As rapidly as new technology develops, consumers are quick to keep pace: In recent decades, consumers have escalated the speed at which they have adopted new innovations that promise to make their lives easier, more efficient, or simply more entertaining. The Accenture Technology Vision 2019 report found that when mobile phones were first introduced, they took 12 years to reach 50 million users. The internet took seven years to reach the same point, Facebook took four years, and WeChat took one year. Pokémon GO, the augmented-reality gaming app, reached 50 million users in just 19 days.
This speed of adoption has placed consumers in the driver’s seat. They are becoming more knowledgeable about technology and are now seeing it as a valuable extension of their everyday lives. As a result, they are more particular about what they want. To thrive, businesses must find ways to adapt and anticipate ways to deliver technology that becomes a critical part of people’s experiences – or lose out to competitors that do.
Ready for the next Industrial Revolution?
Technology is woven into organisations of all sizes and industries nowadays – and it will become even more deeply ingrained. The World Economic Forum has said we are experiencing a fourth Industrial Revolution – one in which “scientific and technological breakthroughs are disrupting industries, blurring geographical boundaries, challenging existing regulatory frameworks, and even redefining what it means to be human.” Successful innovation is not necessarily about improving on what already exists but fulfilling a need that consumers didn’t realise they had.
To anticipate – or even develop – the innovations to come, consider your technology strategy in these ways:
- It’s not about (just) your business: As the World Economic Forum says, the fourth Industrial Revolution’s tech opportunities and challenges have impacts across industries and require cooperation among many stakeholders. Think beyond your company and industry.
- Focus on people: Research from Accenture Technology Vision 2020 says the next generation of tech leaders will redefine the intersection between technology and people. Understand consumers’ expectations and don’t use old playbooks to deliver the tech-driven products and services people need now.
- You won’t know the next step: The tech industry is evolving too fast for even the savviest of leaders to know the right approach at pivotal moments. Leading members of the Forbes Technology Council advise leaders to embrace not always having the right answer, to be flexible, and to be willing to ask dumb questions.
Anticipating needs, protecting against risks
From artificial intelligence to precision medicine, new technology is creating life-altering opportunities while posing new risks and ethical concerns. We are already observing this through breakthroughs like the 5G-assisted surgery conducted in China last year by a surgeon who used robotic arms and a computer monitor to successfully (and remotely) guide the surgical removal of a liver in an animal located 30 miles away. While such technology opens up vast opportunities for delivering medical care, what happens when a network disruption delays what the remote surgeon sees on a computer screen? If the patient suffers, is the network at fault? The developer of the robot making the incision? The surgeon operating from afar?
“The technologies emerging now have the potential to transform life as we have come to know it,” said Meg Ryan, technology underwriter for Travelers Europe. “New risks and ethical concerns are inevitable, so as insurers we aim to drill down on the potential risks companies face, ask tough questions, and help pave the way for smooth innovation.”