Use Anticipation to Turn Disruption Into Opportunity

For the longest time, cable television was a miraculous technology that not everybody had in their homes, mostly because not everybody could afford it. Now, not everyone has it in their homes because YouTube TV, Sling TV, and other new, emerging technologies have disrupted the broadcast industry. So why didn’t Spectrum think of it first? Why did they become the disrupted and not the disruptor?

For the longest time, cable television was a miraculous technology that not everybody had in their homes, mostly because not everybody could afford it. Now, not everyone has it in their homes because YouTube TV, Sling TV, and other new, emerging technologies have disrupted the broadcast industry. So why didn’t Spectrum think of it first? Why did they become the disrupted and not the disruptor?

At some point, Spectrum and many others established a cash cow — a product or service that generates the majority of your income and profits — and got comfortable building a successful business around it while protecting and defending it. The fact that most of us are all busy, focused, and needing to meet or exceed our quarterly numbers keeps us from looking far enough ahead in our industries to see disruption.

In order to thrive in this time of exponential change, it is imperative to actively scan far outside of your industry looking for new ways to disrupt yourself first. When you discover a new technology or disruptive technology-driven trend, it is important to separate what I call the Hard Trends that will happen from the Soft Trends that might happen.

Anticipating disruption before it happens defines whether you’ll be the disrupter or the disrupted, using predictable Hard Trends to create the new cash cows that will disrupt your competitors and grow your future.

Another reason so many companies fail to see disruption is that the strategy most often invoked is to protect and defend the status quo. The amount of time and money organizations spend protecting and defending their current cash cows is astounding, as in the past, this was a valid strategy producing good results. However, digital disruption is different, as it tends to be game-changing with a low cost of entry.

A key to success for an established company that’s facing early-stage disruption is to adopt a strategy of embrace and extend. Spectrum continues to spend millions on bringing in customers for cable, Internet, and phone packages, mostly campaigning on the grounds that you can’t watch sports without cable. Unfortunately, Spectrum and other cable providers saw Internet TV like YouTube or Sling as a Soft Trend, much like Blockbuster viewed Netflix, that could be protected and defended against. It was definitely a Hard Trend. YouTube and Sling have conquered broadcast sports and are quickly leaving Spectrum in the dust.

The assumption that disruption won’t happen to you and your business is dangerous. Today, there are many industries still ripe for disruption. Taking the time to look outside of your industry at the Hard Trends shaping the future will amaze you. Understanding that digital disruption will happen to you if it has not already happened is important.

Ask yourself if you are looking inside and outside of your business. What are your blind spots? What fundamental assumptions about the “way things will always be” do you operate on? And what are you doing to become your own disruptor?

What is a hotel? What is a taxi? What is a bookstore? Companies like Marriott and Barnes & Noble, and even government agencies like New York’s Taxi and Limousine Commission, thought they knew the answers to those questions, and Spectrum and other cable providers are currently thinking the same way.

What do you think you know about your industry?

The connectivity of the Internet has changed so many industries. The emergence of Netflix, Hulu, and even Spotify for music has not only revolutionized the entertainment media industry and consumers’ consumption of said media, but it has also closed up some of the loopholes that fostered piracy of content. They are problem solvers, and now they are solving the problem of customers having to pay exorbitant fees to companies like Spectrum and DirecTV to merely cling to one favorite sports channel.

If these cable providers offered a cost-effective alternative with a price and framework similar to YouTube TV’s, they would be using this current disruption to their advantage. But is it too late for them? Are the days of cable as we know it over? Better yet, will Spectrum shrink exponentially until it’s merely an Internet provider? If so, it’d be foolish to ignore the possibility that a more affordable means of accessing the Internet is on the horizon as well.

Letting your ideas about consumers calcify and ceasing adapting or anticipating is when you start inadvertently digging your own grave, no matter how outlandish the disruption may seem. Believing that your business is immune to changing circumstances is the common thread between all disrupted organizations. The fundamental assumptions of so many industries have turned out to be wrong.

You need to become your own disruptor, your own best competition. Don’t get comfortable. Disrupt yourself, or someone else will.

Which technology innovations could be a game-changer for your industry? Learn how to tell with my latest book The Anticipatory Organization.

Will A.I. Disrupt Your Profession?

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is a technological advance for humankind that has some people excited and others terrified of what is to come. The main concern is rooted in what A.I. will do to jobs, and how we as human beings will be affected by changes in digital and mechanical techniques.

A.I. and other new forms of autonomous machine function are in the process of transforming our personal and professional lives, and this represents a Hard Trend that will happen and a subject I’ve discussed for decades now. We are just starting to see some incredible progression in the A.I. space, giving us a chance to pre-solve problems involved in real-world applications of A.I.

But while function is one thing, the newfound transformation we’ve watched come to fruition is coming from machine learning, a subset of A.I. that enables machines to become better at tasks that were previously dependent on human intelligence. With advances in a machine’s capability to think and learn like people, it’s easier than ever to pre-program physical functions so A.I. can take over menial or mundane tasks. Take, for example, a study conducted by legal tech startup LawGeex, which challenged 20 experienced lawyers to test their skills and knowledge against an A.I.-powered system the company built.

A lawyer is not often considered replaceable by technology or artificial intelligence. In this challenge, the task was to review risks contained in five nondisclosure agreements — a simple undertaking given the group of legal professionals, which included associates and in-house lawyers from Goldman Sachs, Cisco, and Alston & Bird, as well as general counsel and sole practitioners. This lineup should easily have triumphed over an A.I.-powered algorithm, right?

Wrong.

As a matter of fact, the study revealed that the A.I. system actually matched the top-performing lawyer for accuracy, as both achieved 94%. As a group, the lawyers managed an average of 85%, with the worst performer scoring a 67%.

But what about the speed of those decisions? When reviewing the nondisclosure agreements, the A.I. system far outpaced the group, taking just 26 seconds to review all five documents, compared to the lawyers’ average speed of 92 minutes. That is a tremendous spread when compared to the near-perfect accuracy the algorithm performed at in that time! The fastest review time of a single lawyer in the group was 51 minutes — over 100 times slower than the A.I. system! And the slowest time was nearly a standstill pace, as it clocked in at 156 minutes.

While reviewing documents is just one of several parts of the job of a lawyer, this data further proves the Hard Trend that I implore everyone to pay attention to in the years to come. Artificial intelligence is here to stay, and by using machine learning and deep learning techniques, new A.I. systems are learning how to think better and better every day. So the question remains: Are you anticipating how A.I. can be used to automate tasks and do things that might seem impossible today — in other words, disrupt your industry? Are you starting to learn more about A.I. so that you can become a positive disruptor rather than become the disrupted?

For now, according to consultants, the fact remains that 23% of legal work can be easily performed using artificial intelligence; however, there are many aspects of a lawyer’s job, the obvious example being providing an emotional and compelling closing argument in court, that are currently beyond the capabilities of algorithms. While that may be the case today, what’s next? Using methods that I discuss in my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization, you can learn how to become an anticipatory thinker and be more entrepreneurial in the ways you apply A.I. technology to your profession.

Take the example of Alexa, which is utilized in an ever-growing number of applications, from ordering groceries to playing our favorite song during dinnertime. This device, enabled by A.I., has learned our routines and how to serve us better each day by listening to us ask it questions or give it tasks to accomplish.

Netflix and Spotify media streaming services are using A.I. to learn what we like to listen to or watch, and then, using this knowledge combined with their own databases, they can quickly suggest other songs or shows we may also enjoy. Over time they increasingly learn to understand the dynamics of what we like, recognizing our patterns enough to suggest new things to us we will most likely enjoy — very much like a best friend would introduce us to a new music group.

These are just two examples of many A.I.-enabled services that have been integrated into our lives, yet it was not too long ago that applications like these would have been viewed as an impossibility. In a relatively short amount of time they have become second nature in our lives. If A.I. can quickly accomplish a lawyer’s task today, then it can also learn how to accomplish many tasks in industries once thought untouchable by automation and machine learning, such as medicine, finance and design.

As an entrepreneur, it is increasingly important to understand what A.I. can do to create business value. A.I. is presently forecast to reach nearly $4 trillion by 2022. Reacting to this opportunity will only keep you behind and disrupted. It’s time to learn to become anticipatory leaders in our fields, solving problems before they happen, and elevating our thinking to actively shape a positive future for ourselves and others.

If you would like to learn more about how you can better anticipate transformation in the professional world and developments in artificial intelligence, then be sure to pick up my latest book, The Anticipatory Organization. Let me help you take your career to the next level and remain indispensable in an ever-changing technological frontier.