Great change requires great vision that can glimpse into the future and offer a reason to leave the comfort of the past behind. This book is the roadmap with which we can begin to see, understand, and navigate that future.
During the past five decades, the world has undergone numerous transformations, from the Industrial Revolution, to electrification, to the Information Age we currently inhabit. Today we are at the threshold of yet another revolution, one that is likely to eclipse anything humanity has experienced to date—a revolution of hyperconnectivity where billions, and soon trillions, of devices are being woven into the fiber of every human experience, binding us together in unimagined ways and creating a culture of constant innovation. And yet, we are still in the earliest stages of global connectivity—stumbling our way through what it means to our organizations, our society, and ourselves as we find new ways to create value and meaning from this new normal.
As with any monumental shift in technology, the ultimate value cannot be guessed at or adequately predicted in advance of the behaviors that will evolve in its wake. These are behaviors that are deeply rooted in the past and which we are always reluctant to modify until we can no longer withstand the pain of the present or are drawn forward by the overwhelming value of the future.
Imagine that I’ve somehow rolled the clock back to the dawn of computing in the early 1960s and I told you that by 2020 there would be close to 100 billion connected computing devices. What would you have thought at that point in time? Most likely that I was being absurd! How could we possibly use that many devices? Who would build them? How could they be affordable? Why would we even need a small fraction of that many devices? When Motorola introduced the first cell phone, which was affectionately called “the brick,” pundits projected fewer than ten million cell phones by the turn of the century. Yet, today, there are more than 7 billion cell phones, of which 2 billion are smart phones. As the economist Paul Romer has said, “… every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new … ideas … possibilities do not merely add up; they multiply.”
It is this multiplication effect that is most elusive in projecting the trajectory of the future. New technology creates new behaviors, which create new sources of economic value. That value, in turn, creates greater demand for new technology. And the accelerator that causes this cycle to turn from a spark into a blaze is not the connections, or the devices, or the networks, but rather the fundamental change in how we create value.
That is the essence of this book; it looks well beyond the simple concept of connectivity to delve into the specific ways in which new value is being created and how that will alter the most basic economics of how we live, work, and play. It offers a concrete understanding of how the Internet of Things is transforming business models by taking the quantum leap from companies that make promises about products, to companies that promise outcomes to a collaborative and interconnected world in which success hinges on how well you can integrate your organization as part of a complex ecosystem that will align itself around outcomes and innovation.
That may sound trivial, but it is likely to have even greater economic consequences than the shift from the craftsmen and artisans of the 16th and 17th centuries, to the Industrial Revolution and mass production of the 19th and 20th centuries; call it mass innovation on a scale that we’ve never thought possible.
In this hyperconnected world, nothing is too ambitious. The greatest problems that we face, not only as organizations but as a civilization, will be far less daunting because of the ability to deliver outcomes that marshal vast global networks of talent, resources, and data. For the first time in history, we will soon be able to understand how people, machines, and systems behave on a global scale, across all boundaries, known and unknown.
Farfetched? No more so than any other great change has been. Our limitations in imagining the future are only those that we impose on our imagination. This book will change what you can imagine, and in doing so it will change how you chart your own course into the future.
Chairman, Delphi Group