Digital: Exponentially Changing the Future


We live in a knowledge economy where power lies not in knowing, but in the capacity to know quickly.


When I ask C-Level executives “What single word best describes the evolving business landscape?”

There is a frequent response: ‘Exponential.’

Leaders at the top of almost every major enterprise are aware that we live in a world driven by exponential digital technology growth.

Ray Kurzweil, author, computer scientist, inventor and futurist, explains it best. The computer in his cell phone is one million times cheaper, one million times smaller and one thousand times more powerful than the building-sized computer he shared as an undergraduate at MIT.

We see it every day. Computer power is doubling every 18 months. Storage capacity is doubling every 12 months. And let’s not forget about bandwidth capacity. That’s doubling every nine months.

Board of directors are deliberating how to harmonize their resources, strengths and capacities of the organization to keep up with this exponential reality. I call this “exponential which-craft.”

Exponential which-craft is the strategy for strategy. That is, the art that binds resources with objectives. This includes how we decide on:

Value: How do we create it and sustain it?
Priorities: Where do we place added resources, even if it means taking resources from other areas?
Sequencing: Where do we start? What do we do next?
Success: What does it look like?

Every organization needs a strategy to inform decisions regarding these objectives. They need to decide where and how they will grow their business.

And the time for exponential which-craft is now. More than ever, enterprises cannot cling to product sets or services that are no longer relevant. Even if we choose to fight against it, we must—and we will—change.

The futurists at Singularity University, for example, believe we will experience 100 years of change every five years from this day forward.

And Dan Geer, CISO at In-Q-tel, cites as plausible a Compound Annual Growth Rate for new data of 57%. Essentially, 50,000 Libraries of Congress full of additional information will be created every 120 seconds.

But it’s not just about change. It’s also about speed. One of the most important things to understand in the world of exponential change is that power lies not in knowing, but in the capacity to know quickly.

Moving forward, never lose sight of Socratic Principle No. 2: Wisdom begins by knowing that you don’t know.

In fact, futurist Alvin Toffler is convinced “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.”

And while humans are better at change than almost any other species on our planet, many still have trouble with change.

Keep Your Great People
One of the most important lessons associated with exponential which-craft is to create an environment where your people can do their best work—and become more adept at change.

This is critical as future entrepreneurs can come from anywhere.

A recent series of global workshops on Enterprise Entrepreneurship, asked a simple question: Where do great entrepreneurs come from?”

The answer came by analyzing an incumbent’s disruptive competitors, including where their management teams came from. It turned out that many disruptive entrepreneurs had once worked for the incumbents.

This flies in the face of the widely believed master narrative that entrepreneurs emerge fully formed from the lush grounds of Silicon Valley.

The truth is in every employee there is the potential for entrepreneurship. Everyone has the entrepreneurial gene. In genomic-speak, the question is why and to what extent is that gene expressed.

Is the environment in your organization truly entrepreneur-friendly? If so, you will be best positioned to develop your own exponential which-craft and succeed in our growing knowledge economy.

Thornton May is a futurist, educator and author. His extensive experience researching and consulting on the role and behaviors of “C” level executives in creating value with information technology has won him an unquestioned place on the short list of serious thinkers on this topic.

Digital disruption is redefining industries. Learn more about the Digital Vortex.