It’s been more than a half-century since the advent of three legendary Digital Age markers: the printed circuit board, the first IBM mainframe, and Moore’s Law. So, by now it would be reasonable to presume that we analog humans would have our digital adoption corn flakes together.
Alas, 21st-century reality doesn’t bear out that reasonable assumption, as the dynamism of digital leverage has matched almost every sweet opportunity with a distasteful disruption, creating a lot of anxiety in the process.
Indeed, when the Fraternal Twins of Innovation – Disruption and Opportunity – set up shop in the Digital Age, they imposed transformation on every market participant. And since Disruption is the Twin that typically shows up first, those adjustments were likely brutal until Opportunity arrived, often fashionably late. Of course, we all know stories where the rude cousin of the Twins, Irrelevance, wrote too many tragic, final chapters.
Thankfully, on the Opportunity side of the Twins’ balance sheet is a list of unprecedented sweetness: awesome communication options; digital leverage at lightspeed; amassed information about everything from local to global to galactic, and all literally at our fingertips. And entrepreneurs benefited further from lower barriers to entry and competitive advantage from the incrementalization of digital leverage at prices we can afford. But the Twins only convert to sugar on the bottom line when we transform them into something customers will pay for today and tomorrow. There’s still much consternation over yesterday’s analog model being tomorrow’s digital fish wrapper.
Today, when I talk with business audiences about their level of anxiety from the urgency created by 21st-century innovation – these are all technology high-adopters, mind you – most admit to still being anxious about the awesome implications of the Digital Twins. Even balanced against the amazing benefits, humans continue to be unsettled about the unabating digital disturbances coming at them from all quadrants.
But, it must now be revealed that what’s causing all this anxiety isn’t technology: The Internet is just a new way to harness fire, and a computer is merely a fancy wheel. In truth, change itself has been an abiding part of the human experience since Adam and Eve. What’s really causing all this unsettledness, intimidation and anxiety is what I call the Sudden Increased Velocity of Change. No previous generation has ever experienced this level of innovation compression, and it’s doubtful any future generation’s innovation ramp will be as steep as ours has been.
As witnesses to the most unprecedented and dramatic compression of time between innovation models in history, it’s time to cut ourselves some slack. Don’t forget: Analog humans spent 10,000 years going from mammoth to mainframe, but digital transformation has taken us from mainframe to mobile in barely more than a generation. This pace already takes our breath away and we’ve hardly begun to learn about crypto-technology, let alone adopt it. Guess which Twin will show up first with a Blockchain in its hand?
Intel co-founder, Gordon Moore, prognosticated in 1965 that the capacity of a printed circuit board would double about every 18 months. That’s the now-legendary Moore’s Law mentioned earlier. Today, the proof in Mr. Moore’s pudding includes the Xilinx FPGA Microprocessor, sporting over 50 billion circuit capacity in little more than a square inch. If someone had projected Moore’s math from 1965 to today, it would’ve been possible to approximate what the Twins would have wrought, but no one would have believed it. And even today, the Digital River Denial still allows Disruption to linger too long before discovering Opportunity, which is how Irrelevance makes its living.
The careers of at least a billion Earthlings still working today have spanned carbon paper to cryptocurrency, slide rule to super-computer, Yellow Pages to yelling at Alexa. Unfortunately, we weren’t afforded the luxury of dealing with change one step at a time. On account of the Sudden Increased Velocity of Change, our generation has had to take two or more digital steps at once – quantum leaps – in order to maintain a successful Digital Age relationship with the Twins. Consequently, future generations studying our time in the digital gauntlet with awe, will surely stand on our shoulders and salute, “All hail! The Quantum Leap Generation.”
Realities of the Digital Age crucible will continue to require survivors to deal effectively with the compression of change regardless of which Twin, Disruption or Opportunity, shows up first. But we also deserve to cut ourselves some slack when we feel unsettled, intimidated and/or anxious about whether there’s more disruption than opportunity. Because no previous generation has ever had to deal with the Twins the way we have – with quantum leaps.
Write this on a rock … Cut yourself some slack. You’re a member of the soon-to-be-legendary Quantum Leap Generation.