What did you think of the Apple announcement for the Vision Pro?
And, what's it got to do with me and consulting, you may ask?
As our clients (probably) already know, I have an extensive background in technology and a strong interest in innovation management. As a consultant working with clients on project management, leadership development, and organisational transformation, I have come across countless situations where tech is vital to supporting the process of training, coaching, running workshops, developing and testing strategies, performing analysis, and goodness knows what else. When Apple (finally) announced their new “revolutionary spatial computer” - the Apple Vision Pro - last week, I started to think much more about the impact this could have on the business services we provide to our clients.
Before you start jumping in with comments about how Apple is way behind the competition and Microsoft, Meta and several other companies have been offering virtual reality headsets for years now, just hear me out as to why I think Apple’s first offering in this space might just tip the scales.
Even if you aren’t an Apple fan (which is quite okay by me, by the way), you cannot deny that Apple has doubled down on their ability to make new products appeal to the mass market - both retail and commercial. They are the most innovative company in the world, according to the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) Annual Innovation Report 2023 and have held the top spot for 16 out of the last 17 years. In 2019, they slipped to 3rd on the rankings. They know how to market the crap out of their products - you have to at least give them credit for that.
Anyway, I digress. This blog isn’t about Apple or even the Vision Pro per se. My point is that this announcement and the anticipated launch in early 2024 will only fuel further interest and intrigue in Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) as tech leaders grapple with understanding how to extrapolate value through these technologies to boost their business. I’m not talking about simply developing and selling VR/AR tech, but more so my interest lies in how businesses will leverage this tech internally to enhance their business functions.
An early adopter of VR and AR tech has been the marketing function in many organisations. Being able to put your products or prototypes literally into the hands - albeit virtually - of executives, sales and support have been incredibly valuable. I am working with a large global travel organisation at the moment and working toward a large sales event in the coming weeks. In order to showcase new products and services to the participants, they are bringing in their marketing team and a load of VR tech so that people can “try out” the customer experience for themselves - ‘try before you buy’, if you like. Sound familiar - I’m sure you have come across something similar.
The above is a great example of using VR or AR within an organisation to deliver value to the business. It’s not just a gimmick - it provides a realistic experience for the salesperson that they can take back and leverage in their own sales activities. Maybe you think that’s cool, or maybe not. I think it’s really only scratching the surface regarding the potential that VR and AR tech has in supporting and developing new business activities and creating added value in their product and service offerings.
In other ongoing engagements, I’ve been involved with developing and delivering training content focused on project management standards to a couple of different large organisations. We do a lot of this, by the way. Since each and every client project tends to be different, some trainees find it difficult to relate a standard project management approach or concept to their own projects they are more familiar with. It doesn’t help that the general PM standards and related materials can be a bit ‘dry’, so a common training approach we use is to include a lot of visualisation. This works really well for most people, but a presentation displayed on the wall or screen only goes so far.
What if, we could integrate the training content into an interactive visual where the trainee could overlay the training content with their own workplace environment and play with it? Probably easier said than done today, but when VR/AR tech works its way further into the business ecosystem, then I genuinely think that Learning & Development, or Training teams will need to become more adept at creating and managing VR/AR content, rather than slideshows and printed manuals. Tell me I’m wrong!
Another client engagement earlier this year, saw our team facilitating a number of in-person workshops to formulate a new corporate strategy for this particular banking organisation. It involved a lot of resources and preparation - not only for us but also for the client. There were many people flying into a neutral location for different workshops. Accommodations and hospitality had to be organised, not to mention the countless slides, worksheets, flip charts, whiteboards, etc. we had to develop, check off, validate, integrate, print, etc., etc. Don’t get me wrong - it was worth it and the client loved it! We helped the client to navigate what can be a complex and tricky process of exploration, interpretation, in-depth research, analysis, hypothesis, validation and review, to arrive at an outcome that will shape their business operations for years to come.
One of the key challenges we had throughout this strategy formulation engagement was the difficulty that some workshop participants had in relating a range of new ideas and concepts to how their own business operates today. Especially when thinking about, “What needs to change in my area of business, in order for us to be successful with this new strategic direction?”. It might be simple for some people to imagine, but others, they just find it difficult to ‘imagine’ a scenario and play through what they might need to change in their business operations in response.
On reflection, I’ve found myself thinking about the possibility to leverage VR/AR tech in this type of situation. Imagine a group of business leaders sitting around a (virtual) conference table. They all have their Apple Vision Pro headset (or whichever competitor product you prefer) fully charged and connected to the shared online meeting space. We have already worked through the preliminary exploration of the business environment and developed some strategic scenarios to put to the test. We start the first scenario simulation and each participant receives relevant input data for their respective business through their VR/AR feed that is overlayed with their current, real-time daily business. What is their reaction? How do they respond? What used to be a theoretical exercise now feels like it's real. They are seeing the impact of a projected strategic scenario play out on their business, right in front of their own eyes.
The above situation might still be some way off. Or, maybe it isn’t. I truly believe that VR/AR tech is here to stay and we have really only started to realise the value it can bring to businesses. Forget the retail aspect of VR/AR - that’s for someone else to theorise on. I’m much more interested in exploring how businesses - including our own - can capitalise on the unique attributes of VR and AR to find innovative new ways to evolve and revolutionise how we build a successful business.
We’re already excited about the prospect of preparing and testing this new VR/AR tech and seeing how it can transform our business and the services we provide to our clients. How about you? Have you already explored or tested this fascinating new tech and formed your own opinions? We would love to hear about your experiences and where you see applications for such tech wizardry in your business. If you and your business are equally intrigued by the potential of VR/AR tech, then reach out and let me know.