Acceleration isn’t the only effect of technology

Acceleration isn’t the only effect of technology

It’s an idea you’ll hear a lot. An idea that has many subscribers, and just as many critics.

I subscribe to my own version of the theory. In short, I believe that change driven by computing and the internet will prove to be as great or greater than that driven by the shift from horse and cart to car, or the advent of domestic automation technologies like the washing machine. But we don’t yet have the historical perspective to say so. If it is greater, and happening over a similar or shorter period, then grand-scale change really is happening faster now.

In the mean-time, what we are seeing is an accelerated rate of change at smaller scales. What I call high-frequency change.

This accelerated rate of change is forcing organisations to adapt faster than they have needed to before. Or face the consequences. The now-cliched collapses of the major names, from Nokia to Kodak, Blockbuster to HMV. And the many less-well-known businesses. The SMEs and regional employers that have fallen by the wayside due to an inability to maintain pace.

A lack of agility.

Developing greater agility is one of the key requirements placed on organisations by technology’s advance. But it isn’t the only one. In every sector I’ve looked at in the last five years I have seen technology have the same four other effects.

Diversity at every link in the value chain

By lowering friction and barriers to entry, technology introduces many more options at almost every link in the value chain. More suppliers, more channels, more competition, more routes to the customer.

Accelerated information flow

The lowered friction also applies to information flow: you can, and arguably need to, know more about your customers and environment now than before. Failing to collect, analyse and act on information fast places you at a distinct disadvantage, in every aspect from pricing or personalised marketing, to stock trading or the supply chain.

Technology is ubiquitous

Technology itself is advancing in performance and declining in price at such a rate that it is finding new applications at an incredible rate. In spaces where it has been dismissed it is becoming relevant. In places where it was always too expensive to be viable, it is becoming cheap enough to be disposable.

Borders are falling

Counter to the prevailing political trend of rising barriers to trade and movement, technology is forcing barriers down. Companies and communities are increasingly global. Operating in this environment increasingly requires a network mindset rather than a conglomerate approach.

Together with the drive for greater agility, these effects are what I call the five vectors of technology-driven change.

This post forms part of my Future of Technology series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Technology page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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