I have long searched for a word to describe the impact of technology on the business world. I now use the concept of “undertow” to get a concept across. The tools that technology has brought, and is still bringing at a high rate, get picked up and applied in ways that create a new flow in the marketplace. The application of these tools will create new jobs, and retire many positions. Their use speeds up the pace of activities and services, and helps us to measure things in ways we have never before been able to analyze in such depth. They simply change the flow in the work world and with it, our lives.
When swimming in the ocean, the undertow eases us in the direction that it wills – we are have to expend huge amounts of energy to fight against it. In some cases, we don’t even notice its pull until we glance at some reference point and see how far we have been swept. In much the same way, technology changes the world around us day by day and it is hard to understand how much until we look at reference points. For example, it was just 13 years ago that we first got a taste of the Web, and already it has had a dramatic impact in industries such as the travel space, the music business, and the advertising industry. The number one music retailer is Apple – a computer company. The majority of travel is booked through the Internet and not through travel agents, and Google is now the most powerful force in the advertising industry. Yes, this undertow is real, and it is powerful. We do not choose how the currents move, and in many cases cannot even predict the outcomes very well.
Of course, there are some people that do not get impacted because they do not participate in the economy. For the majority of us, I am finding that there are a few different types of people swimming in the waters. Most just get swept along understanding they are going somewhere, but not really knowing how our why. They also rarely understand how powerful the pull really is. Then there is the contingent that swims against the undertow in an effort to keep things the same. They have a vested interest in the way things are now – normally financial – and they do anything they can to ignore, or deny the pull. They swim against the undertow and can actually maintain sameness for a time, but will eventually get tired and are swept along all the same. Then there are those that swim with the undertow. They know where it pulls and they use this phenomenon to go faster farther than the herd. They invest in learning and the take the risk of moving quickly. They do not see the wisdom in holding on to the same place when technology will inexorably change the view.
Reading this, you would have put yourself in one category or the other. Be careful if you are swimming against the undertow, it could be fatal to your plans. Be careful as well if you are just drifting along because you never separate yourself from the pack that way. Be the one that goes somewhere with purpose and on purpose, swimming with the undertow so you will not be exhausted….