Home > trends > Digital disruption: We’re just getting started. Yikes.

Digital disruption: We’re just getting started. Yikes.

Hot on the heels of the recent (and scary) Economist article about humans’ rapid decent into obsolescence, comes a book (The Second Machine Age) from two guys at MIT which pretty much says the same thing but in much more detail. The book is full of wonderful detail and many charts (such as the one below) that allow the authors to argue that we’re on the cusp of rapid technological growth the likes of which we haven’t seen since the first industrial age.


One thing that really caught my eye was the example of the introduction of electricity (akin to our digital tech) as a replacement for power from steam engines. Apparently, the managers at the factory simply replaced where the steam engines were with the electric motors, without re-thinking the overall flow of work. Predictably, productivity didn’t change.It wasn’t until the old managers retired (~30 years from when electric motors were introduced) and were replaced with fresh thinking managers, that the flow of the work was completely re-thought and productivity began to change (dramatically).

This reminds me of how most people (in large companies at least) think of digital: Do some ecommerce, do some digital marketing, play with social and call it doing digital. The real value, however, will become apparent when companies re-think their entire processes and operating models around these technologies.


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