Digital disruption is a BIG deal. It allows organizations to be faster, better, cheaper, and friendlier in every area of their business. It gave us Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. It makes Amazon a huge winner and every brick and mortar retailer a potential dinosaur.
It isn’t your only challenge, however. The potential for disruption is everywhere – including from a few areas you thought were already addressed. Here are five potential flash points that could create even more upheaval and uncertainty in the future.
- Globalization: Didn’t we do this in the last decade? The effects of globalization on your customers, competitors, and your business are fluid. Yesterday’s emerging market poised for growth is tomorrow’s global economic slowdown. Your competitors and customers aren’t down the street or across the country. They are everywhere and always available.
- Geopolitical risks: Geopolitical uncertainty increases the cost of doing business. The prospects of armed military conflict and terrorist attacks are frightening. The potential for a cyber war is even scarier. Energy, shipping, IT security, and raw materials are just a few of the costs affected. More important, the impact on the global human psyche and spirit has the potential to make immediate winners and losers.
- Nationalism: Your agreement with President Trump’s buy American emphasis and travel ban is a matter of political preference. The potential impact on your business exists regardless of your opinions. What happens if you can’t find the talent you need because of changes to the HB1 Visa program? What if your cost of raw materials skyrockets because of trade restrictions? The potential for upheaval exists on the global stage, too. No one knows the exact impact of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. Similar nationalistic – and potentially disruptive – elections are slated for France, Italy, and others.
- Demographics: Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce today, and their numbers are growing. They will disrupt how you attract, develop, lead, and retain talent. Additionally, they bring a bias toward entrepreneurial thinking that allows you to develop new ideas quicker while simultaneously frustrating traditional managers. How highly motivated millennials will respond to routine work over the long-term is still unknown.
- Advanced technology and artificial intelligence: McKinsey & Company reported that up to 45 percent of the activities currently performed by employees can be automated with existing technology. A machine learning system that can learn to play chess at the International Master level in 72 hours debuted in 2015. It uses a deep neural network that simulates the human brain’s structure, learning, and decision making. Next generation robots, such as Baxter and Sawyer from Rethink Robotics, are transforming manufacturing. Artificial intelligence has the potential to free workers from routine tasks … or it can make them irrelevant. Either way, more disruption is ahead.
How You Flourish
All isn’t lost even if you feel irrelevant and a little depressed. Several of the competencies that make your star performers valuable today will still be important in the future. There will still be a need for people who are adaptable, collaborative, accountable, and act with a sense of urgency in pursuit of your purpose.
In addition, you will need people to master the following if you expect to flourish in the future:
- Awareness: The scariest change on the horizon is the one that you don’t see coming. You must continually scout the disruptions and opportunities that are just over the horizon and then act on them to stay relevant.
- Versatility: The adage that if “your only tool is a hammer, everything automatically looks like a nail” is more applicable than ever. The star performers in the future will be multi-talented and bring diversity of thinking and perspective.
- Opportunistic problem solving: Your competitors will face the same disruptive changes as you. The technologies that disrupt industries are available to everyone. Taxi companies could have developed the Uber app. Blockbuster could have developed or purchased Netflix. What was missing was an entrepreneurial mindset that actively looked for new solutions to meet customer needs. The companies that flourish in the future will reinforce opportunistic thinking and behavior.
The need to be proactive has permeated business presentations and literature for years. And yet, too many organizations wait until change is no longer a choice before taking action. The most important step you can take to prepare for the future is creating a culture that embraces continual change.
The present should be guided more by the future than the past. What will you do today to guarantee your success tomorrow?