Exponential Change and What it means for Businesses and Workers

Who Remembers these Companies ?

Businesses, workers, and governments worldwide are feeling the effects of dizzying change wherein trends that are apparent at the moment are no longer the same in the future even when the future one is talking about is a few years ahead or even a year or so. Consider for example the marketplace where businesses that were once dominant as recent as a decade ago are no longer in the reckoning and worse, some of them have even dropped out of the race altogether.

For instance, Blackberry was the original Smartphone that captivated the attention of millions of customers worldwide with its innovative approach to the entire mobile telephony and computing experience. Now, does anyone outside of the small and ever dwindling customer base even use Blackberry Smartphones? This is what the late legendary Steve Jobs of Apple did to the Smartphone market by radically altering what one can do with a Smartphone.

Similarly, a decade ago, Nokia which was the pioneer in the mobile handset market is no longer to be seen anywhere because of the revolution in mobile computing as well as the advent of the Smartphone revolution wherein a mobile phone is just not a phone but something which is a portable and mini computing machine, personal assistant, news conduit, and entertainment provider all rolled into one.

There are other examples from the online and the mobile world in addition from social media world. Consider the example of Orkut which was the original social media site and was the pioneer for a generation of social media and internet users. With Facebook becoming almost like an extension of one with its radical remaking of what it means to socialize and network in cyberspace, the paradigm has shifted and the game has changed.

What is Exponential Change ?

So, what is causing all these upheavals in the marketplace wherein technology is rapidly advancing to the point that major research consultancies are warning that jobs starting with the shop floor worker to even white collar professions such as Doctors and Lawyers would soon be replaced with automated software and robots? The single driving force behind all these trends is what is known as Exponential Change which means that change is no longer linear but proceeds in an exponential manner leading to all round disruption and creative destruction.

To explain exponential change, many experts use Moore’s law of processing power as the theory behind this immense and bewildering change. Moore’s law states that processing power doubles every two years. This means that if you own a 1 GHZ processor now, in two years, it would become 2 GHZ and in four years it would become 4GHZ. Just pause for a moment and think what would be the processing power 10 years and 20 years down the line. Indeed, we might even reach Terabyte speeds in a decade or two since it is no longer linear but exponential.

A Closer Look at Exponential Change with Examples

The reason we are stressing on the word exponential is that when processing power and by extension technological capability doubles every two years, what we get is a multiple and to the power change which means that what we have now is miniscule when compared with what we would have in the future. Indeed, an average Smartphone now (we are not even talking about iPhone 6s or any of the high end models) has more computing power than the entire power of what the Astronauts who landed on the Moon had in their spacecraft.

Implications for Humans

Therefore, the implications for humans are staggering as we would soon end up in a scenario where machines do most of the work and only the higher level decision making and guiding and programming the robots and the machines would be done by people. There are many technocrats who point to the fact that exponential change is beneficial to society since technology can solve many of society’s problems as well as empower people.

However, this also has the other side wherein businesses can no longer hope to execute the same strategies that they were following even a few years ago. Further, governments can no longer think about going about in their slow and bureaucratic ways wherein it takes years and decades for change to be apparent. Indeed, the process of breathtaking exponential change would soon leave those who cannot change with the times breathless.

Disruption is the Future

Returning to the introductory point, this dizzying speed of change means that disruption would become the order of the day and any entity whether we are talking about workers or businesses or governments would have to reorient themselves quickly, in an agile manner, and be on top of the cutting edge trends if they have to survive exponential change brought about technology and globalization.

Do not Fear the Future but Instead, Learn to Embrace the Changes

Finally, the intention here is not to scare readers or oppose the technology driven change. After all, when the Industrial Revolution commenced, there were many who had such thoughts and who organized protests and strikes against the original revolution in technology. With hindsight, we can now see that the Industrial Revolution did usher in unprecedented prosperity and wealth to many including many who were lifted out of poverty both in the developed as well as the developing world.

Therefore, our concluding note is that one must not fear the future but prepare as best as one can to anticipate, adapt, and adjust to the changes. The alternative is that those who cannot adapt to change would be like the proverbial Dodo or the Dinosaur that became extinct.

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Change Management