This present virus disrupter may be the right time to think about the future.
The question many pose today is this, what will the next disrupter be to impact your industry? For business owners and leaders, that’s the wrong question. Better to ask what you might do differently so that your business will be the disrupter, or at a minimum use the newest disruption advancements, to gain competitive advantage and weather any storm better than the competition.
When you look around at your facilities and capital goods, are you still firmly grounded in the past, or have you laid the foundation for adoption of emerging technologies?
Notwithstanding Acts of God and China, one of the next biggest disrupters is Artificial Intelligence. AI is farther along than most of us realize. We already know about autonomous driving cars and trucks. Sooner than you think, we’ll be experiencing eVTOLs, (electric vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, i.e., flying cars). Uber plans to have them in operation by 2023! AI makes these disrupters possible. Quantum computing will intensify AI. Companies that disregard these technology advances do so at their own peril.
While this pandemic is today’s economic disrupter, we have faced many big business disruptions in the last few decades. In 2001 Amazon had yet to make a profit, but when their business took off, retail stores have never been the same. Netflix and their ilk long-ago wiped-out Blockbuster and have nearly destroyed the movie theater business who offer expensive tickets and pricy popcorn, and hobbled network television.
Other current disrupters are 3D printing, virtual reality, augmented reality, blockchain, drones, materials science, and biotechnology, to name a few. Did you know that houses have been built with 3D printing?
What do the companies who lead or survive market disrupters have in common? They deliver options that are easier, better quality, and/or cheaper. What can your business do that meets one, two, or all three of these options?
Peter Diamandis, a medical doctor with degrees in molecular genetics and aerospace engineering, and founder of 20+ high tech companies, beautifully discusses the transformation of business based on converging technologies and the quantum leaps in computing power. Peter quotes Yale’s Richard Foster as saying, “40 percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies will be gone in ten years, replaced…by upstarts we have not yet heard from.”
Airlines should be concerned. Just 3 weeks ago many office staff had never heard of Zoom. Now businesses are having Zoom meetings every day. The airlines should be worried as onsite meetings are being replaced with computer cameras. This is happening now and will continue to accelerate when we will supposedly be back to “normal.” Normal will mean fewer business flyers for quite some time. Diamandis says we will be doing presentations via holograms by 2028, further reducing travel demand.
How are you preparing for that future? What steps are you taking with your workforce? Do they need to be retrained to handle AI? Do your plants need to be re-tooled? What focus do you have to make what you do for your customers easier, better, or cheaper? Capital for such “updating” is out there, it is looking for companies who want to jump feet first into the next decade.
These are staggering thoughts for the small, midsized business world. Today this pandemic is forcing organizations to evaluate steps and processes that had long been taken for granted. It may be a challenge, but don’t stop your evaluation process at the pandemic. Yes, think how you must retool your business, your employee interaction, your movement of goods and services to fit today’s pandemic realities. Then push beyond to consider what you can do going forward that will position your organization for the future – a future that will look very different.
A good starting point for your thinking is to answer this question – In view of the big disruptors here now or on the horizon, what can you do to create a competitive advantage today, for tomorrow?
I encourage you to use this time for more than just running in place. Evaluate your business and plan for a future that’s coming sooner than you expect. Make disruptive competitive advantage part of your thinking process.