Oct 7, 2015

If you are reading this now: some random set of circumstances put you in a front row seat at an incredible show

If you are reading this now: some random set of circumstances put you in a front row seat at an incredible show

As you sit back and look around, you’ll notice that everything around you has been changing in front of your eyes, at an ever-increasing rate. However, this process has been going on for decades. As thinkers such as Gordon E. Moore and Ray Kurzweil have pointed out, the pace of exponential change can be deceiving, a doubling pattern that creates relatively small changes at first, but then, as it picks up momentum, spikes at the last moment, changing business and society in hitherto unimaginable ways.

This word “unimaginable,” often used to describe something that is truly new and spectacular, becomes quite literal in the case of exponentially advancing technologies. In the same way that those who experimented with the semiconducting properties of materials a century ago could never have imagined an iPad, today we have no idea how, for example, a recently created public Lego-like library of biological DNA building blocks will change how we can control, create and manipulate life.

The prime driver of this rate of change is the simple fact that as technology becomes digital, inexpensive and more powerful, it becomes accessible to everyone. Small startups and individuals now have access to technologies that in any previous time in history were limited to only the largest companies and governments of developed countries. Companies that fail to react to this transformation will, in two to three years time, find themselves operating in an environment that would be unrecognizable twenty to thirty years ago. And we’re already seeing the first signs of the change that is to come.

As noted in a recent report by Deloitte, the time it takes for a company to achieve a billion-dollar valuation has shrunk considerably: it took Shopify nine years; Slack took one. But as new businesses grow faster on one side of the funnel, existing business is declining on the other. One indicator is that the average company lifespan on the S&P500 index has dropped from fifty years in the 1960s to a mere fifteen years today. Some even suggest that ten years from now, forty percent of today’s Fortune 500 companies may no longer exist. Companies no longer compete only with their traditional players because now an entire entrepreneurial renaissance is disrupting their markets at an exponential rate. As the book “Exponential Organizations” put it so perfectly, companies that are working today on ways to improve their performance by ten percent will be toppled by startups that are working right now to be ten times better, cheaper and faster.

Turning these threats into opportunities demands a significant shift in executive thinking, from the all-consuming ‘business of today’ reality to plotting new ways to organize and pursue moonshot opportunities to go ten times faster and reinvent the way value is generated. Call it a shift from competitive advantage to disruptive advantage. As organizations seek ways to adapt to this fast-changing environment, they are trying to become more nimble and agile, incorporating an entrepreneurial mindset that exceeds their core competencies. Seeing these trials and errors across all industries, it has become readily apparent that there is an urgent need for new knowledge, tools and skill sets.

Since 2013, Deloitte has embarked on a global strategy to educate leaders on these exponential trends and help turn these forces into opportunities. As part of this strategy, we have signed a strategic alliance with Singularity University (SU), a unique Silicon Valley educational institute and business incubator that explores the disruptive influences of exponentially advancing technologies. The core faculty and alumni at SU are among the most prominent thinkers, authors and leaders in their respective fields.

This combination of Deloitte’s strategy and innovation consulting practices with SU’s ecosystem of the world’s top entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists and business leaders has created one of the most fast-changing, challenging and incredible opportunities for our clients, our employees and partners to take part in something really transformative that is happening right in front of our eyes and in our lifetime. I can’t wait to continue this journey.

Acknowledgments: This article is based on various thought-leadership reports and materials created by Deloitte LLP in partnership with Singularity University. The author is a manager for exponential technologies and ecosystem at Deloitte’s National Innovation Office in Canada. For more information on this subject, feel free to reach out to [email protected]

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