If business leaders are to avoid a being swept away by today’s digital tsunami, they need to lead the company transformation, says Silvia Leal.

It’s a familiar refrain. A digital tidal wave threatens to change our industry, destroy our jobs and wipe out our company. The Internet has already revolutionized business as we know it; now we face surge after powerful surge of technological change that may last decades. Business leaders must learn how to ride these waves or risk oblivion.

Warnings of profound change can no longer go unheeded. Consider the following:

  • An estimated 47% of jobs will disappear over the next decade, while 90% of surviving jobs will have to adapt to new technologies.
  • Four out of ten companies will be out of business in the next five years. Yet some 45% of companies seem unconcerned according to surveys.
  • The growth prospects of new technologies is spectacular. Augmented reality, for example, is expected to be a $150 billion business by end-2020, a 30-fold increase in just four years.

Fortunately, there’s still time to act, but only if companies tackle the issues head on. They might start with the following:

Be curious about new technology and what might work for you. You don’t have to be a technical expert, but you do have to know what’s out there and how to make it work for you. For example, how might those in the healthcare distribution respond to Dronesforgood, the ingenious idea of a Belgian student with a 3D printer who manufactured an ‘ambulance drone’ capable of transporting 4 kg of medical supplies at high speed? Or BioBots, another student startup which created a desktop 3D bioprinter costing $10,000—20 times cheaper than the competition—and even comes with a cartilage ink kit.

Get the right training as soon as possible. Just as those working in technical fields must master relevant technological innovations, business leaders must also understand how technological developments such as big data, artificial intelligence, and blockchain, will transform their business models.

Consider ideas from unexpected places.  Be ready to work with unusual partners and this requires executives to fully embrace diversity and teamwork. For example, in a precursor to the Internet of Things, Mark D. Weiser in The Computer for the 21st Century predicted that computers would eventually become so integrated in the objects around us that they would come to be invisible. He in turn had been inspired by Ubik, a 1969 novel by Philip K. Dick that presaged the development of organ printing. The technology envisaged has gone far beyond science fiction; it now employs 300,000 professionals worldwide and is forecast to rise fifteen-fold by 2020.

All professionals have a role to play in the digital revolution—they simply have to master it and understand how it might impact a company’s development.

Silvia Leal is Director of the ICT Programs at IE Business School as well as Technology and Information Systems Professor.

This article was written for FT|IE Corporate Learning Alliance.
© 2017 Corporate Learning Alliance