By sheer definition, the word “impossible” connotes something that simply cannot be done. But we all know the impossible isn’t completely out of our reach; for centuries, humans have been achieving the so-called “impossible” by developing conceptual understanding and making visible that which we’ve been previously unable to see and conceive of. When we develop this sort of understanding, previously unknown opportunities and solutions become clear — and then, doing the impossible becomes just a matter of commonsense problem solving.
An everyday iteration of this concept is being seen in cities across the globe as data analytics and technological innovations are providing new levels of clarity when it comes to issues like sustainability, pollution, energy conservation, and crime. As these tech developments give us greater insight into how the many different facets of our cities truly function, both local leaders and major companies are gaining the Foresight to come up with myriad solutions, thus creating “smart cities.”
In today’s world of technology-driven transformation, leaders need to embrace a new leadership principle if they want their organization to be relevant today and in the future. In recent years, leaders have added agility — being able to change quickly based on external circumstances — as an organizational competency. But digital disruption from the outside-in has been coming at an ever-increasing speed, and it’s only getting faster. The pace of disruption forces agility, causing leaders to react, crisis manage, and put out fires on a daily basis.
Knowing this, it’s evident that being agile is very good, but is not enough to jump ahead of the competition. Today’s leaders need to not only react faster, they need to become anticipatory.
When I talk about digitization and digital advancement, I often mention what I refer to as the Three Digital Accelerators: bandwidth, storage, and processing power. These three technological tenets drive digital disruption and are increasing exponentially every year, and thanks to rapidly advancing technology, will continue to do so.
One of the laws most central to this principle is Moore’s Law, which remains as relevant today as it was decades ago.
Too often, we see the present and the future in terms of “either/or,” when, in actuality, the relation is more like “both/and.” People might think, when it comes to technological innovation, “either we keep the old, or we adopt the new.” In fact, it’s entirely possible to have both the old and the new together by integrating them to develop new, forward-thinking concepts. The emergence of vertical farming in recent years is a perfect example of this — what I call the Both/And Principle.
Over the course of the last several decades, the US has experienced a process of deindustrialization, and while the jobs may have left, the factories and buildings remained. Some still sit there, untouched, like modern ghost towns. Artists have found a use for these ruins — just take a look at the popularity of ruin photography in Detroit — but perhaps there are more practical uses for these abandoned structures.
These days, we see new, dramatic innovations in technology with considerable frequency. Moreover, when we consider the past decade or so, the pace of new developments is increasing at an exponential rate. But while we’re seeing more creativity and inventiveness, how much of this technological development is disruptive rather than simple tweaks to existing innovations already embedded within mainstream society?
The recent announcement by NASA of a new series of contests aimed at crowdsourcing solutions to problems astronauts encounter while working in space by using a contest raises this question regarding the difference between disruption and tweaking in technological innovation. Why would NASA need to use a contest to crowdsource solutions if we live in a society that wholeheartedly embraces innovation?
Dematerialization is a Hard Trend — we know that computer technology has only decreased in size while increasing in functionality, and it’s going to continue in that direction. The use of mobile devices in the workplace is just the next step in this process. From desktops to laptops to smartphones, we’ve finally arrived at a portable office that fits in your pocket.
The question is: How do businesses profitably incorporate this next wave of dematerialization? This question affects not just the devices themselves, but your office design and management. The dematerialization and digitization of your mobile-centric business could mean less real estate because of smaller IT infrastructure needs thanks to another Hard Trend virtualization and the increasing ability of employees to work remotely.
In 1983, I identified digital disruption as one of twenty technology-driven Hard Trends that would increasingly shape the future at an exponential rate, and at the same time drive economic value creation. Today, as more and more industries and businesses become disrupted, it is important to understand that digital disruption happens in waves.
If an industry has already been disrupted, chances are more innovators — emboldened by the spike in news stories and early success that comes with such developments — will hop on the bandwagon, trying to best whatever innovation prevails at the time. In addition, the Three Digital Accelerators I also identified way back in 1983 – the exponential growth in processing power, digital storage, and bandwidth – are now far enough along in their exponential growth curve to enable rapid multiple revolutions in any field. What does all of this mean? If your career, business, and industry has already been digitally disrupted, plan on it being disrupted again.
A number of years ago, as part of an international project, I made a short list of the biggest problems the world would face over the next fifty years which included shortages of food and drinking water to name a few. Then I researched what would be needed to solve all of these problems, and I came to an interesting conclusion. The one common thread that connected all of the solutions was energy.
As hugely populous countries like China and India continue their evolution as economic powerhouses, the rural poor all over the world will increasingly move to urbanized environments seeking a better way of life. They will be in search of ways to climb the economic ladder, and as a result, added pressure will be put on our global resources.
Much like every other prominent industry, the medical field is becoming inexorably digitized. Digital disruption and transformation within the healthcare profession is a Hard Trend — something that will happen, something we can count on seeing in the future. But these developments aren’t exactly futuristic, far-off advancements; we’re starting to see them in our everyday lives and they’re already improving the quality of healthcare we as patients can expect to receive.
The digitization of the healthcare industry will invariably advance the field’s transformation from the Break-Fix model of medicine — reactively treating maladies and ailments as they occur — to the Predict-and-Prevent model — an anticipatory combination of detective work and cutting-edge technology that addresses the root causes of health afflictions and focuses on staving off future issues by advocating major lifestyle changes, behavioral changes, or preventative practices.
It doesn’t matter what you do for a living — whether you work in medicine or retail, law or construction, whether you’re a software engineer or a writer — there’s an art and science to just about every career imaginable. Every profession has its scientific aspects, those more mechanical facets and rules and methods you absolutely must know to excel within your industry. However, these professions, no matter how dry, straightforward, or technical, also have their creative or artistic qualities.
This dichotomy is what makes every industry so diverse. It’s the reason no two professionals within the same industry are ever identical. These people might have been working at their careers for the same amount of time; maybe they went to similar schools and took similar classes; maybe they even work for the same company and have the same position. However, they’ll differentiate themselves in the ways they’ve applied creativity and intuitive insights to their jobs.