The future of work is here: Industry lines are blurring in the 21st century

While technological developments make life easier and more efficient, they often contribute to the demise of industries that rely on the old ways of life.

Perhaps the most dangerous belief in business is that “this is the way we have always done it and it works” and “best practices can simply be cookie cutter solutions for us.” If we can only learn how someone else did it, we will be successful as well. Can we really use someone else’s best practices in our environment? Don’t we need to adapt them to our own environment or business?

The record industry was one of the biggest industries around. At its height, there were six record labels and it was by far a “perfect” industry. The music recording industry was built on a brick-and-mortar distribution model. One of the six record labels signed an artist, produced and published an album, and the vinyl was off to the store for purchase by the fans. But it went away in just 7 years. What was perfect was replaced with doing what’s impossible: the digital download. History has taught us that whatever industry we are in, an impossible edge can obliterate it.

The same is true when it comes to publishing. Book industry sales are declining, despite the explosion in the number of books published. No other industry has as many new product introductions as books. When you think about it so much changes so quickly. Tripadvisor (launched in 2000), Wikipedia (2001), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005) Twitter (2009) and Instagram (2010) are household words. You may not use them but you know they exist.

The first smartphone was released in 2001 and the iPhone, Android phone and Kindle are fairly new communication technologies when you think about how long they have been around but they are ingrained in every aspect of our lives today. The one thing we know about change is that it is constant and we will continue to see transformation and disruption ahead.

To respond to these changes, we need to accept the new digital world where experiences replace traditional publicity in moving the needle. Connecting with people becomes increasingly key in a crowded market, where brands need to stand out. In the 20th century world of scarcity, we need to compete to win. We needed to take market share away from our competitors and our strategies were built around that model for growth. In the 21st century world of abundance, we have opportunities to create new markets like Netflix did with its award winning series like House of Cards, which left Blockbuster literally in the dust. If management falls in love with their model and continues to build strategies around scarcity, it will miss the opportunities on the edge. And technology is connecting people to people in amazing new ways that create brand new places to innovate and find growth.

If more leaders saw technology as an enabler of their business purpose, we would not need organizational change management programs as the sponsors would simply be business owners who are integrating new tools and new ways of working into the day-to-day business. That is what happens when a leadership team has an abundance mindset: they create and find growth in new ways. It could be partnering with unusual suspects or it could be implementing new platforms that connect customers in thriving communities. It’s all possible today.

Ask the disruption questions

Ask yourself:

  • Are you in a dying industry?
  • Can you create a new edge?
  • Will your industry exist in five-10 years?
  • Who will disrupt you or what can you disrupt?
  • How will you integrate technology to help you drive your business?

And if you are looking for a new job, you need to think about how people spread your value to hiring managers as resumes are a dying breed as well (it is estimated that 70-80 per cent of job vacancies never get posted).

Ayelet Baron
Ayelet Baron
Ayelet combines lessons learned from more than a decade as a high-tech industry executive with her roots as a researcher, change catalyst and strategic communicator. This rare blend of expertise enables her to assess and advise individuals and organizations that seek to embrace new ways of working. She helps leaders transform and build healthy and resilient organizations. She is also a sought after keynote speaker on collaboration, leadership and building 21st century organizations. Her award winning business book, Our Journey to Corporate Sanity, helps you navigate a new path for business as a conscious 21st century leader.

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