Three signals we’ll be watching in 2023 👀🔮🧑💻
And a best-of reading list from the Nile studio
Hi! 👋 Welcome to The Navigator. A newsletter about people, psychology and design for business leaders who want to make meaningful change. I’m Sarah Ronald, and I write this newsletter with the Nile team. If this email was forwarded to you you can subscribe here to receive it in your inbox every couple of weeks.
We only launched The Navigator a few months ago. I wanted to do more thinking and writing about people, psychology, and design for our clients, friends, and for business leaders who want to make meaningful change.
I’ll be honest – I was extremely nervous as I sent out that first post. But since then, I’ve been blown away by the positive feedback we've received from our early dispatches.
I'm looking forward to continuing the conversation in 2023 and hearing from you – what's on your mind and your business agenda right now? If you have any thoughts or ideas for topics you’d like to see covered in The Navigator, feel free to leave a comment below or reply directly to this email.
As for the final post of the year, I’ve invited our Design Director, Neil Collman, to share the signals he's watching in 2023.
Wishing you a peaceful festive season.
Spread some holiday cheer by sharing The Navigator with someone you think would enjoy it
OK, so I have mixed feelings about end-of-year predictions…
Neil here. If you know me, you know I love a trend report (I’m currently sinking my teeth into Deloitte’s Tech Trends 2023). But I'm always sceptical of any list or Twitter thread that claims to predict the future. I’ve said this before in this newsletter: instead of trying to predict what will happen, it's more helpful to consider the various possibilities we can envision.
With that in mind, here are three near-term signals we're paying attention to in 2023:
1. Goodbye passwords, hello passkeys
It was a milestone year for login technology. Apple and Google both launched passkeys, a more secure, public key cryptography-based login alternative that doesn’t require users to remember a password (and doesn’t just ‘remember’ a password behind a biometric shortcut).
So what? Passkeys solve a genuine pain point for users and makes it much harder for passwords to be hacked, leaked or compromised. More than that, though, it marks a shift toward a frictionless experience where trust can be established between a customer and a service without a screen. This will become increasingly important as our interactions with digital become more contextual and sensor driven.
2. Accessibility and inclusion is the new frontier of product design
Weeks after Twitter laid off its accessibility team, Apple released an ad campaign called The Greatest that spotlights a cast with disabilities using its assistive technology in their ordinary lives. As disability writer Melissa Parker wrote, “Apple’s advert speaks to a broader truth that disabled experiences need to be built into the DNA of products.”
So what? The European Accessibility Act, which comes into effect in 2025, will force the hand of product and service providers to level up their compliance on inclusion. Design teams will need to shift capability and mindset from "Let's be compliant'' to "Let's bake inclusive and accessible design into our vision and principles".
As Sarah wrote in the last issue of this newsletter, everyone has accessibility needs.
“By designing products and services with inclusivity at their heart, not only will you be ethical and compliant, chances are you’ll also outperform your competitors, providing services people prefer to use… Inclusive design is just good business.”
3. You’ll say “Get the AI to do it” - unironically - at some point in 2023
Recently, there has been a lot of buzz around ChatGPT, the new AI chatbot from the team at OpenAI.
It’s fast becoming the internet’s go-to engine for generating what James Vincent calls ‘fluent bullshit’. So much so that it’s already been banned from the coding Q&A platform Stack Overflow:
The primary problem is that while the answers which ChatGPT produces have a high rate of being incorrect, they typically look like they might be good and the answers are very easy to produce.
But in natural language applications, what makes ChatGPT unique is not the fact that it exists, but rather the impressive user experience it offers.
It feels like the Google 2005 moment all over again. Unlike voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, ChatGPT represents a shift towards AI that could be more actively and visibly involved in our work lives. It is capable of handling complex, open-ended tasks with our participation, rather than just providing simple services like weather reports or Spotify playlists.
Zapier (the no-code automation team) have already integrated it into their service for customers, and are starting seeing some genuinely useful applications:
In the coming year, we expect to see more discussions and experiments that explore the capabilities, limitations, and potential applications of AI like ChatGPT.
And we’ll all inevitably have to start thinking about the jobs these kinds of AI threatens, and what roles we’re comfortable for it to play in business and society.
(And yes. ChatGPT helped me write this section.)
Take some time to think about what each of these signals might mean for your business – the possibilities, risks, and challenges these shifts might bring to you and your organisation.
And talk about it – now, or when you’re back after the holiday. It’s only by making space to have conversations about signals that these that you begin to build resilience against future shocks.
The Nile Team’s Picks of the Year
Looking for that next podcast, or a good read for the new year? I asked the Nile team what they’ve been recommending to our clients this year. Here’s a short selection.
Design principal Jonty Fairless has been reading Dancing at the Edge, a slim book providing a clear-eyed look at the nature of work and leadership in the 21st Century. It’s written through the lens of futures and foresight and is especially good at reframing the “literacies” leaders need to succeed in environments of spiralling complexity and global reach.
Senior Service Designer Louise Mushet's read of the year (even though it wasn't written this year) was Indi Young's blog post on 'Describing Personas', which has transformed how she thinks about making personas and archetypes more inclusive and impactful.
Callum Ritchie - our Senior UX designer - found Continuous Discovery Habits by Teresa Torres to be a very useful guide on running continuous discovery within a product team. He also recommends the Product Thinking podcast by Melissa Perri (specifically the Dear Melissa Q&A series)
Principal consultant Bridgette Bell recommends Inspired by Marty Cagan, an insightful book about Product Management. The book delves into the team dynamics and culture needed for successful product delivery, covering topics such as mindset, methods, and tools. It also emphasises the importance of moving from idea to delivery. She’s referred back to this book frequently over the years.
Innovation Lead Sam Irving’s book of the year was How To Be a Founder by Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford. It’s a handbook for aspiring founders that provides essential guidance for people who want to build a successful company. The book answers the question “how do I get started?” by taking the reader through the process of choosing and developing an idea and team, all the way to raising capital and working with VCs and angel investors. He also recommends a16z’s omnibus of big tech ideas.
Katherine Snow, one of our Senior Service Designers, has found Superflux to be a valuable source of interesting thinking this year. They skilfully and openly share their insights, and bring a unique perspective to the conversation around futures and how we relate to uncertainty. A helpful summary and something to ponder is Anab Jain's article presenting a 'lexicon of critical activism' (part of Civic Square’s excellent Reimagining Economic Possibilities series)
And lastly, UX designer Tiernan Haugh highly recommends The Design Better Podcast from InVision. It is always worthwhile and has a strong back catalogue to work through. If he had to choose one episode, he suggests starting with the John Cleese interview.
Get in touch
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Finally, from all of us here at Nile, we hope you have a happy and peaceful festive break.