Traditional businesses need to watch out for complete disruption.
The age of big disruption
The history of business is littered with extinct businesses that just didn’t see the big change around the corner. Consider Eastman Kodak. The company that pioneered digital photographs also decided that no one would want the technology. Film became redundant, as did Eastman Kodak’s business model. There’s a lesson there. It’s not the incremental improvements that companies need to watch out for – it’s the innovation that completely disrupts old ways of doing things.
People – and businesses – tend towards a form of inertia, or conceptual blind spot. They focus on doing what they’ve always done. When challenged by a changing market, they try to make operations more efficient. They bring the hammer down on costs. But they keep doing essentially the same thing. But what if their entire business model might be becoming obsolete? The steam engine did, as did the telegraph and the typewriter.
Industry 4.0 is upon us
We’re in an age of innovation an era where innovation requires a culture of discipline and foresight. It requires people to dream, identify problems of the future, and then throw away the box when dealing with them.
We’re on the cusp of something industry leaders are calling the 4th Industrial Revolution, or Industry 4.0 – one heralded by exponential breakthroughs, complete industry disruption, and the entire transformation of production, management and governance.
What does that mean? It means that we’re heading rapidly into unchartered waters where cyber-physical systems, data, speed and automation rule the roost. The only way to survive is to stay agile. Businesses that will still be around in 20 years are those with the capacity to dream and invest in futures that may seem far away at present.
Logistics will get disrupted too
Trade efficiencies have largely been gleaned by doing existing things better and faster. But now, there’s a new wave of ideas stepping into play
It’s already easy to envision a completely revolutionary future for logistics and delivery. Amazon has launched drone delivery that can get parcels to their destinations in under 30 minutes. And in Dubai, we’re already looking at the Hyperloop technology to move containers at blindingly fast speeds of up to 1,200 km/hour.
We’ve already embarked on port automation. But the next step is driverless vessels. Autonomous cars are only the tip of the iceberg – I also envision a future where goods are ferried over the seas by driverless ships that are safer, cheaper and less polluting. This isn’t fanciful dreaming – Rolls-Royce already has blueprints in the works.
The near future will see logistics changed by autonomous vessels and automated ports – all joined by the Internet of Things. Meanwhile, big data analytics give us the opportunity to peer around corners and plan ahead. Many of these technologies are already in play at the DP World-managed Rotterdam World Gateway (RWG) terminal, which is one of the most innovative automated container terminals in the world.
But why stop even there? Why settle for the prosaic? Let’s move onto something that is truly the stuff of dreams – teleportation. Imagine being able to move goods around the world – or even to other worlds – instantly. In Canada, particles of life have already been ‘teleported’ 6.2 km. Does that mean goods will soon be appearing and disappearing in a flash of light? No. But it does go to show that taking comfort in the status quo is no longer an option.
A brave new world
What does all this mean? It means that the world as we know is heading for seismic change – and for the better. Rapid innovation is going to change how we produce, consume, do businesses, interact with each other and with our governments. Businesses operating in this brave new world are faced with a stark choice – dream or die.
History is witness to the leaps of innovation conjured by dreams – leaps that improved the lives of millions. Nikola Tesla had a dream – to power industry and homes through easily transmittable alternating current (AC). A hundred years later, his discoveries form the basis of modern electrical transmission. Einstein was a dreamer too – bending theoretical physics to his will and formulating the elegant E=mc2 equation that changed the field forever.
Now, it is up to us to take up the mantle of these dreamers and continue their mission of serving humanity through innovation.