The Certainty Of Technological Advancement: Change Or Be Changed
Change can allow you to direct your future and seize unlimited opportunities. Or it can crash into your organization like a tsunami, leaving you scrambling to stay afloat in its wake. The difference: whether change comes from within or without. Whether you decide to act as an "opportunity manager" or simply a "crisis manager." In today's world, you can't afford to be reactive; you can't even afford to be proactive. To compete, you need to be preactive, to guide change, and to create your own future.
Predicting the Future with Flash Foresights
In Flash Foresight: How to See the Invisible and Do the Impossible, global futurist Daniel Burrus articulates seven triggers that enable you to experience "flash foresights." These ah-ha! moments provide an accurate look into the future. And when we can see it, we can shape it. The first trigger is Starting with Certainty. The second is Anticipate.
Change that occurs from the outside is typically disruptive; you're forced to play catch-up. Change that comes from the inside, on the other hand, allows you to "seize your destiny." It is purposeful. Constructive. And the only way to "operate in that kind of change is to become anticipatory."
Becoming AnticipatoryHow do you anticipate the future? By taking Burrus's advice: start with certainty. We know with certainty that specific technologies (e.g. computer processing speeds, smartphone memory storage) will advance in the future. There's no doubt. What's in flux is how we react.
Technological advancement - with certainty - flows through eight pathways:
- Dematerialization. The amount of materials needed to produce our tools - from laptops to tablets to smartphones - is decreasing. Even as they grow smaller and lighter, they're becoming more powerful.
- Virtualization. We have the capacity to conduct more "physical" activities in a virtual space. With apps and software, for instance, we can test airplanes before they've even been built.
- Mobility. We're on the go; we've cut the cord and are no longer tied to the office, the home, or our computers.
- Product intelligence. Everything from cars and roads to thermostats to entire homes are getting smarter. Tesla's Model S.2, for instance, features Range Assurance. When drivers select a route that can take them out of range for their electric capacity, the car warns them. It also helps plan routes, taking into account the location of charging stations, the average duration of stops, and even the wind and elevation.
- Networking. The ability to network will increase; we'll see gains in scope, speed, and accessibility.
- Interactivity. We're no longer passive observers; we can interact with media. Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and other vehicles give us the opportunity to interact in different ways.
- Globalization. Companies have access to a global workforce via technology, as well as a global marketplace. They can tailor products to the needs of specific markets, instead of using a "one-size-fits-all-cultures" approach.
- Convergence. Products are converging to create inclusive offerings: a smartphone is a phone, computer, camera, GPS, radio, TV, and more - in one convenient package.
These are hard trends. These are certainties, and they are developing at an astonishing rate. Burrus writes, "If you think of the forward advance of technology as a car, we are stepping hard on the accelerator - or more accurately, on three accelerators at once."
The "three accelerators" that are pushing the speed of technological advancement are:
- Processing Power. Processing power is what gives our cars the ability to diagnose themselves or which enable us to use a five-inch phone as a fully-functional computer - and it doubles every 18 months.
- Bandwidth. Remember when you dialed up the Internet? Waiting for a website to load was excruciating, forget watching a video! Today, every man, woman, and child in China could send a high-definition video online and it would not disrupt the system. Bandwidth is increasing at an even faster pace than processing power, allowing us to do even more.
- Storage. Even faster still is the growth of storage, which doubles every 12 months. Floppy disks used to hold mere kilobytes of information. We can now store terabytes (1 billion kilobytes), and soon petabytes (1000 terabytes) and exabytes (1000 petabytes). Advances in storage will give us access to information on everything at the tip of our fingers.
Again, these are hard trends. They are certainties, and they accelerate the rate of change. You know it's coming, so strengthen your ability to anticipate and become preactive. Burrus lays out four steps:
- Decide to become anticipatory.
- Make your company an anticipatory organization. Create a culture that focuses on identifying certainties and capitalizing on opportunities.
- Ask yourself, "What problems am I about to have? What problems will my company be facing in the next few weeks, months, and years? What problems will my customers be facing? How can I creatively solve these problems before they happen?"
- Ask, "What is my ideal future 10-20 years from now? How can I shape that future?"
Change is coming; that's another certainty. The question is, are you going to shape it - or let it shape you?