We’re at the dawn of a new industrial revolution. And just as the steam engine and the spinning jenny transformed the world in the first industrial revolution, the new technology of this new industrial revolution will transform our world as we know it.
The seeds of revolution are all around us: More compute power now resides in each of our pockets than in the supercomputers of the eighties; we are rapidly approaching a point where each person on the planet is interconnected through a web of digital channels; billions of devices are capable of instantly uploading data about the device and its environment as an the internet of things; highly automated manufacturing plants will soon intelligently assemble custom products; and instant video communications now take place regularly around the world. All of these changes are already here.
Apple just announced that it has cumulatively sold more than 170 million iPads since the product first debuted in 2010. For context, if iPad Nation were a country, it would be roughly tied at No. 7 with Nigeria, set to eclipse Pakistan next quarter and Brazil the quarter after that.
This boldfaced proof of digital disruption’s power to upset markets has left companies in every industry struggling to keep up with a consumer population that is happily disrupting itself. For someone who spends his days researching digital disruption and modeling its effects, on the one hand, this is good news: Everybody believes in digital disruption. On the other hand, it raises a very real problem: Nobody knows what to do about it.
Today when I meet with companies bent on becoming digital disruptors, one of their first questions is no longer, "How much time do we have until we have to respond?" but rather, "How do we get started right now?"
There is no single answer to this. Some companies are best served by locating their disruption initiative outside the company in an innovation lab where it can quickly generate disruptive momentum. Others can get a boost of internal support by building an internal innovation team and drawing resources from a supportive corporate structure. And some companies can launch multiple focused disruptive initiatives across many different groups in the organization, each one tasked with a specific disruptive goal, as long as the culture of the company is ready to incubate the efforts.