We are no longer in a period of rapid change! We have now entered a unique period of time, unlike anything any of us have ever seen, that can best be described as transformation.
Three digital accelerators have been driving the transition from change to transformation for many years, but due to their predictable exponential rate, they have now reached an inflection point—a point where processes, products, services, and careers no longer change; rather, they transform. The three digital accelerators are processing power, digital storage, and digital bandwidth. The impact of these three accelerators—the enormous gains in power, miniaturization, product intelligence, interconnectivity, cloud services, mobility and a raft of other technological dimensions—will be felt in every industry, every corner of the globe, and every nook and cranny of society.
For over three decades, I have been tracking their predictable growth and impact, and after talking to top executives from companies like Intel, Cisco and Google, all three have a long way to go. Based on my thirty years of research with a history of accurate forecasts contained in my six books, articles, and my Technotrends Newsletter, I’m going to make a bold prediction that I know will happen. Within the next five years, technology will transform how we sell, market, communicate, collaborate, innovate, train and educate. We are now in the process of transforming every business process. Therefore, being able to transform, rather than merely change, is one that every organization needs to embrace.
Many organizations today will say they are transforming a process, product or service, but if you look at what they are really doing, they are only changing it. According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, change means “to make something different,” while transform means “to make a thorough or dramatic change.” It is a difference of degree, but that degree is so extreme that it becomes a qualitative difference. Today, embracing change is no longer enough; we need to transform.
Remember the 1990s when everyone was touting the phrase “think outside the box”? It’s a neat image, evoking creativity and unconventional thinking as a way to arrive at ingenious new paths and solutions. But here’s the problem with thinking outside the box: we all know that no matter how creative we get during the weekend seminar, come Monday morning we’re going to have to crawl back into the box again and deal with our current reality. The problem isn’t that we need new ways to simply step outside the box—we need to completely transform the box itself.
In fact, whatever your box is—your job, company, career, situation—it is going to transform whether you like it or not. There is no field or profession, no business or organization, no country or society that is not going to transform dramatically and fundamentally over the years ahead.
From our vantage point, though, it’s easy to assume that the biggest changes have already happened: the Internet has already turned our world upside-down and changed everything. But that’s hindsight, not foresight. The proliferation of the Internet throughout the last decade has been the prologue, not the unfolding story itself. It was not the transformation—it was only the foundation that laid the groundwork for the transformations to follow, the overwhelming majority of which are still ahead of us.
Even the Golden Rule of business has transformed. The old Golden Rule in business was to find out what your customers wanted, and give it to them. Today, if you ask your customers what they want and you give it to them, you’re missing a huge opportunity, because their answers will never give you more than a fraction of your potential.
Our capabilities are changing far too rapidly for this old rule to be useful. Customers today don’t know what they want, because the things they most want are things they don’t yet know are possible. Customers did not know they wanted an iPad until Apple gave it to them—they had no idea a tablet computer and its thousands of uses were possible. When Blockbuster asked their customers what they wanted to make the store and shopping experience better, they provided answers that allowed Blockbuster to change a few things, but those answers kept Blockbuster from transforming the business and their future.
The new Golden Rule in business is this:
Give your customers the ability to do what they can’t currently do but would want to if they only knew it was possible.
To survive and thrive, look into your customers’ visible future, look at their hard trends, at what you’re certain about regarding their future. See what problems they are going to have and solve them before they happen, so that by the time they’re just starting to experience the problem, you already have the solution.
And if you don’t? Then you will become increasingly irrelevant to your customers. Transformation will not wait, pause, or stand aside while you think about it. There are three critical truths about business in this new era that you cannot afford to ignore; we might call them corollaries to the Golden Rule:
1) Transformation will happen.
2) If it can be done, it will be done.
3) If you don’t do it, someone else will.
The message is clear: in the days, weeks, months, and years ahead, expect and plan for radical transformation.