The 4th Industrial Revolution – Are You Ready?

Posted by Nina Gullerud on April 25, 2016

The 4th Industrial Revolution – Are You Ready?

“Change is the only constant,” is a favorite saying in the IT industry I herald from, and it is true today more than ever before. 

The rapid changes in technology are causing new business models to emerge that are overturning incumbent players in the marketplace nearly overnight. Multiple news reports have focused on fear-based stories of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence replacing many of our jobs, but I believe that the possibilities are greater than the threats if we choose to act as masters of our own destiny. 

Technology is by itself neutral, while we are responsible for how it is being used. As Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, put it: “In the end, it all comes down to people and values. We need to shape a future that works for all of us by putting people first and empowering them.”

According to the World Economic Forum’s definition, the 4th Industrial revolution builds on the 3rd, which took place in the second half of the previous century. We have all experienced business and societal changes caused by innovation in IT, electronics and automation on some level. I grew up during the 3rd Industrial Revolution and when I went to the US to study in 1988, I wrote hand-written letters home to my parents in Norway. During the recent celebration of my aunt’s 80th birthday, we had some of her grand- and great grandchildren attend the family celebration via Skype from Japan. Just think about what amazing changes have taken place in the last few decades, and imagine this changing even more exponentially in the next ten or twenty years. The 4th industrial revolution involves a massive increase in the speed of innovation, as well as a merging of different technology domains that can completely change the way we work, live, and relate to each other.

Whether you are a business leader, consultant or individual contributor, it is time to learn more about what the 4th Industrial Revolution will mean to you and your business or job. Ask yourself: what would I do differently, if I was designing my career or my company today? Which technology solutions are available for me to more efficiently manage my business and service delivery? The good news, confirmed by Doctors Osborne and Frey of Oxford University, is that although many jobs are at risk in the face of computerisation, there will always be a need for the so-called tacit human knowledge, which includes our social intelligence, creative abilities, as well as our ability to use our perception and analysis to navigate in changing environments. Human knowledge is of course central to the professional services industry, which means we need to use this evolution to our advantage and not feel it as a threat.

People will still want to do business with people, and technology should be applied where it can help us avoid tedious and dangerous tasks, or where it can do a better job than we can. If we use our unique human skills in collaboration with technological innovation, new business models will emerge that will free up human capacity to do what we do best – create solutions to problems and come up with new innovations that add value to our lives, our businesses and society.

In the next blog post in this series, I will cover some strategy and change management activities that can be useful in approaching the technological solutions that the 4th Industrial Revolution makes available to us.

Guest blogger Nina Gullerud has over 20 years of experience in strategy, business development and management in the IT industry. With a keen interest in the intersection of technology and business strategy, Nina is exploring what technological advancement means for management and self-management in a time where the only constant is change. While the news is flooded with gloomy prophecies about robots taking our jobs, this blog series focuses on how we can embrace the opportunities the 4th industrial revolution and its technological innovations can provide to service-based businesses - and what it requires of us.