Massive Disruption Ahead: The 4th Industrial Revolution Has Begun

How Industry 4.0 innovations will contribute to significant disruption.

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is in sight.” :Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman- General Electric Corp.

We have observed business disruption for decades. This is not new. As proof, in the US alone, in the period starting in Year 2K , we have seen slightly more than 50% of companies that had previously achieved Fortune 1000 status lose that prestigious designation, for a variety of reasons, but mainly due to an inability to respond to digital disruption.

What is new is the startling realization that since we entered the “Era of Accelerated Disruption”, driven by a confluence of symbiotic technologies that have democratized real-time, virtually free access to information, is just how powerfully this trend, which was presaged by Apple’s brilliant 1984 Super Bowl advertisement, has swept through entire industries. It is indeed the issue that is keeping executives awake at night. In the years 2006 to 2007, we reached yet another inflection point of unprecedented proportions and the rate of change began to further accelerate. In this historically critical 2 yearperiod, we saw the following profoundly disruptive companies and products launched:

CONSUMER — FACING

· The iPhone- the internet in your pocket

· Android smartphone operating system- open source, affordable version to iPhone

· Facebook- the ultimate social network, now with almost 2 Billion active users

· Twitter- real- time communications with a global audience

· You Tube’s acquisition by Google- the immediacy and power of visual story-telling

IT INFRASTRUCTURE

· Intel-adding non-silicon material in semi-conductor transistors extends Moore’s law

· GitHub- open source software development and collaboration platform

· Palantir- “Big Data” and augmented intelligence

· Hadoop- democratization of “Big Data”

· IBM Watson- cognitive computing

The main directions where Industry 4.0 technology innovators will focus.

“There is a fine line between insubordination and intrapreneurship” : Larry Bossidy — former Vice Chairman of General Electric Corp

Disrupt or be disrupted. There is no middle ground. For most executives and companies, business as usual will lead to certain failure. Organizations must take a very comprehensive, global and courageous approach in order to continue to thrive during the Industry 4.0 Era. In many ways, they will need to adopt the cultures and mirror the best practices of today’s new global disrupters like Uber, and world-class companies like GE, that have successfully challenge and reinvented themselves on a regular basis for over a century.

This means cultures that thrive on agility, rapid learning, constant experimentation and a heathy acceptance of failure as the normal course of business. It means adopting powerful methodologies like Design Thinking, Design Sprints and Lean Startup and actively participating in open innovation forums such as partnering with and investing in startups, hackathons and open source projects. It means realizing that disruptions are increasingly likely to come from outside your industry requiring corporate strategists to take a far more holistic approach than has been their custom.

These technologies have had massive disruptive power across most industries, and the “case studies” from Blackberry to Nokia to IBM to Yahoo to MySpace and hundreds of others are familiar and well documented. In many ways, the technologies launched in the years 2006 to 2007 have enabled the emergence of the technologies which are now defined as Industry 4.0. These technologies, ranging from Additive Manufacturing — 3D printing to robotics to Virtual and Augmented Reality to UAVs to driverless automobiles, are widely publicized, but their disruptive power is poorly understood by the majority of senior executives. As the 4th industrial revolution moves onto the global scene in a decisive manner, we will see this trend accelerate even faster. It will require an extraordinary and continuous level of attention from large corporations and institutions to remain vibrant and relevant. Literally, everything will be disrupted.

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