If you’ve been in the workplace for any considerable length of time, you’ve already seen how technological changes have had the power to rapidly and radically transform the way business is done.
No matter your age, chances are a multitude of sweeping changes have already taken place in your lifetime. Some have been immediately and obviously significant and transformative – and others have taken place almost unnoticed.
Think about it for a moment: Twenty years ago, fewer than a third of America’s small and medium-sized businesses had adopted email. Your “powerful” new desktop computer – if you had one – probably had eight megabytes of RAM and a 1-gigabyte hard drive. If you sent an email, you probably did it through a dialup connection to America Online or CompuServe. As primitive as these things sound now, they were game-changing technologies and they had enormous ramifications for business.
If there’s anything technology has shown us in recent years, it’s this: Continual change is the new normal. New systems and practices sweep away old ones away with almost predictable regularity. The changes come faster, with greater frequency, and have more immediate impact upon businesses, creating powerful advantages for some companies and big problems for others.
It isn’t always easy to see these changes coming, or to gauge their impact ahead of time. Some heavily-hyped, would-be game changers have fizzled — you probably didn’t ride a Segway Scooter to work this morning, for instance – but others stand to make a much bigger impression. It’s important to tell the difference between them.
So what is a truly “game changing” technology? As I see it, they share some key characteristics:
- Game-changers are disruptive. They disturb – or do away with – established practices and technologies.
- They are fast. Speed is the watchword of our age, and technologies that help us do things faster gain immediate traction.
- They both reflect and drive cultural change. The way we think and our cultural concerns are changing quickly too, and transformative technologies are in sync with that.
- They increase efficiency and productivity. A global economy means global competition; efficiency and productivity gains create a powerful competitive edge.
- They provide demonstrable, significant value. In an era of tight margins and resources, people and companies don’t have time for technologies that don’t deliver.
In coming weeks, I’ll be taking a look at a few of game changing technologies to come – some of which are already well underway. Some are the hyped ones that you’ve heard about, and others are flying under the radar. All stand to be significant, and to generate even more change in our workplaces and our lives.—