If you asked CEOs what keeps them up at night, the majority would say it’s the potential impact a new disruptive technology can have on their company. They’ve seen disruptive technologies change industries and put companies out of business fast. They’ve also seen it put companies out of business slowly (think Kodak or Motorola).But here’s the good news: Disruptive technology is only disruptive if you don’t know about it ahead of time. If you know about the disruption in advance, you can turn it into an opportunity. Being proactive here is vital, because once the disruption occurs; you’ll run out of time fast.

When anything new comes along in business, whether it be a new technology, a new service, or a new idea, it disrupts the current offerings or thinking. For example, when music became available as an mp3 download that people could share, it disrupted the entire music industry. They focused on protecting and defending the status quo as they tried to stop or slow the tech-driven change. When photography went digital, it disrupted the entire chemical-based photography business to the point that some well-known companies such as Polaroid perished. In this context, disruptive technology refers to things that can disrupt markets, companies, and industries, rendering cash cows obsolete very quickly.

Based on the quarter of a century I’ve been predicting the future of technology and the disruptions they will create, I know new technologies can also cause mass opportunity for those who take action now.