Change is the Only Thing That's Constant: Digital Disruption Demands Adaptability

Business.com / Technology / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Digital disruption is at an all time high. Adaptability and flexibility are necessary if we want to survive the change, not get left behind.

The world is changing. It always has been, really… but has it always been changing this fast?

As we have built upon technology, and eventually created technology that is able to build upon itself, it’s become ever-evident that the rate of digital change has increased worldwide and continues to increase over time in a cumulative fashion.

The consequences of these technological changes are generally inescapable by both enterprises and individuals, for better or worse, leading to a transformation in the ways we do business with each other and at times the reimagining of entire industries.

Experts call this digital disruption, and we can only expect to see more of it as we march through the future.

What Exactly is Digital Disruption?

If you want the proper definition, Kai Riemer’s website [backed by research] says that “digital disruption refers to changes enabled by digital technologies that occur at a pace and magnitude that disrupt established ways of value creation, social interactions, doing business and more generally our thinking.”

For the most recent and well-known example of this type of disruption, most need turn no further than their own living rooms. Netflix revolutionized how we consume media in 2007 when they introduced their streaming video service, causing HBO, Amazon, and a myriad of other content providers to come out with their own video streaming services.

Today, 70% of homes in the U.S. have broadband, and Netflix is the largest source of Internet traffic in most of the world. Blockbuster, the once-unbeatable video company, was toppled as a result of this disruption. So on the one hand, you have unique innovations that make life better (Netflix and streaming video), but on the other hand you have the casualties that represent those who failed to ditch antiquity and adapt (Blockbuster and video rental outlets).

Disruption Is Just Getting Started

Make the most out of change

Netflix and streaming video represents just the beginning, as technological disruption is just getting ramped up. VentureBeat predicts that manufacturing, finance, healthcare, energy, and communications are on the verge of being hit with the same kind of big bang disruption.

Robotics and 3-D printing is going to change how products from iPhones to houses are made. Bitcoin and the blockchain are bound to revolutionize the financial industry and trust-economy.

A.I. and software are diagnosing more accurately than doctors now, new energy tech is making clean and green possible, and revolutionary internet speeds are driving video calling and unified communications. The proof is in the pudding here--and the only thing we can really do is prepare for the unknown and start focusing how to survive disruption.

Adaptability Training Starts In the Classroom

The first step to making sure that our workers are entering the job market as adaptable as possible is to make sure that education stays on top of innovation. Traditional systems frustrate students who are looking for hireability and often apply for jobs feeling digitally unqualified, as if nothing they learned in school on their legacy systems will truly be adaptable in the workplace.

According to Michael Crow, the president of ASU and the driving force behind ASU Online, the school's innovative online learning platform, collaboration is going to be the driving force behind teaching adaptability and determining student success. This collaboration is going to require learning digital systems. Nothing is worse than spending four years learning only to realize that none of it was actually preparatory. In a world that’s constantly changing, it makes no sense that our centers of education are actually the least adapted to keeping up with that change.

Learning To Manage Change Better

While learning the software and hardware that drive digital change is absolutely important, learning how to manage the periphery that’s indirectly both attributable to and affected by change will be important as well. The reason is that while the world around an organization may be moving at breakneck speed, the organization itself has to decide to move along with it.

Businesses aren’t magically swept up by digital disruption--they either force themselves to get on the train or end up getting left at the station. Teaching our employees how to flow with that change is necessary. As Sr. Director of Product at Clarizen Angela Bunner puts it:

Leaders desperately need to drive change, yet are set-up to fail because they can’t get sustained buy-in. As a result, they grow highly frustrated and either dejectedly resign themselves to their cruel fate, or they hand in their resignation and take their talents and well-used stress balls elsewhere… and employees who fiercely resist change win the battle but lose the war, because the inevitable consequence of clinging to the status quo is chronic, systemic organizational under-performance – which is the gateway to reduced budgets, layoffs, hiring freezes, and other scary things that are categorically not employee-friendly.

In the long term, resistance to change means an end to business. We need to… well, change that, as it were. Here are 10 principles of change management to help you navigate, as set forth by strategy-business.com.

Disruption Will Not Stop

Disruption isn’t going anywhere. It’s the reason we have Android and iPhone portable devices instead of landlines. It’s the reason that we’ve been able to achieve the lowest rates of traffic-caused death since 1940, and the reason driverless cars may be able to curb up to 90% of remaining traffic-caused deaths in the future.

Disruption is truly a great thing to behold--but we must be aware of the costs. Commercial drivers will compete with robotic ones, and ripples with eek forth from the epicenters of all disruptive change. There is no stopping this tide of change.

Of course, we must also remember that it is our ability as humans to innovate that is driving this disruption--and so it will be our innovation that will see us through it. We’ve begun the wheels spinning on a machine that will transform everything in the world through technology, and now we’ll have to see it through unless we want to be left in a legacy era. If we’re adaptable and flexible enough, we just might come out unphased.

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