New technologies are disrupting markets and jobs at breakneck speed, but the author of new book ‘Disruptive Technologies: Understand, Evaluate, Respond’ says we can all benefit – if we’re smart
RISING Why should we see new and disruptive tech as an opportunity rather than a threat to jobs?
PAUL ARMSTRONG, AUTHOR ‘I see technology in a positive light – it certainly has the potential to be misused and scary but technology has always been a great enabler for new and exciting opportunities for humanity. While technologies like robotics and artificial intelligence have a lot of bad press recently for job loss, I really view this as a natural progression and a chance to up or re-skill individuals. New technologies like Blockchain offer countries and businesses new foundations to build on, in order to solve big issues facing humanity like dwindling trust, ownership and the redistribution of wealth.’
‘If you see it coming, can you truly say disruption happened or did you just ignore it?’
RISING What should we be looking out for – how do we spot the signs of incoming disruption?
PA ‘When speaking about disruption I usually talk about two things: speed and totality. Speed-wise, disruption rarely happens (if it ever does) if things are expected. Autonomous cars will change a lot of things and businesses but they aren’t a disruptive technology because they have been expected for some time – competitors have had time to get used to the idea and come up with responses.’
‘The second point is key, if you see it coming, can you truly say disruption happened or did you just ignore it? Totality is more about the outcome of events. Is the result different enough from what was before and does it add significant value; is it different enough? Look for competitors that are investing in new technology, speaking at unusual events and look for acquisitions in unexpected areas. New technologies, new ways of working and a whole new labour force are coming – each requires different responses and strategies.’
RISING If it’s an opportunity, do we have to totally rethink our careers, or can we adapt without starting all over again?
PA ‘We can adapt – we've always adapted and while we are heading into a period that is different to any other in history because of the level and pervasiveness of the technologies involved, most agree that what comes after the disruption will be better for humanity as a whole. Whether that means more fulfilling jobs, higher skills or more free time.’
RISING Why did you write your new book – what’s the main message?
PA ‘I wrote the book for a few reasons but the main one was to correct a lot of bad information and feeling out there about disruption. Usually the term is misused or is considered a dirty word and that's really unfortunate because with the right focus disruption can be utilised instead of simply happening to people and businesses. The main message is that you need a clear roadmap to assess, respond to and problem-solve when it comes to technology. The book includes a framework, TBD, I use with clients that centres around this a core idea of simplicity and brutal honesty. TBD stands for technology, Behaviour and Data. The book explores each and how they are interconnected, in order to help you make decisions.’
RISING How has your own work (as a consultant to startups and big corporations such as Sony) been disrupted by technology?
PA ‘In a word: data. Knowledge workers (consultants, advisors) are all seeing companies use their own (or others’) data more effectively and in more creative ways. Thanks to the cloud, data capture methods and social networks, companies have more data than ever but it still takes a human to really pull everything together and create something that is understandable, relatable and implementable, and not just the most efficient method or best answer.’
‘I think most people should do more to future-proof their careers’
RISING Should we be trying to future-proof our own careers?
PA ‘Every business and industry is different but on the whole I think an open relationship to change and disruption is healthy. It's when people get inflexible that issues arise personally and professionally. Now more than ever people need to embrace change and new technologies in order to explore them, understand them and respond to them. Personally, I think most people should do more to future-proof their careers in order to maximise options – don't wait to go on a course – push for it or pay for it yourself!’
RISING What’s the correct response to sudden, career-altering disruption, given that it’s hard to predict?
PA ‘Again, flexibility is key and understanding that nothing stays the same forever is paramount to maintaining a good headspace around issues. My new book focuses on and discusses getting better at forecasting and seeing multiple options, and this is a good strategy to adopt to continually evaluate your options and take the right next steps. Let’s say you are in the hotel industry, you aren’t going to simply throw your hands up and leave the keys on the front desk because of Airbnb, but you are going to have to decide what your world looks like in 3-5 years because of them. Treat everything you find out as more data to make a decision with, rather than an issue you've got to overcome. Sometimes you can sidestep, other times you need to start climbing again.’
RISING What’s the hardest thing about thinking through disruption?
PA ‘This was a core feature for me – people really underestimate how much time it takes to think in different ways about things that do not have simple or straightforward answers. In order to claw back the time needed – because most people won't get the time given to them – I spoke with several smart people (including bestselling authors, CEOs and efficiency experts) about time-saving and time-creating strategies.’
‘Give yourself time to think more – it may seem like a luxury or impossible but everything is a choice’
RISING Can you give us your top tip on time saving from those experts?
PA ‘One exercise that works well for me – because I use a fair bit of technology – was to get a paper diary or online calendar for a day and fill out what you do for a week (ideally two or more). Stick to it and be ruthless, document everything: interruptions, meetings, when you ate, when you were on the bus or in the car, when you weren't doing anything – everything gets recorded.’
‘Every week, look at the diary and see if you spot any patterns. Are you pounced on when you enter the building? Are you in meetings you don't need to be? Do you get a lot of last minute requests? Is 4pm the only time you never have meetings? Chances are you'll be like most people and identify that you misspend your time. Once you identify and understand where you are losing time, you can take steps to guard against that, and in most cases increase it and spend it more wisely moving forward. You owe it to yourself to give yourself time to think more – it may seem like a luxury or impossible but everything is a choice, so choose to take the time and invest in yourself.’
WHAT NEXT? Got an idea about how to put new and disruptive tech to use, but are facing resistance to change? Instead of pitching an all or nothing solution, Paul Armstrong recommends using the Monkey’s Paw: ‘You need to create two separate ‘sales’ or decisions. The first sale will be a pilot programme or step, and then the second sale is the rest of the programme based on the success of the initial one. Completing the initial project will give the decision maker greater confidence and transform the next ask you may have.’
Paul Armstrong’s book Disruptive Technologies: Understand, Evaluate, Respond is available on Amazon
Follow the writer @mattfitnessray