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Is your business really future-proofed?

The business landscape continues to morph as technology advances. GRAHAM JONES explores the importance of adaptability.

Recently, I’ve found myself wondering if the business world is ready for the ‘new internet’.

The world of advancing technology was recently brought into sharp focus with the first ‘live’ ABBA concert in 40 years, taking place in London to rave reviews. Even though the original band members were present, they did not perform. Like the rest of the audience, they watched holographic avatars in a 90-minute show.

In the days after the concert, I discussed this with a number of my students and asked them about their digital futures.

I suggested that universities in the not-too-distant future would be able to use holographic lecturers beamed into multiple homes simultaneously. It might sound like science fiction, but the technology is already available. I then continued my ‘science fiction’ discussion and showed the students experiments involving the transmission of thoughts from one individual to another using a digital device.

The fact is we are on the verge of some astounding technological advances. Of course, it is impossible to precisely predict what will happen with technology. After all, the former Chairman of IBM (Thomas Watson) once suggested there would be a worldwide market for just five computers.

Ken Olsen, the founder of the Digital Equipment Corporation, said there was no reason anyone would want a computer in their home. These were people heavily involved in the world of technology, so one would think they would have a better idea than the rest of us when it comes to predicting the technological future.

Be prepared

The one thing we can be sure about, though, is that change is coming. We just don’t know what will change, when it will change or how it will change. All we can do is scan the horizon of technology and make an educated guess as to how it will affect our business in the years to come.

“The ‘trick’ to ensuring that a business is ready for the unpredictable digital future is to look at how it is structured, the kind of people it employs, and its processes.”

It seems reasonable to consider that holographic meetings will be commonplace in the future.

After all, who would have thought just 25 years ago that you would be able to attend conferences on your laptop and see and talk with all the other participants spread across the world? The global pandemic thrust Zoom to the forefront of business.

You might not think you’ll be attending holographic meetings anytime soon, but remember these words if you ever find yourself gathered with coworkers at an event named a ‘Holozoom’ one day!

Equally, you might not think you’ll transmit thoughts across the oceans in a few years. However, 50 years ago, you would have laughed if someone said you could send a sheet of paper over a telephone line. Whatever happened to fax machines?

Digital change is more rapid than any other technological change we have known.

Radio, for instance, took 38 years before 50 million people could listen to it. Television took 13 years to achieve the same milestone. Instagram achieved 50 million accounts within two years.

That’s quite a long time compared with the standard set by the mobile game Angry Birds, which took a mere 35 days to reach 50 million people. And I suspect it all happened too quickly for anyone to count it with TikTok.

Today’s fantasy…

The digital advances that might seem like the ideas of science fiction today are likely to be a reality used by millions in a very short space of time. We can’t plan for such things, nor can we forecast their timing in a meaningful way.

However, businesses depend upon planning and forecasting. How do we decide on what to invest in unless we have some clue as to the future? How could we possibly design a budget?

The answer is to be adaptable.

Many digital businesses are set up to be able to adapt. They have flat management structures and small reporting lines. They empower their staff to make decisions without the need for endless committees.

This is part of the reason why we are seeing the world’s leading companies dominated by firms that began as digital start-ups. Unfortunately, traditional businesses are falling behind because their ‘old school’ structures and processes mean they cannot adapt quickly enough to change.

The ‘trick’ to ensuring that a business is ready for the unpredictable digital future is to look at how it is structured, the kind of people it employs, and its processes.

The future of your business depends upon the ability to adapt quickly. Sadly, many businesses are not set up to achieve this. Equally, as individuals, our own employment in the future also depends upon our ability to adapt to inevitable change.

Graham Jones

Contributor •

Graham Jones studies online behaviour and consumer psychology to help businesses improve website success. Visit: grahamjones.co.uk

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