Disruptive technology is a fascinating topic. For most people, it’s an extremely exciting concept. Disruptive tech is constantly changing our lives, making everything more convenient, more affordable and more accessible. It has made the world a much smaller place, putting everything right at our fingertips, making some of the most complicated process possible with a swipe of a finger.
But on the flip-side, disruptive technology has a darker side. Similar to the effects of globalisation, disruptive technology has been an unstoppable force of change across the world, where consumers reap the benefits, but not everyone else. AI, machine learning, outsourcing and offshoring made possible by rapid technological advancement have meant jobs getting destroyed. Even high-powered jobs such as in Finance or Law, traditionally considered safe paths to go down, are being disrupted.
This is why everyone needs to become adaptable by upskilling as fast as possible.
Not convinced these changes will have an effect on you?
Chances are, it already has. Disruption is moving much faster than you think. For example, the iPhone is just about to hit its 10th year anniversary, but in these 10 years, iPhones, and the advent of consumer-grade smartphones, have changed our world irreversibly. Tesla, in just a handful of years, has started to roll out electric cars across the western world. Uber, in the form we know it, has only been around for 7 years, and yet has had governments scrambling to write legislature to control the sharing-economy it has popularised. There is also no shortage of protests too against the platform, which speaks to how fast and how impactful disruptive technology can be. Experts all agree too, that this rate of change is getting faster as well.
Here are more startling facts:
- According to a 2013 Oxford study, 47% percent of US jobs will be computerised within the next 10-20 years. These include everyone from low-skilled workers to white-collar professionals
- The lifespan of even the biggest companies is rapidly shrinking. In 1965, the average tenure of an S&P500 company was 33 years. By 1990, it was 20 years, and by 2026, it’s forecast to shrink to just 14 years - shorter than a child’s usual formal education period
- 50% of the S&P500 will be replaced over the next 10 years
- According to a 2015 study, a significant number of industries anticipate moderate or massive digital disruption in the next 12 months, including media, financial services, retail, insurance, education and more.
- According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers Australia, 44% of current Australian jobs are at a high risk of being affected by computerisation and technology over the next 20 years
But quoting these statistics will probably have me looking like the deranged guy on some street corner, holding a sign saying, ‘The End is Nigh!’. But it’s definitely not all doom-and-gloom. Jobs are not disappearing; they’re merely changing.
Founder of Atlassian, Mike Cannon-Brookes, states history has always shown technological change has always driven long-term economic growth. He notes “every major technology shift we have been through, has created more jobs that it has destroyed”, and the research seems to back his claim up. However, the problem is it’s not the people losing jobs who are going to be the ones who gain them.
So how do we avoid losing our jobs to the robots? Here are three things you need to keep in mind to not only be prepared for change, but to make the most out the abundant opportunities it presents.
Never Settle. Focus on Growth
You can’t talk about disruption without talking about startups. Startups have pushed the pace of innovation by creating new methods for planning, learning and doing. This pace is the direct result of a persistent, obsessive focus on growth. By constantly improving themselves, small teams made up by just a few people can go on to disrupt large, established companies that have been around for years. In fact, business theorist and former head of Shell Oil Company, Arie de Geus, states, ‘The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage’.
The same applies to us. By upskilling, and increasing your skillset, you become indispensable. It also gives you the flexibility to take on more roles, and adapt should change come. As author Cal Newport writes, ‘be so good they can’t ignore you’. Like companies, to win, we need to learn faster and move faster than anyone around us.
One idea that’s becoming important, is developing T-Shape skills. A term popularised by IDEO CEO, Tim Brown, a T-Shaped person is someone who has a deep understanding of a particular skill (denoted by the stem of the T), but also has a good understanding across a broad range of topics (denoted by the top of the T). Having a good understanding across a number of disciplines allows you to collaborate more effectively, allowing you to fit into any team with ease.
Don’t Wait to Feel Prepared
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to ‘wait until you’re ready’. One of my favourite quotes of all time is by author Lemony Snickets. “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives,” he writes.
The same applies to innovation and startups. Founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman, states, “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late”.
The truth is: you’ll never be ready. In order to grow, we have to shed the mentality of always having to put our best foot forward. Mistakes and failure are important, unavoidable parts of learning. Once you embrace this mentality of not needing to be perfect, especially in the beginning, you’ll feel more comfortable with putting yourself outside the comfort zone so you can grow.
Being slow is the biggest killer of innovation and learning. This is something we’ve seen time and time again as disruptive technology becomes more prevalent. Don’t make the mistake of waiting until you feel ready, and thinking time will wait - chances are it won’t, and you’ll be left behind.
Some of the biggest movers and shakers in history all have one thing in common - an unquenchable curiosity. Even Einstein was famously quoted as saying, ‘I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious’.
The reason why some startups are so successful is because they solve problems. Their founders have come across some kind of problem, and developed a solution for it. How they found these problems was through curiosity - they either didn’t accept the world as it was and decided to see how they could improve it, or they wanted to push themselves and technology to see how far they could go. Often, their curiosity allowed them to discover latent problems people experienced. For example, Facebook fundamentally fixes the issue of loneliness. We all desire to feel connected and to know where our friends are, even if it’s not a problem we’re usually aware of.
Curiosity allows us to question our surroundings, breaks us free from our thought limitations, and breeds the creativity that fuels our growth. It also helps us learn; without being curious, it’s hard to strike up the motivation to develop other skills and broaden our horizons.
Those are three things to keep in mind when adapting to today’s rapidly changing world, and why you need to make upskilling a priority. While there will be plenty of people trying to put the brakes on change, and complaining about the ‘good ol’ days’, the face is this change is inevitable. And while true, it’s not all shiny and glamorous, technology is bringing with it plenty of amazing and exciting opportunities. You just have to put yourself in a position to make the most out of it.
Written by: Josh Li
Digital Marketer at Institute of Code