A look back in time…
In 1992 I went to the Expo in Sevilla. I was 15 then, but I have a very clear memory of the time. It was roasting hot, and after 5 tiring days, I can assure you I visited all the pavilions making up that incredible Universal Exhibition. With 158 participants from all over the world, the latest technical and technological advances of the time were on display.
But I don’t remember hearing the word “internet” in any of them. It seems rather incredible, right? The greatest technological innovation of recent decades, which was to shift the social and economic paradigm, the way in which we communicate with each other, do business, relate to each other… was not even mentioned in any of the pavilions of the 1992 Expo.
An innovation can appear at any time, in any place, and change everything in a very short space of time.
The sixth wave is coming
The Internet as we know it was born in 1991 with the advent of the World Wide Web (www). That’s almost yesterday, but today we have an increasing number of devices, new and different ways of communicating and connecting with each other, myriad applications which keep on growing, and new business models, all based on the web.
Obviously, it’s not the first time something like this has happened. Economic development in modern history has often been driven by major disruptive inventions which very quickly did away with existing practices, setting the pace of progress within society.
In 1953, Russian economist Nikolái Kondrátieff proposed the theory that global development happens in “long-term cycles” of around 50 years, in which periods of economic growth are followed by periods of depression, and that these cycles can be represented as a sinusoidal curve, now called “Kondratieff waves”.
Another economist, Joseph Schumpeter, saw a coincidence between the periods of greatest economic growth and those of greatest technological development, and vice versa. In other words, a technological wave is followed by a replica in the field of business based on that new technology. For example, following the emergence of the internet, all businesses have adapted to the web in one way or another.
According to yet another economist, Carlota Pérez, technological revolutions happen in cyclical waves and bring about a social and economic “paradigm shift”. Each wave has a trigger or “big-bang” which leads to its emergence and development, where the new paradigm overtakes the old, which ends up disappearing. She identifies five waves to date. Coincidentally, Carlota Pérez’s fifth wave (the Age of Information and Telecommunications), which we are living in at present, began in 1971 with the first Intel processor, Intel being the company owned by Gordon Moore, he of the famous Moore’s Law which states that the current model of technological, and therefore economic, growth will soon stop being valid. In other words, the current technological wave could soon end, if a new “big-bang” comes along to again break with the mould.
In 2009, Slovak Daniel Smihula defined five waves, each of which is characterised by a “technological revolution”. He believed that each wave is shorter than the previous one, due to the increasing speed with which scientific progress and innovations occur. The fifth wave, the Wave of the Information and Telecommunications Revolution, would be now practically finished, and we would be witnessing the emergence of a new wave, or a new revolution, number six, which will be shorter than any of the preceding ones.
Ride the wave. Start the revolution.
The above economic theories agree on the fact that something big is already happening or is about to happen, namely the start of a sixth technological wave, a new revolution, a new age. This new wave will begin with extraordinary disruption, a trigger which will once again create a paradigm shift… and it will happen earlier than you expect. Or perhaps that big-bang has already happened, but we’re not yet aware that it has, as was the case in the Seville Expo in 1992. Just think, what if it has already happened and we haven’t prepared ourselves?
Given that innovations happen ever more rapidly, and that the business wave draws ever closer to the technological wave – so much so that they are now almost simultaneous –, only flexible companies, those which have a true culture of innovation amongst their staff and are quick to adapt to new technologies as they emerge and to innovate continuously, will be able to survive. It’s a bit like Darwin’s Theory of Evolution for companies: either innovate and adapt, or disappear.
In this new paradigm that is to come, only the most innovative companies will be able to ride the new wave which will once again revolutionise the way we do business and be successful.
Are you ready to surf?