But What If You Could? — How Industrial Revolution is Building An Accelerated Pace of Innovation

Business leaders and senior executives need to understand the changing environment, 1) because it’s changing so rapidly, and 2) because it will challenge all assumptions for how they operate now and in the future. (Part 1 of a 3-part series.)

Do you remember the Jetsons? I remember watching the cartoon and being fascinated by how they lived: 1) it was in space, 2) they had a robot for a maid, and 3) George’s car, if we can call it that. Floating through the air at break-neck speeds, George’s commute seemed to take only seconds. Nothing like my daily trek into San Francisco on Bart. I wouldn’t have dreamed that it would one day be reality—that any of it would be a reality. Yet, here we are talking about life in space, using robots in our everyday lives (assembly lines, AI, ML), and yes, high-speed tube travel.

Hyperloop, a new(er) transport technology from the brain of Elon Musk first hitting the scene in 2013, is built on the promise of efficiency and speed. A prototype, released in Japan recently, puts a person in a pod, and then using a high-powered blast of air catapults them through a tube to their destination. (Now we know what it felt like in those old bank teller tubes.)

Now think bigger. Sitting in the desert in Las Vegas is a tube one third of a mile long and about eleven feet in diameter. DevLoop, as Hyperloop One calls it, has completed some two hundred test runs, and the company already has plans to launch a commercial system in 2021.

Not only will it solve congestion and environmental issues, but it will revolutionize the transportation industry and commercial business at large. The pace of business in general will become exponentially faster and more global, meaning the processes and back-office operations that have been digitized will need to be further streamlined, and those that haven’t been, well, good luck.

In areas such as contract management where many companies are still using antiquated or fragmented systems, it will be impossible to keep up with the pace of contracts that will need to be created, negotiated, signed, and managed. These methods will not just be hurdles, they will cripple.

And Hyperloop is just one technology in one industry.

Big data, robotics, blockchain, and the Cloud are several more, and still only a few of the ways we are charging toward a world that previously was only imagined in cartoons and sci-fi films.

Everything is changing. The lines between natural and artificial are being blurred. Discovery and curiosity have driven us to new heights, each more sophisticated than the next. The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam to power mechanical production. The Second—electric power to fuel mass production. The Third—electronics and information technology to automate production. Each innovation was a building block to the IoT, the Cloud, and AI, all paving the way for where we are today.

The World Economic Forum last year said the Fourth Industrial Revolution was, “a technological revolution that will fundamentally change the way we live, work, and relate to one another.” I don’t know about you, but I can talk to my house to reorder groceries, vitamins, and anything else Amazon carries. I can find out what’s happening anywhere in the world in seconds. Biotechnology and nanotechnology are changing the way I receive healthcare with medications engineered specifically for me and my DNA. My self-driving car can get me where I need to go with minimal effort. I may not have all of those things now, but I could.

The speed and breadth at which we are experiencing these types of breakthroughs in technology is unprecedented, and as the world around us changes its assured new models of economics will continue to emerge and shift to fit. The acceleration of innovation and velocity of disruption, both nearly impossible to anticipate and often hard to comprehend, will have major impacts on businesses, and in four main areas—customer expectations (internal and external), product enhancement, collaborative innovation, and organization (from processes to the organization of the company itself).

How long do you think it will take for time travel?