Never before, in the history of the world, have culture or communication moved faster than they do today. A lot of this is driven by technology, which allows us to do more than ever before. After all, everyone with an Internet connection has a platform to share whatever they want with the rest of the world.
But technology is not the point.
Technology is evolving so quickly that the real challenge is in how we keep up. Then, beyond this, is how we can encourage our organisations to take full advantage of the opportunities which come from technology.
In short, it is less a technology challenge that we’re facing, it’s more of a human/psychology challenge.
A bit of history...
If you look back 130 years ago, factories were starting to electrify their processes. Interestingly, however, it took over 30 years before these factories saw any increase in productivity.
Why did this happen? The problem was they replaced steam engines with electric motors. But they failed to redesign the factories themselves, to take full advantage of electricity.
As a result, it fell to the next generation to see the situation with fresh eyes; to invent the new processes needed to take advantage of electricity in factories.
Modern businesses can’t afford to take 30 years before making changes - our customers now expect more from us.
Though we’re sometimes still faced with remnants of the industrial age in modern business, we cannot afford to spend 30 years working out how to make new technology work for us. If we do, our competition will quite simply outstrip us.
How does information travel through the organisation?
For the most part, organisations are built on hierarchical structures. In the industrial age, this approach meant that thousands of people could be coordinated to make thousands of products, in the most efficient ways possible.
But the thing with hierarchy is that information typically passes from the top to the bottom (rarely the other way around). And there is a real problem with this – information gets stuck in the hierarchical structure. When we talk about having silos in our companies, we’re really talking about blocked information.
We can’t have blocked information if we need to react to the changes happening around us. We can’t have block information if we’re going to make changes to our organisations faster than 30 years.
New technology is really leveling the land. We’ve got a situation now where big companies are trying to act small and nimble – though their structures probably mean this will be a struggle for them. And we have small companies who are suddenly able to compete with the big guys because we’re all using the same technology.
So what is the answer? Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”