In their now popular book on The Second Machine Age Andrew McAfee and Eric Brynjolfsson describe one of the forces behind our accelerating pace. This force could be key to understanding the dynamics of our environment; the number of potentially valuable building blocks is exploding around the world, and the possibilities are multiplying like never before.
The journey to the future is gaining more attention for both the opportunity it presents, and the fear of unintended consequences. Dialog and proactive action are critical to shaping this emerging future in human-centric ways – a story line that is nicely articulated in a new book titled Shaping the Fourth Industrial Revolution. I am a firm believer that shaping the future requires a different mindset. As stated in the book, we must all adopt a zoom-in and zoom-out strategy: zooming in to acquire an understanding of the characteristics and potential disruptions of specific advances in science and technology; and zoom out to see the patterns and combinations that emerge.
TCS and the Clayton Christensen Institute have collaborated to produce a series of articles and whitepapers that explore the future of industries through the lens of a set of fundamental theories developed by Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen (Mr. Christensen is a TCS Board member). The theories offer a form of what-if analysis that leaders can leverage to better understand the cause and effect between actions and results. These theories include Disruption Theory, the Theory of Jobs to Be Done, and Modularity Theory. In this case, the author focuses on the disruptive potential of innovation, and this first piece in the series tackles Disruption in the Banking Industry.
In my last future of business series post, I focused on a recent book titled No Ordinary disruption. That post explored the author’s belief that our intuitions must be reset. In that same book, the authors explore what they call “trend breaks”, or shifts away from the trends of the recent past. This post will look at these breaks and their impact on 21st century organizations – and it starts with value. In the rapidly growing world of ecosystems, the way value is created and captured is changing. But, more fundamentally, even our traditional views of value are being challenged. The authors use GDP as a way to underscore this point. They estimate that digital capital is now the source of roughly one-third of total global GDP growth, with value delivered via intangible assets like Google’s search algorithm or Amazon’s recommendation engine. Even our long standing view of capital itself is shifting, as human creative capital becomes a critical source of value.
Additionally, future value increasingly accrues to consumers. In a recent article titled Why Every Aspect of Your Business is about to Change, the author talks about the destruction of value for incumbents and the creation of value for consumers in the form of consumer surplus. They use a powerful example to make their point: Skype brought in $2 billion in 2013, but McKinsey calculates that at the same time, they transferred $37 billion away from telecom firms to consumers via free or low-cost calls. Even the innovative new company only gets a fraction of the value created (Skype: $2 Billion, Consumers $37 Billion). So back to value and GDP: consumer surplus is not accounted for in the way we measure GDP. This creates two challenges: First, do we need to change the way we measure value? Second, how do companies monetize the newly created consumer surplus?
So what does this mean for the future of business? Let’s start with something right from the aforementioned book: On the first day of classes at Ivy League colleges, it was common for the dean to warn students: “Look to the left, look to the right. One of you won’t be here next year.” That seems very appropriate when looking through the lens of company viability. This real phenomenon unfolds over the next decade, driven in part by several trend breaks as identified by the authors:
Will our fundamental beliefs be challenged in the coming decade? In a recent book titled No Ordinary Disruption, the authors talk about the need for an intuition reset, where everything we thought we knew about the world seems to be wrong. They see our world changing radically from the one in which those intuitions that drive our decision making were formed. Skeptics abound, but I for one see the writing on the wall. In the future-of-business series kick-off, I focused on Future Scenarios as a major force in altering the future of business. Let’s continue the series by focusing on other forces.
In the book referenced above, the authors compare the coming transformative period with the Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and early 19th centuries – where one new force changed everything. As I have tried to depict in my future scenario Visual, we are dealing with multiple forces or shifts that are converging. In their analysis, the authors conclude that our world is undergoing an even more dramatic transition due to this convergence. They focus on four forces (urbanization, technological change, aging, and connectivity) and deem that any of them would rank among the greatest changes the global economy has ever seen. Compared with the Industrial Revolution, they estimate that this change is happening ten times faster and at 300 times the scale, or roughly 3,000 times the impact – digest that as you consider whether our fundamental beliefs will change in the coming decade. Here is a quote from the book: “Although we all know that these disruptions are happening, most of us fail to comprehend their full magnitude and the second and third-order effects that will result. Much as waves can amplify one another, these trends are gaining strength, magnitude, and influence as they interact with, coincide with, and feed upon one another. Together, these four fundamental disruptive trends are producing monumental change”
I’m struggling with the term disruption and its effectiveness in driving urgency. Most definitions describe a radical change in an industry or business strategy, and most involve the introduction of a new product or service that creates a new market. My struggle is not with this decades old view of disruption, but its application in the context of our exponential world. The word disruption is viewed through a traditional lens. I end up in debates about the validity of a disruptive scenario as viewed through this lens, versus the massive implications of these future scenarios viewed through an exponential lens. The ensuing dialog focuses on:
- Coming up with disruptive innovation before our competitors do
- Embracing protectionist behavior to block a disruptor
- I’m not worried, regulatory hurdles in my industry block the impact of disruptors
- I’m safe, my industry is very stable