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Embracing The Change: Not Being Scared of Digital Disruption

“New technology is not good or evil in itself. It’s all about how people choose to use it.” ~ David Wong 

Change is coming.

We know this because it is happening all around us. Almost every element of our lives is being impacted in one way or another. You need to get a taxi? Use Uber. You need groceries? Use Ocado. You need a present within 2 hours? Use Amazon Prime! 
 

Technology is transforming industries at an incredible speed. Processes and methodologies which used to take weeks are being completed in days due to the influence of technology. As a result, there has been significant ‘disruption’ to both ‘usual working practices’ as well our mentalities (need to finish this).

Disruption, in my view, means change and change creates opportunities.

The evolution of technology has created:

  • new businesses – think blockchain, social media, analytics for example…
  • new approaches – We now order an Uber rather than hailing a black cab (in London), and
  • new mentalities – As Apple so eloquently put it, “there’s an app for that.”

In order to understand the true impact of technology, let’s take a trip down memory lane to New York in 1929. When the Wall Street Crash occurred, the reverberations were felt worldwide. The significant difference between then and now is the speed at which news travels. Technology has facilitated an incredible upshift in the speed of news. No longer does it take weeks for the news to reach the shores of Europe from America.

You only have to look at the speed in which a late night tweet from Donald Trump is picked up around the world. Almost instantaneously, reactions are garnered, opinions formed and views shared.

So by looking at where we are now, early 2018, technology continues to have an incredible impact on the world.

Technology has become synonymous with disruption. Throw in the digital elements and the phrase ‘digital disruption’ appears.

As discussed in last weeks article, change can be scary and viewed with scepticism. However, the are many reasons to use technology as a force of good.

If you look around the next time you are in a coffee shop, you will no doubt see (an increasing number of) people working on laptops. The freelance / gig worker or entrepreneur is no longer shackled to the desk at home or the office. They have joined an growing number of individuals being termed ‘digital nomads’ – “people who are location independent and use technology to perform their job”.

I am personally, a huge advocate of the mobile working ethos. The days of needing to be ‘at the Office’ are on the decline, in my opinion. I know I’m not the only one who thinks this way. Recently I joined a cool company called ‘The Hoxby Collective’ who are disrupting the workplace using technology. Not only is the approach new and innovative, all individuals work remotely & have flexibility whilst doing it.

 

As a result, technology has helped people become more mobile, work remotely and stay connected, all whilst setting their own agenda.

Yes, I know you will come up with some counter-arguments such as ‘how does a shelf stacker work from home?’ or ‘my team are in the office and my clients expect me to be there’. But the real issue here is should you not ‘embrace the change’?

Try it, you might just like it. And your staff might be even more productive!

In previous years, it would not have been as easy or possible to unchain from the desk. Technology has allowed digital disruption to challenge our way of thinking (for good). The younger generations are teaching us how to adopt technology and not be afraid; in return doing amazing things. All we need to do is look at the average age of the FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix & Google) companies or Snap / Twitter / Airbnb to realise that they are younger than you think. But does that matter? Not in my eyes.

I like being challenged and learning as a result. These entrepreneurs and leaders are doing just that. I do hope they have good management teams around them, but I hope they don’t stop trail blazing.

Without digital disruption and the introduction of technology, would Facebook have 1/6th of the worlds population on their platform? Highly doubtful! (NB: The data capture / keeping saga will no doubt rumble on and is another highly charged story…!).

We can look at innovation as a result of digital disruption through the innovation ‘s-curve’. The theory states that depending on the maturity of the industry, determines the level of innovation that can be applied.

Let’s run through an example:

Blockchain technology is a recent invention and the world is still getting to grips with it, trying to work out the best application etc. As such, it will fall earlier on in the curve and therefore is more adept at dealing with incremental innovation. The reason for this is due to the technology being in it’s infancy, so widespread adoption has yet to occur.

On the other hand, currency (or money), hasn't changed in years. Therefore currency could be placed towards the end of the innovation curve. As such, it is open/ripe to disruption in the form of innovation! Hence why crypto has taken off!

The beauty of digital disruption is that it forces you to consider what else is out there.

It means you have to look, outside of the limited field of vision you operate in every day, and see what everyone is doing.

When innovation happens, it often takes people by surprise. But this shouldn’t be the case. Let’s take the world of movies and piracy for example. The introduction of blockchain technology means companies and individuals are having to rethink and consider it’s implication. Supply chains are being revolutionised, medical records are being put on to the blockchain, and even cryptocurrencies are being used to purchase everyday things. I’m not suggesting we get into the debate of whether cryptocurrencies are a good thing / will survive (although happy to have that conversation!), it’s more the question of “the business you are in, can it utilise this new technology?”

If the answer is yes, even if a small way this is good. It means you are

  1. Open to new innovative ways of thinking, and 
  2. Will to keep trying things to move forwards. 

Not so long ago I had a conversation about movies and internet piracy within a large multinational media company. The discussion revolved around the concept of could the blockchain remove or radically reduce movie piracy or leaks prior to release? I firmly believe there is an opportunity here to explore.

However, the response from the company was quite simply no. They said they didn’t understand it or want to look at it.

I was staggered.

Personally, I would want to explore the options, see if the application could be revolutionary and become a leader in innovation in the movie industry. Sadly, the same view was not held internally.

That’s fine, I thought. Just wait until one of the other big movie houses does this first, realise it works and then play catch up. There is some merit in leading and getting there first, but not everyone is willing to be the innovators.

This leads nicely on to my final point, mindset. Without diving deeply in to psychology, there are two main types of mindset: fixed or growth.

Dr Carol Dweck, a leading light in psychology describes the mindsets as:

“In a fixed-mindset, the aim is to achieve validation. On the other hand, growth-mindset is about achieving mastery and competence.” 

The reason for referring to these mindsets, is due to the challenges facing senior leaders in the wake of digital disruption.

 

As we now know, the advent of technology means actions and processes can be done in a fraction of the time it used to take. Add to this, technology is now capable of providing insights which were previously hugely time consuming or simply impossible to find (think predictive analytics!)

 

The age old response of “I’ve been doing these 30+ years, therefore I know best” simply doesn’t cut the mustard anymore. Yes, there is wisdom in incorporating experience but relying on it alone, without incorporating technological insights, would be fool hardy.

 

That said, many companies are doing this ! And on a surprisingly large scale. The utilisation of data (for which I am passionate about, and is another topic for discussion... read ‘you need a Chief Data Officer’ here!) is a critical BAU factor which needs to be fully integrated. However, challenges exist if senior leadership are not open to new ways of working.

 

I haven’t even touched on the difficulties senior leaders are facing in managing an increasingly remote workforce. The enormous shift in ways of working, is challenging every norm. And digital disruption is at the heart of this.

 

In summary, it is not all doom and gloom. Quite the opposite.

 

There is a fantastic amount of opportunity for individuals and businesses as a result.

The main question is, are you open to things changing or trying to keep doing things the same was the world around you changes??
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