I had the pleasure of joining The Digital World with Game Changers radio program for the second time this year. Joining me as panelists were Futurist Gray Scott and SAP Innovation Evangelist Timo Elliott. First, kudos to program host Bonnie D. Graham for doing a wonderful job keeping the discussion energized and interesting. The title of the session was Eating Disruption for Lunch: Digesting Decentralization. Now there’s a term not heard much outside of futurist circles. Decentralization is one of those structural changes that make what lies ahead so impactful. According to Wikipedia, decentralization is the process of redistributing or dispersing functions, powers, people, or things away from a central location or authority.
The content of this post was updated on February 16, 2017 in a new post titled Intersections Promise to Drive Multiple Paradigm Shifts
When I first started using the term “Combinatorial”, people thought I was making words up. Although I’d like to take credit for the word, I first came across it when reading The Second Machine Age, a fascinating book by Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson. I remember thinking that it was a perfect word to capture the amplification of both innovation and its disruptive power. By now, readers of this Blog have seen the foundational Visual that describes the digital foundation, innovation accelerators, and disruptive scenarios. What the visual does not convey without the associated narrative is the power of combinatorial.
If we build on top of the visual, we begin to see the complexity at the intersections, the amplification of disruptive power, and the broad implications for the future.
The best way to describe this phenomenon is through examples, so let’s look at six combinatorial scenarios as an overlay. The visual is a bit overwhelming, so a better way to follow the various paths is via this PDF. Here is a description of each scenario. The numbers in the visual above map to the scenarios below, and the colors show the combinations:
“Any time you give the means of production to everybody, it changes the world.” Chris Anderson, CEO of 3D Robotics
So it goes with the Maker Economy – otherwise referred to as the Maker Movement. According to Industry Analyst Jeremiah Owyang, the Maker Movement puts power in the hands of people to fund, design, prototype, produce, manufacture, distribute, market, and sell their own goods. According to youth market research firm Ypulse, 69% of millennials wish they could create a new product, and 81% would be interested in helping a company design one. This shift in production also shifts power from large, capital intensive enterprises to individual prosumers. As the focus on a next economy increases, so does the likelihood that it is driven by networks of prosumers versus large corporations.
This movement is not a future movement. According to the Infographic below, 135 million makers in America are already growing local economies and creating new jobs – contributing 18 million small businesses in the U.S. and accounting for two out of every three new jobs. When viewed through the lens of 3D Printing Forecasts, the future looks bright as well. One such forecast has the 3D Printing Industry becoming a $16 billion global industry within the next five years, with a 45.7 CAGR. It is also reviving the hardware sector, as VCs pumped $848 million into hardware start-ups in 2013 – nearly twice the prior record of $442 million set in 2012.
Does the combination of emerging disruptive scenarios create a new economic paradigm? In The Zero Marginal Cost Society, Jeremy Rifkin describes a world where nearly free goods and services are enabled by the Internet of Things to drive a new paradigm that eclipses capitalism – the Collaborative Commons. It seems the exponential curve of technology is pushing the operating logic of Capitalism – which focuses on driving ever increasing levels of productivity – towards an extreme level of productivity. Its success could therefore be its undoing. I am a firm believer that this emerging period will ultimately be viewed as the most transformative of all time – but I must admit – I did not make this leap. While reading, I found myself focused on business model questions facing every industry – and through that lens, the story resonated with me. It prompted me to revise the anchor visual that I have used throughout this look at disruptive scenarios. I posed this simple question: does combinatorial innovation create a third curve?
In my continued look at disruptive scenarios, the focus shifts to 3D printing. Growth in this key innovation is expected to accelerate to $10.8 billion by 2021 according to Goldman Sachs. The economic implications are significant: Research by McKinsey Global Institute suggests a possible impact of $550 billion per year by 2025. Some believe that 3D printing will play a crucial role in launching a third industrial revolution at a personalized level.
I just finished reading a new book titled The Second Machine Age written by Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson – both from MIT. The book is a must read for leaders everywhere. Its journey offers a view into the potential societal, economic, and business impact of technological advancement in the digital age. Although I am fascinated by each of these, my interest in summarizing this book is to connect their perspective to the future of business. Consistent with my recent disruption theme, the question is: how does the world that the authors envision impact the future of business?