Adobe’s CPO makes 5 predictions for the future of tech


  • Scott Belsky is the founder of Behance and the product manager at Adobe.
  • As 2021 draws to a close, he predicts that five major trends will emerge in the tech industry next year.
  • This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.

Each year I challenge myself to synthesize the themes of technology and culture that I am most convinced of, and I try to project where they will take us next. I’m sharing them as a way to connect more dots, meet more founders, and solicit contributions that will further develop those ideas. Unsurprisingly, some of the companies I mention in these trends as examples are either part of my own portfolio or part of my creative product making work. But I challenged myself to share ideas that are still on the verge of bursting rather than the obvious trends and winners:

1. The next generation of top talent will have ‘polygamous careers’, transforming the corporate world as we know it

Our brains, interests and potential have never been focused on a single thread or confined to a singular interest or skill. And yet, the traditional job market since the Industrial Revolution has placed us in one job at a time – for years at a time. The entire system, from college recruiting and healthcare to LinkedIn profiles and annual tax forms, is designed for monogamous careers. I have come to believe two things, after a roundabout career as a founder, author, traditional VC, active angel and product manager in a large corporation: I am happiest when my many interests and skills feel fully utilized. – both professionally and personally, and in the modern hyper-networked world which gives all of us wide exposure to fuel our many interests, fewer of us can be singularly defined. I firmly believe that professional growth will increasingly be the result of a feeling of being fully utilized.

The next generation of talent entering the workforce will overwhelmingly opt for what I have come to call “polygamous careers”.

The desire to generate income and feel fulfilled from multiple projects will increase retention (you don’t quit a job if your “other interests” are met elsewhere), increase productivity at work (more time dealing with … people). will be busier and more efficient) and help many projects and companies recruit top talent that would otherwise be out of reach. His job will be a portfolio of projects, whether you are a designer, engineer, salesperson or investor. The idea of ​​”exclusivity” in an offer letter will be laughable faster than you think.

A few transformation products and technologies will support the development of polygamous careers. Polywork is a modern version of LinkedIn that builds your profile at the project and completion level more granular as opposed to the job level. So, “Push code”, “Update an iOS application” or “Spoken in a conference” is the new “I have a new job”. In a polygamous career, these stages are more important. Another company that I’m passionate about is Braintrust, a decentralized ‘talent owned’ network where any company can hire a group of freelancers and work directly with a coordinated group of talent without any middleman or turnout.

My hope for the future is that more people will reap the benefits of “Tune-In Jobs” (where you are deeply engaged in the work you do) compared to “Tune-Out Jobs” (where we are more focused on the clock ). The world is driven forward by those who connect.

2. The rise of immersive experiences will integrate 3D creation

I promised myself that I wouldn’t say it … but “Metaverse”. Ultimately, that means we will increasingly play games, connect with friends, and work with colleagues in fully immersive virtual reality. Spaces like this will have the largest movie screens you have ever seen, they will defy the laws of physics, and they will literally allow you to explore your dreams. The jury is still out on which devices will incorporate such experiences at school, at work, and at home, but they are coming and we will all participate in them as we did with cellphones. However, such experiences will be boring and fall completely flat unless filled with rich, engaging, three-dimensional, interactive, and personalized content. Engaging content is what unlocks the potential of new media, and the immersion will be no different.

The only problem is that 3D content is notoriously difficult to create. Historically, building a 3D object required sophisticated modeling programs with a lot of math, and then a whole suite of other products to illustrate and render. Imagine doing this for a full virtual reality experience.

At Adobe, we’ve learned that most designers want to start with a standard 3D object rather than creating one from scratch. We have created a complete suite of products called Substance 3D which includes a product that allows you to sculpt a 3D object (much like clay) with a virtual reality headset and then refine it further into desktop products. to make it look real. Thanks to our efforts and many startups tackling this opportunity, coupled with the ability of our cell phone cameras to digitize 3D active objects, we will all be creating in virtual reality as immersive experiences become more widespread.

3. The “stakeholder economy” will transform clients (and employees) of owned companies

What many people refer to as “web 3” is really just a blockchain-based model for administering, governing, gaining, and trading ownership of the next generation of platforms and businesses.

I can’t help but imagine the same technology applied to the long tail of small businesses both online and offline. Imagine if your favorite online publications, e-commerce brands, and small businesses in your town were able to divide ownership frictionlessly among all stakeholders without the need for expensive IPOs. These are major structural changes. Maybe we’ll all own some of the many online businesses and marketplaces we frequent, as well as our favorite local restaurant, ice cream shop, and cafe. Imagine that every subscriber to your newsletter becomes a stakeholder as well as a reader, and what would that do to viral marketing? When you like a brand or service, you can buy tokens or earn them by bringing in work in the form of clearly defined and measurable tasks.

Our tokens would give us the right to vote on certain decisions (flavors of the month?), Serve as a vehicle for engagement, make us passionate and unpaid marketers, and carry (maybe even increase) residual value that can be sold on an open 24. / 7 market to new residents and customers (or speculators looking for exposure to mom and pop stores in stable communities) – or maybe those tokens can even be exchanged for merchandise? Maybe you could buy your ice cream with (chips in) ice cream (shop).

Could the Benefits of Collective Ownership of Small Businesses Be the Biggest Threat to Large Businesses? If every stakeholder in these companies had a deep incentive to help build, improve, market and patronize brands, perhaps that would become a competitive advantage against the big guys.

4. Artificial intelligence will make personalization too good to be excluded

My growing contrarian view of the trend towards privacy and ad opt-out is that artificial intelligence will make personalization so amazing that opting out will be like using an old flip phone or going to a restaurant and being done. serve a dish at random. This is especially true for the next generation who prefers transparency over confidentiality. , “Ads” evokes the era of annoying banner ads and pop-ups. But “personalized experiences” are the new ad, and most of us would prefer it whether we like it or not.

We already want personalized experiences: we want local restaurants to know our names and preferences. We want shoe stores to remember our size. We want online food markets to hide the foods we are allergic to.

If you agree with my take on this technology, it brings us back to the way things once were, but with less friction and on a much larger scale. We’ll want immersive AI-powered experiences to get to know us well, but not at the expense of our safety and comfort.

As always (at least in my mind), design is the solution. UX design, policies and practices will be at the forefront of building customer relationships that will allow us to hyper-personalize future experiences at scale without compromising trust.

5. The next generation will have a decade of nomadic life and work, and will love it

When I graduated from college, my first job was to find an apartment with a somewhat arbitrary group of roommates. There was no popular notion or tolerance for remote working, Airbnb didn’t exist, and each apartment lease lasted at least a year but was only affordable with a longer commitment. Fast forward, the vast majority of start-ups – and even many large companies – are compatible remotely or only remotely. There are also all types of apartment exchange networks and all Airbnb price ranges that allow us to pick locations a few weeks at a time. So my prediction is that young adults in their twenties increasingly choose to spend a decade of their lives living between a set of rented or traded spaces across the world, working remotely, and immersing themselves in communities and cultures. Such an experience would truly change their lives and foster the kind of creativity, openness to diversity, and self-exploration that enriches personal and professional results. What kinds of products and networks can make this more accessible and affordable for everyone? Whatever products and employers lean in this direction, they will thrive.

Of course, this opens the Pandora’s box of remote working. New businesses can be built for this time, but can old businesses be modernized with a culture and set of practices that work for this new way of life? Or is there a growing gulf between companies that are and are not willing to adapt? At the end of the day, we’re all following the trail of great talent or falling behind.

Scott Belsky is an Entrepreneur (Behance, 99U) and Adobe Product Manager. author (The messy environment, Bringing ideas to life) and start-up investor in over 80 startups (including several mentioned in this article) and is a complete product obsessive.


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