We are living in a Vuca World – one that is volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

The digital revolution has happened, yet advances in technology, innovation and customer expectations show no signs of abating. Just about every sector, organisation and individual is susceptible to digital disruption. This brings both challenge and opportunity. Consumers are always-on and increasingly demanding – there is an expectation of digitally enabled services and growing need for instant gratification. There are also supply-side efficiencies with a proliferation of innovative services and new delivery models.

Digital disruption is evident everywhere, sometimes enhancing traditional business sectors and sometimes completely disrupting them.   Well cited examples include:

  • Alibaba is now the world’s largest retailer, yet they own no stores
  • Uber has disrupted the taxi industry all over the world and is now available in 600+ cities, with 75 million riders and over 15 million trips completed each day.
  • Airbnb has almost 5m listings in 81,000 cities with over 300 million guest arrivals worldwide.
  • More than 1 billion people in over 180 countries use WhatsApp to keep in touch

Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, has termed this era as the 4th industrial revolution[1]. The first three revolutions were

  • the invention of the steam engine
  • automation and mass production
  • the digital revolution

The 4th industrial revolution builds on the digital revolution – where the internet is everywhere, machines are smart and connected and physical, digital and biological technologies are fusing together.

 

What can we do?

Now more than ever it is important to stay ahead of the game.  It’s not just about technology.  It’s about connecting with your people, hiring the right talent, listening to your customers and collaborating with other organisations.  You need to constantly challenge what you are doing, why you are doing it and how you are doing it – you don’t want to be blindsided by innovation.  Blockbusters, once the king of home movies, did not respond quickly enough to the digital revolution and turned down the opportunity to partner with Netflix in its early stages, and the rest is history.

Digital now permeates every layer of business and is central to all aspects of strategy and execution.  To respond to this changing world, businesses need to do things differently, test and trial new ideas and adopt an innovative mindset. A clear sense of direction helps future proof your business. The challenge is to do this while simultaneously running the business with your proven modus operandi.

No one can predict the future with accuracy, but we do know that technologies such as Artificial intelligence, Quantum Computing, Blockchain, Virtual Reality and biotechnologies are maturing, yet their impact is in its infancy.  As Klaus Schwab predicts, it is the fusion of technologies into applications that solve human problems where the next transformation will be felt.

It is simply too risky to assume that the current models are likely to continue into the future (who wants to be the next Blockbusters, Kodak or black cab driver?).   There is no end game, the only constant is change.  In the words of Lewis Caroll’s Queen of Hearts:

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can just to stay in one place.

And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.”

[1] Schwab, Klaus (2017) The Fourth Industrial Revolution