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Invisible disruptions are changing your life

Photo © Adobe Stock

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.

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