Of course we notice them. Some of them. The small things that change our lives. We embrace them, use them, like them. Then we completely ignore them in our planning …
The world does not make sense anymore, not by any known metric. Things aren’t anything like they used to be. We buy watches from Apple, telephony from Microsoft, operating systems from Google, AI from Amazon, networking gear from Facebook. Text messages come and go continuously via a multitude of channels and vendors – seemingly free of charge. While theatre seats, rental cars and plane tickets are booked via the news company.
Most of us still associate Google with search (and have no clue about Alphabet), forgetting that they are the world’s leading supplier of operating systems. Amazon – to most of us – is on-line shopping, huge warehouses and quick deliveries, but Amazon is also world leader in AI and cloud services. Apple is a little bit about computers, but mostly smartphones and services, while Nokia and Blackberry are all but gone. IBM makes no PCs, no (x86) servers, and sells iMacs and iPads by the truckload. Apple, Netflix and HBO make hugely popular movies and TV shows, while Hollywood scratches their head, wondering what happened.
The list continues. Authors change their books after publication. Musicians modify songs and compositions after album release. Cars, trucks, trains and trams are not only manufactured by robots, they are also driven by them. Not the same ones, but their 2nd cousins or something like that. Microsoft, Google, Amazon and IBM’s SoftLayer invest heavily in their own intercontinental fiber cables, disrupting 150 year old monopolies and business models. And while US credit card companies scratch their head about smartcards that have dominated Europe for 15 years, Apple Pay, Google Wallet, Amazon Payments and others are eating the market from within. A change enabled by the fact that big-tech (aka FAMGA) have (much) higher valuation and trust than the traditional finance industry, including banks. And adapt faster to change even though they are much bigger in size.
Teenagers are talking again after having texted to the tune of loud music in big headphones for 10 years. They talk, but they don’t converse. They command their Siris and Alexas, or they ‘text by speech’ instead of thumbs. And wonder why the rest of us keep chugging along with huge fingers and small keys – at speeds that make telex and teletypes from the 60s appear fast. An entire generation of young users seem to be in a continuous race to have the smallest or lightest or most fancy new technology, while stuffing their backpacks and pockets with so called ‘powerpacks’ – extra batteries just in case. Apparently even traditional logic has expired.
Given this obviously fast paced digital reality it is indeed odd to get the ‘no hurry’ argument from the IT-department. They ‘don’t have time’ and take the ‘things take time’ card, just like 10 years ago, or was it 20? The simple truth of the 2020s is that if something takes time – as in ‘more than a few months’, it’s probably wrong. We need to move focus off of things that should have been done a long time ago, to things that matter forward – and can be done in a reasonable time frame.
The brutal fact is that the timescale has been compressed by an order of magnitude. 6 years is now 6 months. The service life for products, projects, plans and strategies is measured in months, not years and certainly not multiple years. No one knows what the world will look like in 3 years. Pretending we do is the way to disaster. The only way to handle such dynamism is to accept that the goal – if further away than a year or so, is blurry at best, and to focus on direction. Keep each leg short and revise frequently. In 6 months the end game parameters (aka ‘the goal’) will have been changed several times anyway.
No one wants a Nokia (or Kodak) moment. It shows up uninvited – and soon, unless we start moving immediately, and faster than last year. ‘Wait and see’ means ‘wait and die’. In the digital age, it’s agility and ability to execute that counts. When no one knows what challenges and opportunities tomorrow may bring on, continuous adaption is mandatory. Not as an afterthougt, but as a way of life. Pure Darwinism.
First a meta-comment: Can we please avoid grey fonts on a white
background or at least some way to change them for those of us with
less than perfect vision?
I agree that we are in a time of accelerating technology
developments, but not knowing what the future holds is not a new
concept. Radio wasn’t invented for one-to-many broadcasting, the
inventors of the telephone probably had no idea this instrument
would become for the modern world and certainly could not have
imagined that the entire world telephone system would one be
replaced by something functionally similar but technically (and
economically) quite different.
My favorite example of “random” innovation that “changed everything”
is the addition of a camera to a mobile phone back in, oh, the 1990s
maybe? Today, not only is the smart camera a major part of any
smartphone, it has almost completely displaced consumer grade
digital cameras (which of course had already displaced cameras with
film). Cameras do not “logically” belong on mobile phones, or mobile
Internet devices for that matter, but someone had the brilliant idea
of combining two technologies and we ended up with something that is
far more powerful than the sum of its parts.
When everything is connected by wires or by some form of radio,
entirely new “random innovations” can happen. Witness for example
Google Maps, combined with the GPS receiver in your smartphone
combined with a database of images (Street View) and a database of
business listings (what used to be the yellow pages) and you can
“find the nearest pizza place from where I am standing and show me
how to get there.”
As for planning for the right “next move,” this is of course a huge
challenge, something that may indeed mean a careful balance of “wait
and see” and finding opportunities in this rapidly changing world.
I’ll mention crypto currencies mostly because it is something I
don’t really understand, but also because it gets a lot of press,
most of it quite worrying. I wouldn’t want to be in position where
my organization had to make a bet on this particular sector right
now, but that’s just my example.
Reasonable timeframe indeed. Some of this may be predictable, a lot
of it isn’t. Obsolescence is a sad fact of life these days,
installing OS version X on device A after time C may no longer be
possible, not something we as IT managers or end users can control.
So yeah, “continuous adoption” is probably the answer, but at my age
that’s not as easy as it sounds 🙂
I look forward to reading more of your columns!
Thank you Ole, great points. As to not knowing what the future holds, I agree. What’s different in our digital world is the speed. The future isn’t 5 years down the line, but next month – or something. It’s an entirely new challenge and requires a similarly new mindset to handle.
As to crypto it sounds like we’re on the same page. I wrote a couple of (critical) articles about web3 and crypto on myMAYDAY.com before we ‘closed’ that chapter, and intend to revisit that in the near future here on mindset3.org. You’ll find some great food for thought on those issues (and a lot more) on Scott Galloway’s site ‘No Mercy/No Malice’ (love that name). He’s ‘profgalloway.com’.
Stay tuned, there is more to come. And remember to join the mailing list.
Interesting article and food for thoughts. Acceleration of speed of change is amazing. Understanding signals and ability to adapt is critical for survival. “Darwinism on steroids”
Indeed, Einar – and thank you for your engagement. Apropos Dynabook – revisiting Donald Norman’s The Invisible Computer is fascinating: For all practical purposes he laid out the specs for the iPad. In 1998.