Emerging Solutions. (Episode 48)

Interview with Jason Lovell, Head of XR Strategy at PwC UK.

The words we choose to describe our world define how we see it. We all know how true that is – but have you also thought about the fact that the words we use to describe the future will define how we come to see what will come? (Or – if we use the wrong words – how we will fail to see it.)

Take the phrase “Emerging Technologies” – a phrase commonly used to describe how up and coming technologies might come to change how we live our lives and conduct our business.

But by focusing on the word “technology” we tend to focus on, well, “the technology” – but it is seldom the technology that changes our world, its how we use it. What we can do with it.

One hundred years ago one emerging technology was “the car” but the interesting change became “suburbia” – how the car made it possible for people to move out from the city center to larger homes and where they could use their new cars to commute to work. The interesting thing was not the technology itself, but the solutions that it created.

So what alternative phrase could we use, to better see the potential of the future? May I propose: “Emerging Solutions”.

I talked about “Emerging Solutions” with Jason Lovell, Head of XR Strategy at PwC UK.

“XR”, if you did not know it, is industry lingo for “AR and VR” – or if you prefer “Augmented Reality” and “Virtual Reality” – technology making it possible to create alternative 3D “worlds” that can be used for everything from gaming, to education, new ways of meeting and of experiencing art. To name a few applications. AR and VR are perfect examples of technology that has been seen as “emerging tech” for a couple of decades now. It’s breakthrough always seeming to be just a few years away. With the recent launch of Oculus Quest the technology became cheaper, better and – crucially – easier to use.

Jason’s job is to showcase the potential solutions that XR could provide to the clients of PwC. He told me: “Part of my job is to demystify XR. Part of job is to reduce the hype.” Like with all new technology there is a fair amount of hype (“This changes EVERYTHING!”) and fear (“I don’t understand this!”). Jason’s there to help the clients he work with navigate between past the hype and fear and see the new opportunities for their business.

I guess we can say he is a “guide into the future”. An ambassador for future solutions.

Jason told me about the mindset that many of his clients have around XR: “They often come to me a bit perplexed and say ’This (XR) has huge potential for my business – but I have not idea how.’ What I try to do is to help them see that potential.”

My next questions, obviously, became: “So how do you do that? How do you sell potential solutions to someone?”

Jason: “First I build a narrative. People are able to see the future if you paint a story that takes them from where they are right now, and brings them into a better tomorrow. With most new technologies, people just do not know how it can benefit them. They cannot see the potential because it’s a new world opening up that they know nothing about.”

It reminded me of a story about how I was once told the story about how the accelerator was invented to sit in airbags to detect when a car came to a sudden stop so that the airbag could be activated. They sold millions of accelerators, but the big potential for the technology was lost – until Nintendo, with its Wii controllers, put the tech into their computer console and the whole gadget world of handphones and smartphones realised that it made sense to put accelerators there too. And billions of more accelerators were sold.

I asked Jason to give me a made up example of how he leads his clients into the future, how he gets them to see the future. He said: “You cannot, for example, just generically say “VR is good for training” – that does not trigger any imagination. Instead you have to find (or build) targeted examples that are close to the industry the client is in.

1) First sell the vision. Show off the potential. Paint a bright future in broad strokes. Then show how this new technology has created new and interesting solutions for similar players. Show case studies, prototypes and demos that the client can relate to.

2) Secondly, get them to try it! It’s hard to get people excited if they do not get to try it – so let them try it. Get people excited by having them try the technology themselves and do it in a way that is fun, interesting and as mindblowingly amazing as possible. Make them fall in love with what can be done.”

(For VR it could be letting them play a game or ride a virtual rollercoaster. Not necessarily relevant to their business, but something that showcases the potential of the technology. Let the technology show itself off.)

I asked him for step three and he said:

“3) Leave space for their imagination! One of the most powerful things with new technology is that we havn’t yet thought about all best solutions it can be applied for. So after showcasing what has been done, and having them try it, then take a step back and ask them to think about ways this new technology could be used. Many times the innocent and naive view by people who are just introduced to a new technology can lead to great new insights about how it could be used.”

It seems that it is a balancing act between showcasing the potential and at the same time not revealing too much. To leave some things for their imagination.

I guess the metaphor here is that we should “tease the technology” to the people we are showing it too…

“4) The fourth step”, Jason continued, “is to create an open environment for questions. Get the client to get their concerns, confusion, ideas, thoughts and reflections off their chest. When we are being exposed to something we do not yet understand our questions are usually valuable avenues to go down. Questions can be springboards into new ideas and solutions. Collect as many as you can.”

The fifth and final stage is to get the client to commit to develop their own prototype and/or user case to bridge the potential of the tech with the potential solutions of the company.

Jason again: “The purpose of the prototype is to make the “emerging technology” merge with the present. To bridge the current solutions and/or problems with what could be a better solution tomorrow. It does not have to be the actual solution, just a way for the client to see that this new technology has the potential of offering new and better solutions in the future. That this is an avenue worth going down.”

When I hear Jason speak I got the insight that anyone who is trying to get someone else to see the future potential solutions of a new technology needs to focus less on the tech – and instead get them to focus on getting these people to challenge the existing norms. To get them to look for how needs and wants might change. To get them to see the Emerging Solutions that are around the corner.

What Emerging Solutions do you see in your own industry?




Follow us