a la carte channels to avoid more accelerated “cord-cutting”


  • Facing increased competition from fintechs such as Venmo, SoFi and Digit, traditional banks will compete based on how good their digital experiences/apps are, not how many branches they have. As a result, a regional bank or fintech that develops a killer app will become a HUGE player – and quickly.

Some of these trends are unfolding rapidly. In the weeks since our panel was conducted, Amazon announced it is partnering with Berkshire Hathaway and JPMorgan Chase in a bid to reduce soaring healthcare costs. The partnership – which aims to give consumers a better option on health insurance – sent shock waves through the healthcare industry, causing stock prices of incumbent market leaders to tumble.

Meanwhile, in digital media, YouTube TV recently announced that it is dramatically expanding its programming options, offering consumers another compelling, well-heeled driver of cord-cutting.

Are you ready for change in YOUR industry?

Digitization, Democratization and Disruption will continue to transform all industries with profound implications for brand, product and pricing strategies. Companies that can anticipate change, mitigate threats and capitalize on opportunities will emerge as winners. Those that don’t will likely face the possibility of becoming obsolete (recall what happened to Blackberry when the iPhone was introduced or to Blockbuster when Netflix emerged.)

If you’d like to better understand how these trends will impact your business, Innovation PanelsTM can offer breakthrough, future-oriented insights. HawkPartners helps you design an approach that enables your brand to better prepare for what the future has in store.

Reach out to Scott Wilkerson and Scott Berman to learn more about using Innovation Panels™ to gain future-oriented insights