Technology is Changing Us

We Must Be Much Smarter about the Digital Transformation!

Erik P.M. Vermeulen is as Professor | Executive | Entrepreneur. He shares insights into how the digital world changes our lives, work, and play. 6 minutes read.

Digital technologies are changing the world. This became very clear to me again last week in my conversations with students, my talk at a digital transformation event, and the Mark Zuckerberg hearing in Europe.

Successive waves of innovation have created a new technological reality that, within a single generation, has transformed all aspects of our personal lives, businesses, and society.

A "New Digital Living"

The social effects of these technological developments are deep and profound.

I see this in my interactions with students. A tech-driven "Millennial" culture has reshaped our conceptions of freedom, responsibility, and happiness. The meaning of work, consumption, and leisure are similarly affected. No aspect of our lives has been untouched by these changes.

And yet, most of us have an ambivalent relationship with these new technologies. 

Think smartphones, networked technologies, social media, and "peer-to-peer" platforms.

In one sense, new technologies have been hugely empowering. They keep us connected and instantly informed. Technology augments our knowledge and experience. Within moments, we know events happening on the other side of the world.

We go to bed with our smartphones. We wake up with our smartphones. We even go to the toilet with our smartphones. We have allowed ourselves to be locked into a global network.

And — on occasion, at least — this becomes a problem. We can feel overwhelmed by the demands on our time. I sometimes intentionally "forget" my phone just to enjoy a quiet "disconnected" moment. This is an interlude from the endless expectations generated continuously in a globally networked world.

But, as soon as my phone and I are reconnected, I am immediately overwhelmed with more messages, news, and updates.

Technology has wholly embedded itself in our personal and professional relationships. Any sense of escape is short-lived and, ultimately, illusory.
A "New Digital Economy"

The business has been similarly affected by these new technologies.

An innovation economy framed around globally connected technologies has emerged in which powerful tech companies leverage these new technologies to develop business models that deliver a different consumer experience.

The disruptive effects of these companies are felt across all sectors of the economy. The result is that every company must re-invent itself as a tech company.

We all live and work in a fast-changing world structured around computer code, fluid identities, and rapidly evolving forms of capitalism.

These changes have created a massive problem for "old world" organizations.

Large "established" companies recognize the new economy's opportunities and Millennial culture but often struggle to adapt. I spoke at a "Digital Transformation" event last week. It was apparent that the shift to a technology-driven economy has proven enormously challenging for established companies.

In particular, all companies must now engage with social media and Big Data. Soon, they will all have to contend with robotics, automation, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things. It creates levels in what kind of companies you are: Beginners, Fashionistas, Conservatives, or Digital Transformed.

Too often, existing corporate culture and governance means that older, established firms need help to adjust to these new realities.

A "New Digital Society"

It is similarly complex for the government and other policymakers.

Politicians at all levels of government — local, national, and international —  struggle to adapt to digital challenges. Rapid technological change makes identifying and agreeing on an appropriate regulatory framework difficult. The result is that regulations often prohibit or otherwise limit the development of new technologies.

As disruptive technologies facilitate new forms of "doing business," debates around such regulatory constraints become more pressing. The recent Facebook hearings clearly show this. The digital "knowledge gap" between politicians and business leaders became painfully apparent in the United States.

Our political "leaders" are blatantly ill-equipped to deal with the "new world" that is being created.

European politicians seemed slightly better prepared and had arguably better questions, but the result was the same. Critical issues were not addressed, and many politicians cared more about grabbing a "selfie" with global celebrity Marc Zuckerberg than protecting consumers and other public interests.

So, What is the Answer to the Challenges of a Digital Age?

All of us are confronted with the challenge of navigating the complex and fast-changing tech-driven world that is emerging around us.

As individuals, we need to build a relationship with technology that allows us to find greater personal freedom and happiness.

As a business, we need to operate with a new set of principles and assumptions to be competitive in the digital age.

As a society, we need to ensure that technology can deliver a more prosperous and inclusive global economy.

And this is challenging. To do this, we need more help from our "leaders."

We need our politicians to fundamentally re-think how the new world impacts "old" regulatory concepts, such as contracts, ownership, privacy, or IP rights. Mandatory regulations that prohibit or otherwise seek to control new technologies and tech companies will not provide the answer.

We need more cooperation and better dialogue between politician regulators and the tech companies creating our collective future. Prohibition and control result in adversarial relationships that will ultimately fail us all.

Instead, politicians must engage in more "human-centered" design thinking and co-creation. This involves meaningful dialogue and partnership with all stakeholders, especially the end-users and producers of these technologies.

"Consumer protection by design" will be the future.

Intelligent and dynamic protection embedded in the technology will replace traditional laws and compliance. The design of these new embedded technologies must incorporate multiple perspectives to ensure that technology creates a better world.

The business leaders of today's most successful companies get it. They are spending more on innovation, setting up innovation labs, and focusing on becoming agile.

There is still a lot of "theater" and window-dressing, but the "winners" have been able to transform their companies into "open and inclusive ecosystems." In particular, they have established more committed and fluid relationships with startups (often acquiring them but letting them retain their identity and culture). The core of this approach is recognizing the value of open and inclusive partnering.

At its best, the new economy is creating a technological reality built around human-centered design thinking and co-creation.

But we still need a lot more sharing and experimenting. We must have a better understanding of the digital challenges and opportunities. This is the only way to ensure that new technologies can fulfill their promise of delivering a better life and world.

Thank you for reading! Please click like or share below, or leave a comment.

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Technology is Changing Us Technology is Changing Us Reviewed by Hernani Del Giudice on June 24, 2018 Rating: 5


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