As I give talks on future and technology—or rather before I give my talks—I often meet people saying they feel that we’re entering a time of big changes, and yet they seem to have difficulties in defining exactly what this change is. They might refer to the fast uptake of smartphones, tablets and social media, but they probably realise that this is not the most important aspect.
I believe that there are two reasons for the difficulty to see the real power in the change technology brings—a change that will eventually affect every industry and every business, and every individual too.
One reason is that most people still consider technology as a tool, that does
things we want it to do, be it a wrench or a computer. They don’t realise that technology today is so penetrating and fast developing that it has become a driving force for change in itself, more than ever before—and also more irresistible than other technologies that brought earlier fundamental changes to society such as the industrialisation, since today’s technology is so ubiquitous and easily available.
The other reason is that people tend to be amazed at what technology can do today, without taking into account further development, which is also accelerating. This brings an illusion that things will be as they are for some time. But change will never be as slow again.
This is also why it’s so challenging for most companies and organisations to start adapting to digitisation. Often such projects become action plans involving new strategies for some apps or for social media, but in the long run this is just scratching the surface of the digital revolution.
Until everyone in the organisation, employees and top management, has understood the explosive and unstoppable power of digital technology, it’s unlikely that that strategies and action plans will be profound enough to keep up with the accelerating pace of change.
That’s why it’s so satisfying bringing up the fundamental aspects of digitisation in seminars, describing not just what technology is, but what it does and what it means. It gives everyone an injection of inspiration on digitisation—how it works, what it means—and on all revolutionary new opportunities that will affect—and benefit—them. That is the real starting point for a valid action plan, the first steps towards new ideas and new business opportunities—faster, more efficient and more profitable.
I note that people are amazed when I describe the power of the accelerating pace of technology development, with Moore’s law describing the doubling of power of information technology every second year, being live and kicking still after 50 years—not to mention that a similar ‘law’ has been valid for billions of years. Only that the real explosion is starting right now, with strong artificial intelligence—machine intelligence at the level of humans—being realised within only 15 or 20 years.
I see that it’s useful for people to understand the seven mechanisms that make digitisation so disruptive—from zero cost of a copy changing fundamental economic models, to the little explored potential in mixing digital content between industries and businesses to create completely new products and services.
And it’s effective to get an insight in the different ways that digitisation is about to transform a series of industries, just like the music industry was disrupted—from education and healthcare to finance, law and transportation. Not to mention Industry 4.0—the new data based industry phase, following disruption from steam, electricity and electronics.
In the end however, it’s easy to get trapped and almost spellbound by all the new opportunities technology offers, and therefore also easy to forget who we are—humans, with dreams, visions, passions and values.
This might be the most important part to realise when starting to adapt to digitisation and accelerating technologies. Because these are aspects of us that we have developed over millions of years, aspects that can help us make the best out of technology driven change—something that moves in harmony and not in conflict with us, both as individuals and as a society.
In the end, this will also be hugely important when we in the coming two decades will have to adapt to a world where jobs are disappearing, being automated and performed by intelligent systems and robots. Our ideas about work and about what to do with our lives will then have to change fundamentally—a change that might bring amazing opportunities if society adapts in time, and if we as individuals are ready to grasp and understand these opportunities, remembering who we are as human beings. •••
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This post was originally posted on Linkedin.