Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform our world

Disruptive technologies: Advances that will transform our world

Emerging technologies have the potential to truly reshape the world in which we live and work. Leaders in business must not only know what’s on the horizon but also start preparing for its impact.

The relentless parade of new technologies is unfolding on many fronts. Not every emerging technology will alter the business or social landscape—but some truly do have the potential to disrupt the status quo, alter the way people live and work, and rearrange value pools. It is therefore critical that business leaders understand which technologies will matter to them and prepare accordingly.

Examples of some disruptive technologies include:

Advanced robotics- that is, increasingly capable robots or robotic tools, with enhanced “senses,” dexterity, and intelligence-can take on tasks once thought too delicate or uneconomical to automate. These technologies can also generate significant societal benefits.
Energy-storage devices or physical systems store energy for later use. These technologies, such as lithium-ion batteries and fuel cells, already power electric and hybrid vehicles, along with billions of portable consumer electronics. Advancing energy-storage technology could make electric vehicles cost competitive, bring electricity to remote areas of developing countries, and improve the efficiency of the utility grid.

3-D Printing is additive- manufacturing techniques that create objects by printing successive layers of material using digital models. This can offer the consumer the opportunity to save between 35 and 60% in costs per printed produce, whilst enabling high levels of customisation

The potential benefits of all of the technologies on the horizon are tremendous—but so are the challenges of preparing for their impact. If business and government leaders wait until these technologies are exerting their full influence on the economy, it will be too late to capture the benefits or react to the consequences. While the appropriate responses will vary by stakeholder and technology, certain guiding principles can help businesses and governments as they plan for the effects of disruptive technologies.

• Business leaders should keep their organisational strategies updated in the face of continually evolving technologies, ensure that their organisations continue to look ahead, and use technologies to improve internal performance.
• Disruptive technologies can change the game for businesses, creating entirely new products and services, as well as shifting pools of value between producers or from producers to consumers. Organisations will need to use business-model innovations to capture some of that value.
• Leaders need to plan for a range of scenarios, abandoning assumptions about where competition and risk could come from, and not be afraid to look beyond long-established models. Organisations will also need to keep their employees’ skills up-to-date and balance the potential benefits of emerging technologies with the risks they sometimes pose.

Are you keeping abrest of disruptive technologies that can affect your business?

Adapted from reasearch by James Manyika and Richard Dobbs, McKinsey Global Institute

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